The scale of applications for polymers in additive manufacturing is remarkably wide. Qualities of polymers such as shape-free production, the ease of model, as well as, speed of production afford them a wide array of uses. Let's examine 4 applications of polymer additive manufacturing.
Polymer-based additive manufacturing has been used for decades in creating prosthetic limb parts as well as medical instruments. Custom made plasters which are designed to hold a fractured limb in position to allow healing while maintaining comfort can be built for a specific patient. This is done through the use of a machine that combines additive manufacturing with 3D scanning procedures capable of scanning a patient's limb and printing custom plasters in an incredibly short time. Polymers are also used in crafting hearing aids; since different people have different ear shapes and sizes, and hence require custom-made devices.
Polymer-based models are also used for medical education purposes. Such models aid in diagnosis, implant design, and preoperative planning. Models of organs or specific body parts can be developed for practice purposes to demonstrate various sensitive surgical procedures such as osteotomies.
The Automotive industry
Polymers are relatively low-cost materials and are, therefore, ideal for prototyping car parts or the entire car. This gives automotive manufacturers a clear overview of the model of the car before production. Lightweight polymers can also be used for interior design on parts such as coverings and car handles.
Architecture and design
Designers often create complex shapes and intricate inner cavities that would otherwise be impossible to create using conventional methods. The use of polymer additive manufacturing often solves this problem, as it uses 3D technology to deposit material layer by layer, regardless of shape, or the complexity of inner cavities. Most design work is custom made and hence requires shape-free manufacturing where designs offer uniqueness.
Teachers and instructors are increasingly utilizing polymer-based additive manufacturing products in their classes. Learning materials such as models of skeletons and human anatomy models used in biology, or models of atoms used to demonstrate chemical bonds, are excellent teaching aids that enhance the process of learning; making learning more enjoyable. Such models are expensive for most schools. However, institutions of higher learning such as universities have been investing in polymer-based additive manufactured models for teaching.
The Future of Polymer-Based Additive Manufacturing
In conclusion, the number of industries that could benefit from incorporating polymer-based additive manufacturing is limitless. Such products are worthwhile because they are economical and have a range of properties that make them suitable for low energy fabrication technology. Despite this, there exist challenges in widespread adoption and commercialization of the technology by companies. The use of polymer-based material in additive manufacturing has a bright future in various industries including telecommunications, medicine, aerospace, and defense.