Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is attracting increasing worldwide interest not only from innovators and scientists but many industries, including energy. It was simultaneously invented in the early 1980s around the world by various technologists including in the US by Chuck Hull and by Jean-Claude André at France’s Alcatel-Alstom. However, it was left to the Americans to commercialise the technology. Take-off in worldwide sales is underway with the market forecast by Lux Research to reach $18.4 billion in 2020 compared with just $4.1 billion in 2015 as the number of applications rises and the price falls. Industrial-sized machines can cost as little as $100,000 – $ 250,000, reports Aniwaa, a 3D printers and 3D scanners comparison engine according to capabilities whilst home users’ machines cost as little as $200 on Amazon. Interestingly, the television series Star Trek had similar machines called Replicators capable of creating (and recycling) objects. Replicators were originally used to synthesize meals on demand but in later series they took on many other tasks.
How additive manufacturing works
Additive Manufacturing is about the creation of three-dimensional products from a computer-driven digital model. This process is additive, where multiple layers from computer-aided design drawings are laid down, one layer after another, to create different shapes made from plastics, concrete or metallic granules. Initially, engineers and designers used 3D printers to make prototypes quickly and cheaply in preparation for the next stage of tooling up a factory to produce the real thing. In the energy industry, it is now becoming common marketing practice for the energy business to give its customers small AM- produced models of wind turbines and oilrigs for key chains.
As Additive Manufacturing have improved they have become increasingly capable and use a broader range of materials including, production-grade plastics and metals such as titanium. Consequently, more than 20 percent of the 3D printers’ output now is final products rather than prototypes, a proportion that is expected to rise to 50 percent by 2020 by Terry Wohlers, CEO of independent consultancy Wolhlers Associates. see for more 180749 Energy Pet Rev September 2018 P30-31