3D printing: What happened in 2020? | Sculpteo Blog

3D printing: What happened in 2020?

Posted By Lucie Gaget on Dec 18, 2020 | 0 comments

Through all the challenges, 2020 has shown the strengths of additive manufacturing. Let’s take a look back at how 3D printing has made an impact on manufacturing and shown its capabilities to the world.


The impact of COVID-19 on the additive manufacturing industry

COVID-19 obviously has been the big subject of 2020. This pandemic led to a global understanding of the benefits offered by this technology. Indeed, this dramatic context emphasized some existing problems of our global supply chains: Our traditional system is full of weaknesses. The flexibility and reactivity of additive manufacturing allowed to find solutions in these difficult times. This technology appeared as a real ally for crisis management and showed all its full potential.

Here are a few examples of how 3D printing helped during the pandemic:

Urgently needed protections for healthcare workers: traditional manufacturing techniques such as injection molding weren’t able to provide this equipment quickly enough. A lot of people had to turn to local manufacturing and additive manufacturing to get protections in time.

Moreover, with massive shortages of critical ventilator parts, 3D printing helped to create perfectly adapted parts in a short time.

Adaptors for Decathlon’s snorkeling masks: 3D printed adaptors fixed on snorkeling masks from sporting goods company, Decathlon appeared as a solution to the lack of ventilators in some hospitals. 3D printing made it easier to adapt these scuba diving masks to a ventilator to actually save people’s lives. 

3D printed valves by two Italian doctors: Hospitals had to have as many reanimation devices as possible to save lives. But if one specific part is missing, these devices become useless. Getting functional parts in a short time? It seems like something additive manufacturing can do. On the 13th of march, the medical team reported a problem: they were missing a part of the reanimation machine, and the consequences could have been dramatic. Luckily, they found a way to recreate their parts in 3D and manufactured them using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing!

For more insights about how additive manufacturing helped to fight COVID-19, download our free ebook.


Additive manufacturing applications still growing 


  • Automotive and aerospace

From 3D printed engines to 3D printed tissues in space, NASA’s ability to find new space applications for 3D Printing seems to have no limit. In 2020 they worked on 3D Printing molds to help better insulate the upcoming new Deep-space rockets.

On the aircraft side, in 2020 Satair produced certified 3D printed metal parts for airbus. Boom Supersonic’s new XB-1 prototype aircraft turns out to be using plenty of 3D printed parts, showing that the use of 3D printing is more and more seen as a reliable manufacturing technique in this demanding industry.

The use of additive manufacturing is growing in the automotive industry, Volkswagen is known for its great use of 3D printing and is now using it to enhance its designs. 


  • Additive manufacturing still evolving on the medical side

This year, a student 3D printed a prosthetic arm, a low-cost device providing feedback. His creation could be a real revolution for all amputees: he created a prosthetic arm with vibrotactile feedback, meaning the amputee could feel when he or she is touching something. Additive manufacturing is actually the only way to produce such affordable and adapted devices.  

Medical 3D printing always offers more and more new possibilities, such as the creation of 3D models to train doctors before surgery. A team of researchers created the 3D model of a real heart, reproducing the elastic aspect of organ and human tissues. Some 3D printing technologies are so precise that they can reproduce vascularization and other complex parts.



  • Researchers pushing the limits of 3D printing

Bioprinting to create 3D printed corals, 3D printing expandable foam, 2020 didn’t stop researchers from finding new impressive and crazy experiments. Always pushing the limits of 3D printing, they are developing the manufacturing solutions of tomorrow and offer new perspectives by creating the unthinkable.

What can we expect for 2021?

There is no doubt that 2021 will be a great year for additive manufacturing! The world will certainly learn from the pandemic and the weaknesses of our supply-chains, 2021 will be the perfect year to rethink manufacturing processes. 3D printing will bring innovation, flexibility and adaptability businesses need. More than ever, this technology will strengthen its position as a real production tool for the demanding sector.

The endless possibilities offered with high-performance materials are promising, Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service is looking forward to hearing from you, to help give life to your next 3D printing project! 


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