Imagine the not-so-distant future:
In your garage sits a machine, something the size of a workbench, and it can make almost anything you could dream of. So one day, you decide you want to have some fun and tell it to print a Ford straight-six engine. Complete with rods, pistons and gears. In about 36 hours the entire engine is done, and all you had to do was make sure the machine had enough powdered steel to complete the project.
Welcome to the future – Hybrid printing
Unlike “Traditional” 3d printing, this one doesn’t use flimsy plastic, it uses any high-strength material you can imagine – Steel, aluminum, titanium and even exotic metals like inconel 718 which is light weight while being nearly as strong as steel, and it won’t rust. You pay next to nothing for the powdered metals – Inconel runs about $8 per pound, high-carbon steels run around $2 per pound and aluminum is even less.
Unlike DMLS, which produces usable items, but requires significant machining, hybrid printing uses an automatic-finishing process that produces workable items that are ready for use. In fact, they’re so high quality once they’ve been ‘printed’ there’s almost nothing left other than to use them.
The quality is absolutely stunning. Nearly impossible to believe, except here’s video proof. In this 5 minute video the hybrid printer is making a car transmission. The total cost of the product is absolutely mind boggling : About $25 in electric to run the laser along with the high-strength powder steel.
What’s the cost? Well, right now it’s several million dollars from DMG MORI in Japan. What’s important to note about 3d printing is the astronomical decreases in pricing. A makerbot today costs less than $1,000 from many local electronics stores. Just 10 years ago a identical model would have cost several hundred thousand dollars and been only accessible by ,labs large businesses and colleges.