The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

3D Metal Printing Tries to Break Into the Manufacturing Mainstream

Companies like Desktop Metal aim to go beyond airplane parts and medical implants

3 min read
Photo: Desktop Metal
Assembly not required: Desktop Metal’s Production System is designed to use 3D printing to manufacture complex metal parts at a competitive cost.
Photo: Desktop Metal

It’s been five or so years since 3D printing was at peak hype. Since then, the technology has edged its way into a new class of materials and started to break into more applications. Today, 3D printers are being seriously considered as a means to produce stainless steel 5G smartphones, high-strength alloy gas-turbine blades, and other complex metal parts.

The technology for 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) of metals is finally hitting its stride. Two industries—aerospace and medical appliances—have already adopted it. Lawrence Gasman, president of Charlottesville, Va.–based industry analyst SmarTech Publishing, says, “There are no big aerospace companies that don’t use 3D printing for major parts in their aircraft. Obviously, there are some things that will never be 3D-printed, but it’s quite remarkable how much actually is.”

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

Keep Reading ↓Show less