Today, businesses are increasingly adopting Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D Printing due to a number of reasons that include cost saving, unique designs, product customisation, shorter time-to-market, and small series production. The break-even point where AM becomes more cost-effective versus conventional manufacturing could range from 50 to 5000 parts, depending on the industry, material, and application factors. The long-tail needs of a mixed marketplace ranging from medical devices, manufacturing equipment to certain purpose machines & spare parts can more effectively be handled via AM.
Despite the benefits 3D Printing technology provides in both the prototyping and creation phases of the manufacturing process, and approximately 66% of companies currently use it. Let’s understand how 3D Printing technology is the future of the manufacturing industry and what benefits it offers to companies for making the switch.
How is 3D Printing changing the manufacturing industry?
Once 3D Printing technology’s future reached the turning point of accessibility in the mid-2000s, it led to transformations in several vital manufacturing areas. These include:
Prototyping: 3D Printing transformed the materials, speed, and functionality with which prototypes could be efficiently produced, leading to fewer prototyping iterations, faster overall production, and decreased overall costs. With this technology, one-off prototypes can be produced in a matter of hours and with total turnaround times as short as a day.
Design and testing: With the advancement of desktop 3D Printing equipment, every shop and even every designer can have a 3D printer right on their desk. This just means designs can quickly be replicated in 3-dimensional space without requesting a prototype from a vendor. This printing technology has even advanced to the point where desktop machines can create useful working prototypes, testing functionality, and design.
Short-run manufacturing: 3D Printing is usually the kind of payoff to one of the earliest promises of the technology. Advancements in the material types and properties can be replicated in 3D Printing materials, meaning that workable, sellable parts can be created through the technique.
Advantages of 3D Printing
From the beginning, 3D Printing has always offered the promise of huge advantages over traditional manufacturing in certain scenarios. Throughout the journey of 3D Printing, those benefits have become a reality. Here are some of them:
Better quality prototypes at lower costs: Before 3D Printing, sacrifices generally had to be made to produce viable prototypes, whether in fidelity to the design, materials, or the speed and cost of prototype development. Manufacturing quality prototypes were available; however, costs would typically become prohibitive given the suitability of one-off production on high-volume machinery. 3D Printing technology and its advancement in equipment speed and materials simply mean that superior quality prototypes can be created at nominal cost and time.
Overall faster production speeds: Another benefit of 3D Printing in manufacturing is that it can save a lot of time in the design and prototyping processes, and that leads to reduced time-to-market. This equates to bottom-line benefits for businesses as well as their end customers.
Reduced waste: Traditional manufacturing processes can be extravagant and consume large amounts of energy and raw materials. Besides processing a product from a massive piece of plastic or metal, 3D Printing precisely processes the item layer by layer. Hence, there is 70% to 90% scrap waste compared to traditional CNC manufacturing or injection molding methods.
Mobility: 3D printers offer broadly improved portability over traditional manufacturing processes. It can be taken to boats, into remote environments, — offering speedy manufacturing of required parts when they might not have otherwise been available.
Future use of 3D Printing
While there are endless examples of 3D Printing being utilised for incredible things, keep an eye out for its use in these five applications:
Rare parts replacement: The evolving future of metal-based 3D Printing will enable the production of rare, concluded replacement parts in various applications. Repair shops could handle a wider variety of clientele, and online retailers might be able to print unique parts, offering more products through a just-in-time inventory approach.
Automotive prototyping: 3D Printing technology has overcome the hype and is now widely adopted by non-tech businesses. The automobile industry is using it to prototype new car models rapidly. 3D Printing is utilised to produce spare and replacement parts in sectors like aerospace. Healthcare has a comprehensive variety of 3D Printing applications ranging from molds in dentistry to prosthetics and 3D printed models for complex surgeries.
Customisable solutions: The drastic shift from broad, one-size-fits-all solutions to more personalised and customisable offerings has been a significant trend in recent years. 3D Printing has the ability to take it a step further. Businesses will be able to offer greater flexibility and personalisation on the specifications and design of products sold without marking up the cost dramatically.
Fraud prevention: 3D Printing shows assurance in preventing card-present fraud in things such as ATMs and point-of-sale systems. 3D Printing technology will play a crucial role in creating hardware to fight fraud in the physical and digital world.
Apparel printing: With 3D Printing technology uses, customers can print their own gloves, belts, and glasses to meet their needs. This can offer co-creation opportunities for retailers and hand out personalised designs to customers.
In the future we can look forward to seeing 3D Printing used to create more final-use products. With the increasing market demand for customised products, role of 3D Printing will increase exponentially since this technology allows for greater flexibility in customising products without adding a tremendous cost.
Courtesy: Objectify Technologies