Recently, we've seen an increase in requests for various types of inserts in 3D prototypes and production parts. With Fortus 3D Production Systems, a build can be paused and objects can be inserted directly into a 3D printed part. You can then resume the build and when it’s finished, your object is embedded firmly into the final part; it can be partially exposed outside the part for functionality or completely enclosed within the part. The end result is some very cool looking and functioning 3D printed parts.
A variety of different types of inserts can be used. Most recently I’ve seen:
RFID tags completely embedded within a part to help identify or provide information about 3D printed tools and other parts
Copper electrical components to create prototype or custom electronic connectors and housings
Metal inserts, such as nuts and bolts to create durable mounting and fastening points on parts, or metal rods to increase the strength and stiffness of a part (see my colleague’s post “Incorporating Screw Threads Into FDM Parts”)
The ability to use different types of inserts in conjunction with rapid prototyping can greatly increase the performance of your already-robust 3D printed parts. As people continue to move toward digital manufacturing, the ability to create hybrid parts using inserts will be critical to increase functionality. I can't wait to see what types of insert ideas creative minds will come up with in the next few years.