08.01.2018 change 08.01.2018

Expert: 2017 was another breakthrough year in the field of 3D printing

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

2017 was another year in which there were many breakthroughs in 3D printing, and Polish companies in this industry are increasingly recognizable and are making more and more interesting implementations, also in medicine - Paweł Ślusarczyk from 3D Printing Center told PAP.

The expert admitted that one of the largest beneficiaries of 3D printing technology was medicine. Printing is used in three areas. The latest one, very popular at the moment, is called bioprinting, or creating tissue using additive manufacturing method. "However, that still happens in laboratories and scientific research units. I think we will have to wait at least 10 years before the first results of the work of these laboratories are commercialised, that is, pass the stages of testing, certification and marketing " - he emphasised.

In his opinion, it is still unknown whether we will reach the point when it will be possible to print human heart or kidney. But we will certainly be able to print fragments of skin and other tissues. "This will also be a great help for the pharmaceutical industry that will have something to test new drugs on" - Ślusarczyk believes.

Another area of using 3D printing in medicine is implantology, printing implants made of metals, for example medical titanium that has the right properties to be accepted by the body. Speaking about this, the expert draws attention to the ease of creating these implants and the possibility of tailoring the implant to a specific person.

3D printing is also used to create anatomical models of various human organs. Such models are used for scientific and educational purposes, but also to plan surgeries of specific patients. "This is currently the most common use of 3D printing in medicine" - added Ślusarczyk.

The specialist admitted that although Polish companies in this industry can not boast of revenues comparable to the revenues of competitors from the West or Far East - they are becoming increasingly recognizable and make more and more interesting implementations. And the world sees that.

Ślusarczyk gave an example of a new implementation of 3DLab company from Warsaw, which presented a new product last year that - in his opinion - could change the world of metal printing.

"3D printing from metal is based on selectively melting powdered metal with laser beam. The whole problem is to have this powder. It is produced in huge production plants, usually in tons, because it is also used in other production processes" - he explained.

As he emphasized, 3DLab had created the world\'s first atomiser that operates in office conditions, capable of producing relatively small metal samples - several kilos. "This amount is sufficient for testing. That opens completely new possibilities, because we can now test different blends of these powders, mix different metal alloys with each other. This could really revolutionize the industrial market of 3D printers with metal printing capability" - emphasized the expert from the 3D Printing Center.

According to him, in 2017 there was a breakthrough in the low-budget and amateur market. This was mainly because of Asian manufacturers and the market being flooded by cheap, Chinese 3D printers suitable only for amateur use.

"These devices are still quite poor in terms of quality and functionality, but their price dropped below PLN 1000. Many people in Poland and throughout Europe started to buy them. Thanks to the fact that the threshold for entering this sector lowered, we have really seen a very large increase in interest in these devices among ordinary, individual users" - emphasised the expert.

As he pointed out, when it comes to the professional and industrial sphere - more large corporations known for completely different types of machines have began to enter this sector.

In his opinion, one of the breakthrough events for the development of this technology was the cooperation between the Adidas group and the American company Carbon, which developed the CLIP technology for high speed printing with UV-curable resins.

"One of the main barriers to greater popularisation of additive manufacturing technologies is still the time of detail creation. It is very fast compared to other manufacturing methods, but still long for users. CLIP technology has shortened this time to minutes or, in the case of really large and complex details - hours" - he explained.

The joint project of the two companies involves printing soles for sports footwear. "In a completely new technology, completely new method, impossible to achieve by methods other than 3D printing. So it was undoubtedly one of such breakthrough events, because for the first time such a giant company decided to implement 3D printing to produce parts of something as common as footwear" - said Paweł Ślusarczyk.

3D printing is also used by many aviation or automotive industry companies, which use various types of printed details in their aircrafts and cars, but those are usually sports or limited production cars. (PAP)

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