Alongside the wave of other new technologies and advancements in manufacturing processes, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of one that has recently been picking up much traction; 3D printing. Below, we’ve explored more on this concept, as well as looking at whether or not it can be used for the lifting equipment industry to print cranes.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, or additive manufacturing as its other name goes, is the process in which a three-dimensional shape or object is printed out. This obviously isn’t the same as the home printers that we use to print coloured paper, but the same basic concept remains the same.
The object that you wish to print is created on a computer using something like computer-aided design (CAD) software, and saved as an electronic file, sometimes also called an Additive Manufacturing File (AMF). This allows you to design whatever you wish in whichever shape you want, creating your perfect object.
Once this is done, the 3D printer, which builds these objects layer by layer, prints your design using your electronic file. This has led to a wide range of items being printed in recent years. However, the 3D printing process itself isn’t a new one.
A number of objects can now be 3D printed, so this could be the same for cranes and crane parts
In fact, it has a history that dates back to at least the 1980s, where such machines were referred to as Rapid Prototyping (RP) technologies. It got its name from the fact that it was able to quickly print and process prototypes for new products, making it especially prevalent in China to the product development market.
However, improvements were made over the years, with companies looking to not only build on existing designs for the product development side, but also other companies looking to create more cost-effective models for individuals and home use.
By 2009, the first commercial printer was available, and it’s been since that period, along with how quickly videos can go viral on the internet, that we’ve seen more and more whacky ideas 3D printed.
Technologies often advance alongside another. Just as wire rope, that you’ll commonly see in the lifting gear industry, was able to develop rapidly because of the Industrial Revolution, so too can other parts move forward because of new discoveries elsewhere. So can 3D printing be used to help with the manufacture of crane parts?
The development of cranes and crane parts
In short, yes. Some unbelievable projects have already been 3D printed. We’ve already seen a whole house created in under 24 hours, so the scope here is almost limitless. And, as proof for how this handy development process can serve our industry, a group of Australian students have already managed to successfully create a huge working crane with a lifting ability of up to 5Kg.
While this might be some way off the lifting ability of the products that we currently stock, you can see that things are headed in the right direction. But, given the fact these products are often made up of a few parts, there’s no reason that this process can’t help with the manufacturing process along the way.
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