Guhring UK has sent metal 3D printed tools to customers to test new concepts. ‍Photo via Markforged.


The aerospace industry has some of the highest standards in part performance. Aerospace parts must withstand extreme temperatures and chemicals while being subjected to repeated loading, all while remaining as light as possible. Individual part failures often result in full system failures on aircraft carrying lives and cargo — so failure is not an option. Since part precision is critical for aircraft, aerospace engineers have taken to 3D printing inspection tooling to reduce costs for low-volume parts.


The automotive industry has been charging ahead with additive manufacturing,  high-profile companies such as Audi using 3D printers. It’s not just the Audis of the world are using 3D printers — everything from race car teams to sub manufacturers (OEMs) for each car manufacturer are utilizing 3D printers. The real value in 3D printed parts for automotive manufacturers lies in the tooling and fixtures that aide the manufacturing process. The most common parts printed by automotive manufacturers are fixtures, cradles, and prototypes, which need to be stiff, strong, and durable. It’s also not unheard of for some to use 3D printers to fabricate replacement parts for centuries-old cars. This ensures there are enough pieces to service legacy cars as well as standard maintenance, repairment, and operations.


The engineers at Guhring UK have been able to rapidly prototype cutting tools in composite materials before printing them in metal.. Photo via Markforged.


From jigs and fixtures all the way to end-of-arm tooling, 3D printers are completely turning the decades-old manufacturing industries. Companies are able to create custom, low-volume tooling and fixtures at a fraction of the traditional price, giving designers and engineers more time to spend on revenue-generating parts. Small manufacturers get the same advantages with a 3D printer as giant, global manufacturers, to improve and expedite processing while mitigating downtime. Companies are also able to have more creative freedom while saving on labor costs and time.


From customizability to reduced weight, the factors that make successful robotics parts match well with 3D printing capabilities. Parts like grippers and sensor mounts are expensive to fabricate and need to be custom designed for different uses. Robotics engineers utilize 3D printers for end-of-arm tooling and end-use parts, from gripper fingers to entire robot components to reduce the weight of the overall product to ensure the tools can move faster and carry heavier items. Instead of paying large amounts of money for a non-customized design, Markforged 3D printers allow robotics companies to design and fabricate light, complex parts such as end-of-arm tooling at a fraction of the cost.

Tool tips were fixed to the 3D printed body before being ground to the required shape. ‍Photo via Markforged.


As the 3D printing industry grows, educational institutes are rushing to make sure they stay on the cutting edge of the new technology for research and education purposes. From professors printing parts for educational tools to convey the lesson plan to PhD students utilizing the printers for research, 3D printers serve a variety of purposes in colleges. Colleges like Purdue University in Indiana have taken a great interest in teaching its students about emerging additive manufacturing materials and technology. 


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