Large manufacturing companies are incorporating 3D printing into their products at an astounding level. From tennis shoes to planes, 3D printing is becoming more productive.
A 3D printed tennis shoe? Adidas launched the Futurecraft 4D shoe with 3D-printed soles. Adidas figured out how to scale production of the shoe to produce more than 100,000 pairs of the shoe by the end of 2018. Adidas’ concept called Digital Light Synthesis is a 3D-printing process allowing Adidas to build a shoe around the specific needs of an athlete. Movement, stability, cushioning, and arch support were major issues. The shoe is made from a resin that is custom molded by light into a lattice-like sole. When the shoe was first introduced there were few available and the cost was around $450. The shoe was recently introduced again to the retail market at a price around $220. The Adidas website lists 23 different models of the Futurecraft 4D shoe.
Stryker is one of the largest medical technology companies in the world. It’s been at the forefront of innovation for 80 years. Recognizing 3D printing as a transformational technology Stryker invested $400 million to develop an additive manufacturing facility in Ireland. Stryker has created a proprietary approach to implant creation and other medical devices using additive manufacturing. This approach is called AMagine. The company developed 3D-printed baseplates and patellas for their Triathlon knee replacement product. It used 3D-printing for the Tritanium TL Curved Posterior Lumbar Cage, an FDA approved spinal implant. Stryker continues to grow and invest in 3D printing to stay competitive.
Aerospace manufacturer GE Aviation, in a partnership with Safran, launched the production of an environmentally conscious engine called RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines). RISE makes extensive use of 3D printed parts. It will offer hybrid-electric propulsion capable of running on 100% sustainable hydrogen. With an open rotor design the engine will require less fuel without an increase in noise. RISE follows the success of the LEAP model which is used on the Boeing 737 MAX and the Airbus A320 neo aircraft. LEAP reached new levels of fuel efficiency enabled by a 3D printed fuel nozzle. The LEAP nozzle was 25% lighter and five times more durable than other models and pre-mixed the jet fuel before it was combusted. Each LEAP engine housed 19 3D printed fuel nozzles. GE has since printed hundreds of thousands of units of the nozzle.
Boeing has been a big proponent of 3D printing. More than 70,000 3D-printed production parts are used in Boeing commercial and defense programs. The Boeing 777X took its first long-haul flight in early 2020. The plane has two GE9X engines which incorporate more than 300 3D printed parts. The fan blades were made from carbon fibre composites, reducing their weight and the number of blades from 22 to 16. Also, 3D printed metal fuel nozzles reduce fuel emissions and lower costs. The Boeing 777 will be the largest jet on the market and the most economical. The plane will produce fuel emissions 10% lower than those of the competition.