Technological Intersection: Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing
By Daniel Kuzmin
Artificial intelligence (“AI”) is a rapidly advancing technology that is transforming many industries, including 3D printing. With recent breakthroughs, such as the release of the ChatGPT language model, AI is hotter than ever, and its potential applications in the world of 3D printing are significant and numerous. As 3D printing technology advances, it is crucial to identify areas where AI can make the most impact, such as design optimization, manufacturing efficiency, and post-processing improvement. From automating design optimization to predicting part failure during printing and improving post-processing techniques, AI is reshaping the way we approach 3D printing. At printpal.io, we explore the latest uses of AI in 3D printing with a focus on application to every stage of the process because we understand its potential to impact the future of manufacturing.
The Current State of AI in 3D printing
AI has already been implemented and utilized in various stages of the 3D printing process, from design to post-processing. The current real-world uses of AI in 3D printing, include design optimization, print monitoring/management, and post process analysis.
AI-Driven Design Optimization: AI is being used to optimize 3D designs for better performance and functionality. For example, Autodesk’s generative design software uses AI algorithms to optimize designs for 3D printing. The software creates a range of design options based on user-defined constraints and then uses machine learning (“ML”) to analyze and evaluate each option to determine the optimal design solution. This approach can reduce material usage, weight, and production time while maintaining or improving performance.
In another example, nTopology, a software company that specializes in generative design, has developed an AI-driven design platform that uses complex algorithms to generate optimal designs for 3D printing. The platform has tools that analyze design requirements and constraints, which automatically generates a set of designs that meet the specifications. The generated designs can be further optimized using the platform’s simulation and analysis tools resulting in parts that are stronger, lighter, and more efficient than traditionally designed parts.
AI-Driven Print Monitoring & Workflow Management: Monitoring 3D printing processes in real-time is an area familiar to printpal.io. At printpal.io we have developed an AI-powered platform that monitors 3D prints and identifies live defects with anomaly detection resulting in waste reduction and valuable print time saved. The platform uses machine learning algorithms to analyze data from multiple sensors and cameras to ensure consistent and high-quality 3D prints.
In terms of management, 3DPrinterOS released an AI powered additive manufacturing workflow software to reduce cost, increase operational efficiency, and improve quality. This was achieved through centralization of 3D printer management, consolidation, integration of disparate systems, printer equipment, and software platforms.
AI-Driven Post-Processing: AI algorithms are being used to improve the efficiency and quality of post-processing techniques, such as cleaning, finishing, and treating printed parts. For example, PostProcess Technologies developed the CONNECT3D® Additive Manufacturing Platform that applies AI capabilities to automatically generate optimized recipes for unique, part-specific requirements. The platform leverages the native CAD-file or 3D printer sliced files to automatically define the necessary requirements and algorithms for post-printing. The digital thread allows CONNECT3D to become progressively smarter and more efficient in the decision-making required to deliver optimal post-printing results.
As these examples demonstrate, AI is already making a significant impact to the 3D printing industry, and its potential is only beginning to be adopted. While Artificial intelligence has already made a presence in the industry, there are a number of emerging use cases for AI in 3D printing.
Emerging Trends and Future Impact
The combination of AI technology and 3D printing is still nascent given the relative age of both technologies, but there are already several emerging trends that are set to shape the future of additive manufacturing.
As current AI-design models continue to improve, we have begun to see greater complexity in model designs and products. The advancement of design is expanding the use-case of 3D printing across new industries, such as dental, aerospace, and medical device. The dental industry is a perfect case study as the dental 3D printing industry was valued at $3.25 billion in 2021 and is estimated to grow to $8.29 billion by 2028, a 19.8% year over year expected growth over the forecast period.
By providing printer management, workflow automation, and defect detection, the industry is trending towards full automation and the ability to optimize large scale manufacturing operations. Industry 4.0 in 3D printing is pushing the industry towards smart factory style operations that involve multi-device communication systems. The impacts will be reduction in material and labor costs, streamlined operations, and bringing localized manufacturing closer to reality.
As 3D printers have become more advanced, the data being collected has increased to a point where machine learning can now be utilized to train and improve 3D printer operations and even entire 3D printing systems. The industry is building more advanced printers every year and will eventually see entire smart systems in which 3D printing operations are continuously improving as they print, learn from data, and communicate across multiple printers.
Another important impact of AI in the industry is the democratization of 3D printing. With AI-driven automation, 3D printing is becoming more accessible to smaller businesses and individuals, reducing the barriers to entry for innovation and reducing startup costs for anyone interested in starting a “mom-and pop manufacturing operation.”
AI will continue to have a significant impact on the industry and is still in the early stages of a full-blown technological evolution. We can expect to see exciting developments in this field, and printpal.io is determined to be at the forefront of the advancement of AI in the industry.
Challenges and Limitations of AI in 3D printing
While the current developments are exciting, the use of AI in 3D printing poses several challenges and limitations that will need to be overcome. Here are some of the key ones:
Machine learning algorithms rely heavily on large datasets to train and improve their accuracy. However, data in 3D printing can be scarce, and often involves proprietary information that manufacturers may not be willing to share. This makes it difficult to train AI systems effectively and limits their accuracy.
3D printing is also a complex process that involves several variables, such as temperature, pressure, and speed. Incorporating these variables into ML models can be challenging as it requires a significant amount of data and computational power – not considering the previous point about data sharing.
Incorporating AI into existing 3D printing workflows can be challenging. Manufacturers may need to invest in new hardware or software and train their employees on how to use AI systems effectively. Many owners do not consider utilizing AI in their business so educating and spreading awareness to the benefits of AI will be a significant undertaking before the industry sees large scale adoption.
The last challenge is one faced by the development of AI across all industries in which adopters and non-adopters alike raise ethical considerations, such as the impact on employment, privacy, and intellectual property. For example, the use of AI could lead to the displacement of human workers, and the ownership of data and designs could become more complex.
How will these problems be faced? Tackling them will be the largest roadblock that AI/ML development faces in the industry and only time will tell as to how the landscape will unfold. Will there be consolidation among OEM’s where they battle for the best software? Will it be more of a democratized outcome in which software providers build universal systems that integrate with the OEM’s? Will there be government intervention which could become a major headwind that slows advancement? Only time will tell as to how the landscape will unfold.
Despite these challenges and clouded future, the benefits of using AI in 3D printing are significant and look to be overwhelmingly positive.
The integration of AI in 3D printing is revolutionizing additive manufacturing, offering numerous opportunities for improved efficiency, accuracy, and customization. From AI-driven design optimization to real-time print monitoring and management, the impact of AI in 3D printing is already being felt across various stages of the process.
As emerging trends in AI continue to gain traction, the future of 3D printing looks promising. However, the challenges and limitations need to be carefully addressed. By overcoming these challenges and leveraging the potential of AI in 3D printing, manufacturers can unlock new possibilities for innovation, cost reduction, and increased competitiveness in the global manufacturing landscape. At printpal.io, we are excited to be a part of the evolution of the industry and look forward to continuing pushing 3D printing forward with AI.
- Contact to learn more:
- Vice President of Operations
- Daniel Kuzmin