3D Printing and Aerospace Engineering
So when a design is created by a team of aerospace engineers, it obviously needs to be manufactured. Where do places like NASA go to have things manufactured? Well, the technicians at NASA would do quite a bit of the work, but having individual pieces manufactured require help from a third party in many situations. What's been used to assist these government projects? Machining. Machining has been used to help manufacture custom designs. These pieces are created in machine shops, and require a specific style of design for products to work. This calls for the designers of these government agencies to sacrifice certain details and curves to create their products. Unfortunately for the machining industry, 3D printing has been on the rise. 3D printing?
3D printing is a form of manufacturing technology that can be used to create entirely unique products, just like the products in the machining world. However, 3D printing has a few strengths to it that machining does not. Aside from CNC cutting, 3D printing works much quicker than traditional machining methods. There are a wide variety of materials available in 3D printing, just like in machining, but there is one critical difference between the two. Machining essentially involves the drilling of a block of material. The only type of product through machining involves a drill bit coming down upon a block. Sure, a table holding the block can twist and turn, but there are so many features sacrificed through machining. Through 3D printing, very intricate shapes can be developed which can't be manufactured through machining. Curves, grooves, and twists can be manufactured through 3D printing, while machining has to sit itself out. Hollow sections are very plausible through many 3D printing applications, as the process often involves a layer-by-layer powder based system - or a system that uses support material. Through the powder methods as well as support material methods, some parts in a single build almost 'float' within the build tray. Let me elaborate. An example of this would be a ball within a ball. When being built, a piece can almost hover inside of another, because the support or the loose powder will keep it in place.
This all equates to 3D printing being able to design much more intricate pieces than machining. 3D printing can bend the design rules when it comes down to product development, and government projects are starting to get involved. Recently, the Pentagon ordered a 60 million dollar facility to be built strictly for 3D printing purposes. Places like NASA are going to gradually start leaving machining around and switch to 3D printing based off of its ability to create intricate pieces.
Most people who see a in operation for the first time are amazed at how well the 3d printing service is managed.
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