3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing (the two terms are used interchangeably), also commonly known as Rapid Prototyping, has evolved over the past 30 years since the 1980s. This refers to the process of producing a 3D part from a computer-aided design model by adding materials successively, usually in a layer by layer fashion as defined in the ASTM International standard, F2792-12a.
As opposed to conventional manufacturing such as machining, casting and moulding, the overall investment costs involved in 3D Printing are lower as there is less material wastage and no need for mould production. In addition, 3D Printing possess the ability to produce parts with complex configurations and the flexibility to accommodate changes conveniently, to meet rapid changing industrial demands without incurring additional tooling costs.
Typically, parts can be produced within a few hours to a week, and manufacturing does not require high volume production to break even. As such, 3D Printing is ideal for addressing dynamic technological trends and industrial demands.
In recent years, there is a growing trend in the development and use of 3D Printing. The Economist has forecasted 3D Printing to be the 3rd Industrial revolution due to its prospects of thriving into a new type of manufacturing industry. Manufacturing is an established and necessary sector in the spectrum of Singapore’s economy. It makes significant contributions to Singapore’s gross domestic production and national security through constant supply of essential products and services.
Judging by how the world adopts and adapts to 3D Printing, there is no reason for Singapore to stay stagnant. Despite little internal pressure for Singapore to focus on 3D Printing development due to a smaller market, there is a very real external push. First world countries, such as United States, United Kingdom and Australia have already established national centres or institutes for 3D Printing at various scales. This sets an example for other advanced countries.
In Asia, China is trying to follow closely to this technological trend, and has attempted to develop its own 3D Printing brands. However, the East is still far behind the West in general. Singapore, a place where East meets West, and a place where 3D Printing can be rooted back to the late 1980s, must take leadership in developing new 3D Printing manufacturing technologies and training future 3D Printing engineer leaders, for Singapore and the Asia Pacific region.
Therefore, with increasing worldwide interest and attention in 3D printing, it is crucial for Singapore to capitalise on its current strengths and intensify current efforts in this area so as to enhance its competitive edge. In collaboration with major industry partners, the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP), funded by the National Research Foundation is set up on 1 December 2014 to harness, strengthen and expand 3D printing capabilities in Singapore in four key areas, namely: (1) Aerospace and Defence, (2) Building and Construction, (3) Marine and Offshore, and (4) Future of Manufacturing. SC3DP will also consolidate NTU existing competencies and strengths in 3D printing including the NTU Additive Manufacturing Centre (NAMC), funded by the Economic Development Board.
In addition to having world-class 3D printing facilities, SC3DP hosts the two most published and cited Scientists in the world for 3D Printing (according statistics from the Web of Science.) The establishment of SC3DP will therefore provide Singapore with the competitive advantage that will spur new opportunities in design tools development, 3D Printing knowledge propagation and manufacturing technology innovation translated into applications to further strengthen Singapore’s existing strong manufacturing capabilities. By taking advantage of Singapore’s position and strong manufacturing reputation, coupled with anticipating infrastructures and an accessible pool of talents, SC3DP offers an ideal setting in Asia to attract and support global businesses.
3D printing is a revolutionary technology with immense potential to change the world. We invite you to join us as we usher in a new era with the latest technological developments.
Professor Chua Chee Kai
Singapore Centre for 3D Printing