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First, there’s artificial intelligence (AI). And let’s face it, we subtly see it in our everyday lives when a form gets filled out, or a choice of books and movies is set up for us, by learning our past preferences. We further see it with new applications like voice activation, preset GPS directions, and many other applications.

Artificial intelligence has gained recognition as a valuable tool to turbocharge so many applications in business, industry, and other corners of commerce. Remarkable outcomes using artificial intelligence are instilling positive and monumental changes in engineering design, and improved living for many throughout the world.

In a parallel rhythm, 3D printing has emerged and continues to advance. 3D printing employs the simplicity of three-dimensional printing, using various feedstocks other than the traditional ink, transforming digital designs and 3D scans of physical objects into replicated objects and new objects and forms following the detail of digital design.

As both technologies advance, they are converging, complementing one another with great attributes and capabilities, and subsequently creating new and innovative products, systems, buildings, machines, and other creations that are changing world industry in positive ways.

Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing: An Ideal Alloy?

Artificial intelligence instills the efficiencies brought about by mathematics, algorithms, machine learning, and generative design. When artificial intelligence is applied in concert with 3D printing, a smart and complex design can be executed to prefabricate assemblies and subassemblies, structures and sub-structures, and other forms that greatly influence and impact production in many ways.

This convergence of AI and 3D printing uses a more complex calculus to create better products and objects as solutions. The precise part or object is created with more accuracy and speed than in the past. In this sense it is positively affecting the factory floor and automation within industrial operations. 3D printing, fueled by AI, allows for more precise quality assurance and a capability to fabricate without error, waste, and at a level that minimizes all resources as it boosts the overall quality and finesse of the finished good or product.

This convergence can be taken one step further onto the factory floor by accelerating the gravitas of Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and all the things that emanate from automation and these industrial trends.

For example, the U.S. Air Force is utilizing a proprietary data-driven machine learning software to analyze the relationships between 3D printing process parameters and the performance of a specific new material they plan to use in a specific application. With a new 3D printing and AI, it allows engineers to optimize designs without a plethora of cumbersome trial and error at the earlier stages of developing the material.

This approach has not only resulted in efficient solutions but reduces time and cost by enabling designers to arrive at accurate and on-target solutions, faster.

The University of Texas at El Paso has also integrated the goodness of both technologies to tackle the complex undertaking of electronic design. University researchers employed a $12,000 3D printer and connected it with appropriate peripherals and used the network in conjunction with AI to create advanced patterning capabilities. The machine they created and enabled very precise and minute deposits of electronic inks to create printed circuit boards according to complex designs. This combination enabled the creation and design of electronics and electronic components which may be used for academic research, prototyping and other educational applications.

The Bright Future of 3D Printing with Artificial Intelligence

As 3D printing continues to evolve and advance, so does artificial intelligence and its applications into many areas of the world around us. 3D printing has forged a position in engineering design that enables rapid fabrication, using a myriad of materials, with a minimal of equipment. Artificial intelligence employs the long-proven practice of learning by machine and employs the learning of patterns and automated processes to predict and analyze with unprecedented accuracy,

Where the two coincide, is precisely where the design community is headed in the future. What’s more, it’s bound to be full of new and efficient design options, made possible with great accuracy and the remarkable ability of machine learning to shape an iteration and better generate a design. But its beauty is enhanced with 3D printing and additive manufacturing; they bring a newfound process to fabricate, create, and disrupt the world around us with new products and equipment never thought possible, with minimal constraints and resources. The best is yet to come.

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