3D printing arrives in the Philippines
3D printing or additive manufacturing is said to be transforming the rules of manufacturing. Printers have become more capable, building up digital models layer upon layer from a broader range of materials, including production-grade plastics and metals. This technology has made its way to the Philippines recently, with Norde International Distributors' introduction of the Stratasys 3D printers.
Norde introduced 3D printing technology as the highlight of Digital Innovation Summit 2014, a four-day event the distributor hosted last month. While still new in the Philippines, 3D printing technology has already broken into Western and some Southeast Asian markets.
The arrival of this technology in the country will impact the way designers, engineers, and manufacturers conduct business, Norde International executives told The Inquirer. As production tools, 3D printers can dramatically increase productivity, minimise overheads, and foster creativity (see New mindset in product design).
Using 3D printers helps tighten design and development cycles, improve communication and collaboration, and resolve issues between design and engineering. Stratasys 3D printers come in compact and office-friendly footprints, offering to turn 3D CAD files into real parts—from functional prototypes to production-grade manufacturing tools and end-use parts—within hours.
From individual designer through product development collaboration to the manufacturing department, Stratasys offers FDM and PolyJet 3D printers. Source: Stratasys
Ways of making things
Stratasys printers implement patented additive manufacturing methods: FDM (fused deposition modelling) for durable thermoplastic parts that withstand tough testing; PolyJet for precise models that look and feel like the final product; and WDM (wax deposition modelling) for digital dentistry applications.
Polyjet and FDM are two of the most advanced and efficient 3D printing technologies available, according to Stratasys. There are overlaps in advantages and applications between the two technologies, but they remain distinct and deliver separate benefits. The firm believes that the baseline for choosing the technology that fits applications and demands is understanding their differences (see FDM and PolyJet 3D printing: Determining which technology is right for your application).
PolyJet printing works like inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, the PolyJet 3D Printers jet layers of curable liquid photopolymer onto a build tray. It features 16µ layers boasting accuracy as high as 0.1mm for smooth surfaces, thin walls and complex geometries. It supports printing in colour, and a range of materials with properties from rubber to rigid and transparent to opaque.
FDM technology, meanwhile, uses thermoplastics. Invented by Stratasys founder Scott Crump 20 years ago, the technology enables building parts layer-by-layer from the bottom up by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament.
Regardless of 3D printing methods, the benefits of additive manufacturing are numerous and well recognised. It lowers the barrier to entry into designing and manufacturing, and makes prototyping cheaper and more rapid than ever. While traditional manufacturing methods like machining and injection moulding are rigidly tied to rules, direct digital manufacturing lets engineers concentrate on the best design and overlook manufacturability (see How to design your part for direct digital manufacturing).
The possibilities in transforming concepts to concrete products are endless with 3D printing, Norde President and COO Allan Hao Chin said in a press release. "We are truly excited with our role of helping Philippine businesses, industries and individuals to get to the next level. I believe that these technologies will allow our customers to compete better not just locally but globally as well."
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