3D Printing for Agriculture

Stampa 3D agricoltura

3D Printing for Agriculture: the benefits and the future

You know that object you’ve always imagined and searched for in any shop but never found in the end because, perhaps, it doesn’t even exist on the market?

Now you can stop looking: the project you have in mind can be realised simply by 3D printing, and this also applies to accessories and tools for use in agriculture.

How? I explain this in detail in the following paragraphs.

Agriculture is linked to technology.

The agricultural sector is one of the oldest but also one of the most flexible industries, and, at first glance, it may seem improper to equate it with technology.

Today, agriculture appears to be an incredibly sophisticated sector compared to many years ago. Consider the machinery and equipment used to ensure crops remain healthy throughout their life cycle.

This is where robotics and 3D printing are instrumental technologies radically transforming the agricultural sector.

Equipment manufacturers were the first to experiment with 3D printing. Realising its high potential, they now seem to be making massive use of 3D modelling and printing.

This has resulted in manufacturers and farmers resorting to 3D printing of tools, as they would have access to materials designed, engineered and printed exactly as the activity they will be used for requires.

But that is not all.

The production of certain agricultural tools for specific customers leads to increased productivity, which is guaranteed by the increased efficiency resulting from the customised tools used during the activity, not to mention the resulting reduction in time, costs and materials.

The benefits of 3D printing

If we do not want to think about the complete production of tools with the aid of 3D printers because we are still reluctant to rely on such, shall we say, new technologies, think how useful it would be to print a part that has gone out of production quickly?

The advantages would be so many: cost-effectiveness, speed and work continuity.

3D printing a spare part involves:

  • The reduction of costs, since a tool that the market considers obsolete could be put back into service without considering that a 3D print could cost less than the original product;
  • the reduction of time, one thinks of spare parts that are ordered and have to come from foreign companies; in such cases, the activity would be suspended for a medium to long period;
  • since the suspension period of activity is reduced, business continuity is limited only to the technical time needed to mould the product.

The materials used in 3D printing

The most commonly used material for the production of 3D prints is Nylon.

However, depending on the type of product to be made, the suitable material for the print will be indicated.

For example, Nylon PA12 Classic produces mass-produced parts or functional prototypes. This relatively inexpensive but high-performance material enables the generation of durable products when applied to HP’s Multi Jet Fusion printing technology.

Meanwhile, if a product of a specific colour is required, Nylon PA12 White is used. Its white base allows dyeing in various colours.

On the other hand, the HP 580 MJF Colour 3D printer, which supports Nylon PA12 Full Colour, is used to print logos, lettering, graphics, and three-dimensional photographs.

Further materials used in this area are UV-LFS resin, suitable for producing components for aesthetic use or with specific technical characteristics such as transparency or flexibility, and 316L Stainless Steel, whose powder is used with LPBF(DMS) technology.

Finally, with LPBF(DMS) technology and TPA, aluminium is used in powder form. This unique rubber is printed with the HP-branded Multi Jet Fusion printer, allowing a superior surface finish.

RepRap Project

Have you heard of the RepRap project? This project aimed to develop a 3D printer for making most of its components.

If applied to the industrial sectors, this project would allow entrepreneurs to produce well-defined products according to their business needs, including those pertaining to the agricultural sector, either autonomously or with the help of printing services.

This would shift from industrial design and production to the production of tools and accessories of a personal nature, thus designed according to the needs and scope of the end user.

This would guarantee a reduction in production time but greater efficiency of the required product, which is designed according to the user’s stated needs.

The new frontier outlined by 3D printing would lead to improved products and greater product diversity, while industrial production against a niche would be reduced.

Thus, if we associate the RepRap project with the agricultural sector, practical, simple and customised tools could be obtained faster than traditional industrial production if one relies on companies offering a professional and quality 3D printing service.

What the future holds

3D printing related to the agricultural sector is not widespread, especially in industrialised countries.

But, in those continents where technology is still limited, such as Third World countries, 3D printers are making a difference.

However, there is always someone well disposed towards innovation who has already carried out various experiments using 3D printing for hydroponic cultivation systems, namely Professor Yuichiro Takeuchi of the Sony Computer Science Laboratories company, who, before creating the 3D printed substrate, tested various plastics before finding one that could guarantee a good performance, obtaining favourable results, we are talking about SBS, a rather elastic-plastic material capable of achieving the porosity that would allow the roots of cultivated plants to grow.

If we have fuelled your curiosity and you wish to experiment with 3D printing technology related to the agricultural sector, do not hesitate to forward your idea.

For a quotation, enter your design in .stl or .obj format, choose the material it will be made of, and select the number of pieces you want to print; after these quick and easy steps, you will quickly get the cost of the product you wish to make.

For further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are at your disposal.

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