What does 3D printing bring to your mind? Well usually the first thing is not spare parts for cars and agricultural equipment. Did you know that it is already possible? Usually everyone is showing around the nice small 3D printers that print various products from plastic. For example, very common item that everyone wants to show around is wrench made by printer. Well yes, it is very nice also, but it is a much easier to make than engine spare parts.
3D printing at engine factory
Last year I visited a engine factory where they had been testing 3D printing for some special parts. The idea is to use the 3D printer when the part is very complex and would need a lot of work to shape. 3D printer can print the part layer by layer from special “dust”. It can be combination of different metals for example. Because the printer makes the parts layer by layer it can have very complicated structure inside. There is no limit for how the spare part is shaped.
In the engine factory, where I visited, did not have the 3D printing system anymore at the facility. Why? Well it was funny thing. No one told them that the material they were going to use at the printer would smell so bad that it would start affecting the near by village. Well you can imagine what happened. Villagers asked them to stop. And they had to (after trying not to) . When I was speaking with the factory employee, he told me simply;
“Just remember if you want to start printing spare parts. Ask first from the sales guy about the smell. If they have gotten rid of it, then please let me know also”.
Long story short. They had been using the printer for a while and it worked. It made the parts that they needed and it was strong steel. They did not use it much but they had many specific products that were much more easier to make with the printing system. Unfortunately they could not keep on going. Yet. I think if we give it few years time, then the printers at factories will be more common. It gives the factories the possibility to design the product and make it themselves.
Fast spare part printing
Of course, there is always some problems when new innovations are being used for the first time ever. There would be so much we could do with these 3D printers if they would get more popular. Buying spare parts would change completely. Imagine that you don’t have to go and buy new rim for your tires. You can just buy the schematics online and then print the products yourself. Of course, you cannot print everything like electric parts, but it would be very handy on some situations.
For example, farmer is using his tractor and the PTO-axle brakes. Normally he would need to drive to the nearest spare part shop and ask if they have it in stock. If there is no part in stock, then there might be huge loss of profit because the tractor is not running. With the 3D printer in the future he could just print new axle and fit it to the tractor and keep on going.
Taking normal pictures would be boring. Why not take a picture and print it in 3D? You can do it already. I have even found few coffee houses where they give you the option to buy various products that you can choose, and they print it for you during you drink your coffee. Well ok. The place was weird but maybe in the near future people don’t think so anymore.
How does the 3D printing work exactly?
3D printing can be done in several ways. It can be with 3D printer that uses a filament spools, which is very common. There is many different sizes and quality of these filament spools for different purposes, so it is not easy to choose the correct one. The printer feeds the heated up filament to the working area and the different layers of that filaments stick together and form the products.
Also, there is printers that use powder that is hardened to the shape of the product you want to print. I have seen these only few times because they are not so popular in common electronic stores. The filament spool printer is much easier to use and easier to understand so it is easier to sell also.