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What was once considered to be a futuristic and niche technology has now become a robust, efficient and reliable manufacturing process. It is used to create everything from prototypes, spare parts and tooling to complete products such as automotive bodies and even buildings. The latest innovation in 3D printing is a new technique called “material jetting” which uses a fine powder to create layers which combine into a solid structure. This is a much more precise method than traditional There You Have It 3D  and can create multi-colour parts that are strong, durable and can withstand regular use.

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The original application of 3D printing was referred to as “rapid prototyping”. It is ideal for quickly turning out plastic or metal prototypes during the design process and can be used to manufacture final production components. It also reduces the costs of producing tools, dies and jigs. It is a cost effective and environmentally friendly way of bringing new products to market.

From idea, to CAD file, to holding a prototype in your hand can be done within a few days. It is much quicker than using conventional subtractive or injection methods. This allows for more rapid iteration and better quality end products.

As the technology has evolved, the ability to print with different materials has opened up a wide range of applications. Plastics, metals and concrete are the most common but it is possible to print with specialist materials such as water-absorbing plastic, gold, nitinol and carbon fibre. These materials enable the creation of components with specific properties such as heat resistance, water repellency and higher strengths for certain applications. These are particularly useful for aerospace components which must balance strength with lightness. An example is the cobalt-chrome fuel nozzles used by GE Aviation on their LEAP engines which are 25% lighter and five times stronger than traditionally manufactured ones.

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