Introducing engineering
Introducing engineering

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Introducing engineering

4.10 Capabilities and potential of additive manufacturing

Conventional manufacturing methods like casting of metals or injection moulding of polymers are, at present, far less costly than additive manufacturing for mass production. However, AM is more flexible, and quicker and less expensive when producing a small number of the parts, let alone its unique capability of producing complex shapes or geometries that might be very difficult, if not impossible, when using conventional manufacturing methods. Some AM techniques are even capable of depositing multiple materials to make complex components comprising several parts each made from a different material.

Interest in 3D printing is growing very fast and applications are to be found as far afield as the food industry (chocolate), construction (concrete) and in creating decorative objects like in Figure 69. But perhaps the most exciting possibilities are in the medical sector. 3D printing technology has been applied to reconstructive surgery in the form of implants that are customised to a patient's needs. Figure 75 shows an actual 3D printed implant used to replace the diseased bone of an 80-year old woman in Holland. Efforts are also currently focused on 3D printing of body tissue with the tantalising prospect of being able to recreate replacement organs in the laboratory for transplant back into the human body.

Described image
Figure 75 A prosthetic jaw implant produced by selective laser sintering of titanium alloy powder, with a ceramic surface coating designed to mimic bone (source: LayerWise, 2013)
T174_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus