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Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been around for about 20 years but has only recently become more widely accessible to manufacturers and consumers. This is mostly due to advances in technology and a massive reduction in cost. It is a process by which objects of geometric complexity are built from scratch, created by adding layers of material, layer by layer, until the object is complete. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we produce and manufacture products whilst reducing wastage and costs in fact, the 3D printing industry is expected to be worth over £8bn by 2020. One of the major factors to its appeal is the ability to make one-off, or mass produced items for a similar price per unit. Considering one of the major economic shifts in manufacturing in recent years is outsourcing low-skilled production to less economically developed nations with lower wage rates, this has the ability to completely change that aspect of the industry too.
Additive manufacturing also comes in several guises and disciplines, the most common being 3D Printing, but also Rapid Prototyping (RP), Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), Layered Manufacturing and Additive Fabrication. All work on the same principle though, designs are created on a CAD (Computer Aided Design) or 3D design package which in turn tells an AM printer when and where to add the relevant layers to create a finished product. The way in which the printer does the job can vary depending which type you use but the finished product is still the same.
The materials used in AM printers usually consist of either plastic, metal or concrete polymers which enable users to create anything from customised parts to buildings. Recent examples of items created by this process include items of furniture, tools and kitchen items. On the more extreme end of the spectrum we have created parts for a nuclear reactor, a (plastic) baby foetus, jet & plane parts, prosthetic limbs and houses. To add to the craziness of these objects, there are even plans to create body parts and organs as well as moon bases using this technology!
So we’ve established that this is an exciting new(ish) technology in which, quite literally, anything is possible. It has the ability to change the way we act and think about manufacturing in the future and can save a lot of money in costs and reduced waste but are there any drawbacks? As with any new technology, there will always be areas in which we need to be cautious. We have already seen the blueprints released to make a plastic gun capable of shooting bullets and thankfully, we’ve seen government responses to try and reduce this kind of usage (it is illegal in the UK to produce weapons or weapons parts without a licence) however, with the age of the internet, this will be a difficult task to monitor and enforce.
Another issue will be Intellectual Property and licensing, as it is so easy to 3D scan and print an object the possibility of counterfeit goods is likely to increase. This also leads to questions of health and safety, if a person made a 3D helmet and it didn’t protect them, who is accountable? The blueprint designer, the printer manufacturer or the printing material provider? These issues also apply to the medicinal side of 3D printing with the possibility of creating organs or body parts, as well as drugs, using printers. Who will ensure the quality control of this and how would we make sure people are printing paracetamol rather than potassium cyanide?
Whilst there are ethical and legislative issues surrounding Additive Manufacturing as a whole, there is no denying that it is an exciting time in manufacturing and the benefits will no doubt outweigh the negatives in this area of the industry.
I'd also like to take the chance to thank you for all your help during my time with Ambitek. I have always been paid on time and any worries I had were sorted out incredibly quickly either by yourself or your colleagues. Thank you for making my time as a contractor as painless as possible. I would certainly have no qualms about being employed by your agency again sometime in the future. Although obviously not any time soon!!!!
I contacted Ambitek last year about employment. They quickly responded and helped me get a job! I now have a full time job thanks to Ambitek and their staff. They have always paid me on time and have always been there to help me if I needed any advice! Now me and my family are doing great all thanks to Ambitek.
"Hi, hope your all set for Xmas just wanted to say thanks to you and all the staff at Ambitek. You have all been ace this year sorting out my wages and holiday pay and the rest, it's been a real pleasure working for you this year and can't thank you enough for getting me the job in the first place it really pulled me out of it when I was down and to say I appreciate it is an understatement
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Hi, just wanted to say thank you for all your help placing me, as today I signed a permanent contract. The agency have been fantastic and in the future I wouldn't hesitate in contacting you if I need a job or recommending you to others. Once again, thank you and I would like to wish you all the best for the future. (One happy customer!)
Hi, don't know if they informed you but I got a full time contract this week, thanks to you and your team for everything mate I'd be nowhere without Ambitek.
Wish everyone looked after us like you.