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3D列印醫材 法規須快跟上 (2016-03-23 IEK產業情報網 )


Trend of 3D printing application

The development of 3D printing technology is one of the key projects of development policies of major countries that include the United States, EU, and Mainland China. Using Gartner's Hype Cycle graph to observe 3D printing technology reveals it is currently in the growth and maturity stages of technology development. According to the hype cycle, in the production and manufacturing enterprise and consumer product categories, 3D printing technology is in stable development; while in the emerging applications, it is stepping into the biomedical field.
The technology development and innovation in 3D printing technology is helping to usher in revolutionary design and manufacturing technologies. In addition, the reduced costs of 3D printers, more reliable product usage, and significant improvements in basic manufacturing quality are also reinforcing the broadened application of 3D printing technology.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) pointed out in its White Paper that the range of 3D printing applications includes: medical equipment, such as implant articles in orthopedics or dentistry; medicine, such as lozenges; toys; food, such as Hershey's chocolate; and auto-parts. Some of the well-known enterprises, such as GE, Mcor Technologies, and Stratasys are now offering 3D printing equipment; while some are including printing materials or printing services in their business offerings.
From the perspective of future technology development trends, the applications of 3D printing will be more diversified. However, the challenges that come from laws and regulations within the application of specific fields, such as regulations concerning food, drug, and health management will be the issues of concern from a policy-making standpoint.3D printing technology development opportunities

In the development of 3D printing technology, despite much attention from enterprises and manufacturers, its future development still faces challenges, particularly, in the innovation and breakthrough areas of printing materials, which will also affect the future applications and development of 3D printing technology.
For example, since Stratasys's key patent expired in 2009, the market has been flooded with cheap thermoplastic materials, which in turn, also ignited the rapid growth in the use of thermoplastic materials. Yet, all 3D printing businesses know that if 3D printing technology is to be widely used and promoted, materials innovation will be an important milestone. Concerning new materials, 3D printing businesses have obtained the required materials technology through mergers and acquisitions, rather than through internal development; while in school laboratories, numerous innovative R&D and application projects concerning materials are in process.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the U.S. and American Process are working together to study the use of cellulose nanofibril to improve the strength of the plastic materials used for 3D printing. In the past, 3D printing technology was restricted in application due to the limited availability of raw material types. The components printed with conventional 3D thermoplastic materials lacked mechanical strength making them unsuitable for load-bearing applications in industries such as automotive and aerospace. The purpose of the joint development between ORNL and American Process is to find types of 3D printing materials that are suitable to make 3D printed components for the automobile and mold manufacturing industries and which require load-bearing capabilities and strength comparable with metal components like aluminum, while the costs are comparable with those of conventional materials.
Another application of 3D printing is in the use of 3D printed aircraft components on commercial aircraft. For example, the Airbus A350XWB is the aircraft that uses the most 3D printing technology applications in the aircraft design. The 3D printing technologies developed by Stratasys have been applied to commercial airplanes and are capable of printing more than one thousand different aircraft components. Materialise listed itself as an Airbus supplier for 3D printed components with its main service being that of using systems with emerging technologies to assist Airbus in the design and manufacture of highly comfortable long-range airplanes, where these components not only reduce maintenance costs, but also reduce the fuel consumption of the A350XWB by 25%.
Naked Prosthetics have developed biomechanical prosthetic fingers that utilize a combination of MCPDriver and 3D printing technology. They can replace missing fingers and restore the grasp-and-grip finger functions. It is estimated that, from design-to-spec, printing, to shipping, it only takes a few months to complete the process of providing personalized fingers.
Upon examination, the 3D printing related developments, technologies, patents, materials, and business models are all key factors that will impact the future development and application of the said technology. The combination of all these factors must be considered in order to develop a bright future for 3D printing applications. Furthermore, the development and application of 3D printing materials plays a leading role in the future innovation of the technology. With the continuing development and innovation of materials, 3D printing technology will have opportunities for broadened applications.

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