One under-appreciated benefit of 3D printing is being able to 3D scan and reproduce obsolete parts - either through traditional or additive manufacturing. For example, we've been working with the State of Oregon to reverse engineer, improve and manufacture obsolete parts for some of its correctional facilities - saving several thousand dollars for each cell door that is refurbished rather than replaced.
This same approach is now being used in England to decommission nuclear power plants.
"Sellafeld recently designed a new lid for one of its 40-ton nuclear waste export flasks. By using 3D scanning engineers were able to quickly and accurately recreate the geometry of a legacy component, saving time and thousands of dollars. From those 3D scans a new lid will be printed, saving even further costs.
That’s only one example of the way 3D printing will be used to curb expenses, engineers expect AM to play a big roll in a number of future component redesigns in both plastic and metal.
Given that the estimated cost of the two plants’ decommissioning has ballooned to $118 billion, any savings that can be wrung out of the project will be greatly appreciated by the UK taxpayers."
High-profile cases like this will hopefully help reduce one hurdle to adoption: getting agencies to appreciate the potential cost, time and ecological savings associated with reverse engineering and additive manufacturing of obsolete parts.