- POSTED: 07 Oct 2013 17:18
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Whether for personal-use, prototyping or production, 3D printing is becoming part of mainstream manufacturing, and demand for the technology is growing in Asia, with governments from China to Japan actively supporting the industry.
SINGAPORE: Layers of plastic, moulded on to one another to create 3-dimensional objects -- it is known as additive manufacturing. This is opposed to traditional subtractive manufacturing, where material is removed in order to create a given product.
With 3D printing, the end product can be very intricate.
Jonathan Jaglom, general manager of Stratasys Asia-Pacific, said: "Our customer is basically anyone dealing with product design using 3D content."
The technology still seems far-fetched to many, but it is already being employed in a number of different industries -- including the medical and aerospace fields.
Colin Wilkerson's company, Western Tool & Mould, produces parts for aeroplane cabin interiors like air ducting, as well as electrical and seat brackets. The technology has helped his company cut lead times producing parts for clients by weeks, even months in some cases.
Mr Wilkerson said: "We can have deliverable parts to them within one to two weeks and that is a massive difference when a customer needs to deliver parts for feasibility studies and even manufacturing to their end-user. And when you have an aircraft-on-ground situation, there's millions of dollars at stake."
It is a speedy and reliable design and manufacturing solution, although the technology is not advanced enough as yet to produce the same amount of volume that traditional manufacturing can.
"We don't find that FDM or additive manufacturing will absolutely take the place of injection moulding, we find that it extends our product range and our capability to deliver the final product both in the design and in repeated manufacturing process to our customer," added Mr Wilkerson.
Eyeing the potential for growth in Asia, Stratasys has just opened up a new office in Singapore, its seventh across Asia Pacific. This coincides with the Singapore government's recent announcement that it will inject S$500 million over the next five years to develop this sector.
Mr Jaglom said: "Our main challenge rests on getting people to know the value 3D printing can bring them. A lot of people think '3D printing is a thing of the future, there's not much relevance to me.' You'll be very surprised.
"If you're a company dealing with product design, you'd be very surprised to find out that the printers are very accessible in pricing and they will bring you tremendous value in your product development."