3D printing using various materials has become mainstream, with regular application to rapid prototyping and limited production runs of specialist parts. New frontiers with printing of medical implants and human tissue and utilising exotic materials make the news regularly.
Printing of metallic components also features in leading-edge research, with applications more recently coming onto the market for 3D metal printers. Metal printing processes like powder bed fusion, metal binder jetting and directed energy deposition have grown significantly.
The application of 3D printing to structural components at an equivalent level to structural steel is still evolving. However, exciting prototypes have been completed such as the world’s first 3D printed bridge.
The technology is in its infancy in relation to 3D printing of steel components that are intended to take a significant load, but it is safe to say this technology will be disruptive to many established supply chains.