The Role of Glasses - Free 3D Volumetric Displays in 3D Printing

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) recently conducted an industry day to discuss the needs, challenges, and opportunities of manufacturing utilizing 3D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing,” and how it can be used to better maintain the fleet. NAVAIR was one of the early adopters of additive manufacturing, beginning almost 20 years ago when they started to see Naval systems being pressed into service well beyond their intended design life and components starting to fail that were never expected to be repaired or replaced. Their early use was in 3D printed tooling and non-critical parts. Over time their use increased to critical parts and in the future will be considered for use in manufacturing of large and complex parts.


Figure 1. Representative complex part that could be considered for additive manufacturing and would benefit from an interim step of a 3D volumetric display (Source: TCT Magazine)

Additive manufacturing provides an ability to reduce the lead time and cost associated with part repair or manufacturing a replacement. It can also be used to compress the time to develop new products, distribute manufacturing closer to the end user, eliminate the need for time-of-life purchases and stockpiling, allow low volume manufacturing of affordable products that accommodate rapidly changing end user needs, and to create products that cannot be manufactured using more traditional processes or materials.

Additive manufacturing begins with 3D digital data provided from a CAD model, through scanning existing part surfaces, or by non-destructive imaging of existing part volumes. This same data could be used with a 3D volumetric display as an interim step before additive manufacturing to ensure the data is correct and does not introduce any defects in the manufactured part. This interim step also could provide an opportunity for refinement of the part design in a more representative 3D format before committing to manufacturing. In cases where the part produced is being used purely for visualization, a 3D volumetric display would provide the initial result much faster, allows for quicker iterations when changes are desired, and provides an opportunity to interact with the displayed image in a manner not available with a printed representation. By using a glasses-free 3D volumetric display, a design team could more effectively perform critical decision making in a timely manner.

Advances in additive manufacturing are leading the way to economic growth in US manufacturing. Glasses-free 3D volumetric displays can play a critical role in both the success and breadth of adoption of additive manufacturing, especially in critical applications such as biological systems. 

3DIcon continues to explore partnerships in additive manufacturing as advances are being made.