Additive Manufacturing: Promise, Challenges and Opportunities

Sunday, January 1, 2017

University of Waterloo researchers are keeping their eyes on the prize as they work to advance industrial adoption of metal 3D printing.

Reactions are remarkably predictable when I show visitors a small metal object we recently designed and printed in 15 hours and for about $350 in our newly expanded additive manufacturing (AM) lab at the University of Waterloo.

Approximately the size of a baseball, it consists of four hollow, free-floating spheres of descending size, the three smallest ones all housed within another, their thin, strong walls fashioned from a nickel-based alloy in a lattice structure of hexagonal shapes.

It immediately brings to mind those centuries- old nesting boxes of Chinese origin, but this object is brand new, unmistakably a product of the here and now.

Including internal support posts that were easily removed in post-production, it was made as a single piece using the layer-by-layer technique at the heart of 3D printing. It has no lids or seams and almost certainly couldn’t be replicated, with such a high degree of quality, by any other means.

So what do people say about this object? ‘Wow.’ People always say ‘wow.’

Turning it over in their hands as the intricate spheres within spheres freely tumble and clink, even newcomers to AM can begin to see the enormous potential, the promise, of technology that will transform the entire manufacturing enterprise, the very way we make things, in the next 10 to 15 years.

Read the rest of this article on Industry Today.