The new manufacturing industry revolution is 3D printing. This revolutionary technology is taking on manufacturing by storm due to its ease of use, accessibility, and low lost. Many people have an idea of what 3D printing is, but might not know how it works or how a printer can make products. The easiest way to visualize how a 3D printer works is to image an inkjet printer that uses material instead of ink. So each time the ink cartridges run past a sheet of paper to distribute ink, rather than ink, it would be like a glue from a hot glue gun running past the sheet of paper to distribute glue. The 3D printer goes over the same spot multiple times to distribute material to its desired height and shape.
This technology, which is also known as additive manufacturing, is capable of creating things from apparel, to toys, to medical devices, to prototype manufacturing. The possibilities are really endless. So the question comes to mind, will 3D printing replace normal manufacturing? There are many factors that go into answering this question like the quantity to be manufactured, the material being used, and its functionality.
In regards to quantity, there are three different quantity types: prototyping, production, and mass production. The amount of time it takes to 3D print and object, production and mass production quantities are not ideal. However, prototyping is a perfect 3D technology that can replace many types of prototype manufacturing due to its ease of use, low investment cost, no tooling costs, and little to no economies of scale to worry about.
When it comes to the material being used, 3D is limited to what can be used to make products. Current 3D printers use anything from plastic, resin, wax, paper, and even powder. These materials aren’t exactly desired when you’re trying to prototype products for their function that need to withstand heat, force, or pressure. In other words, 3D printing wouldn’t replace metal or ceramics which are used to withstand various conditions.
Many of the industries that are currently using 3D printing to their advantage include:
- Auto parts (after market)
The largest advantage these industries have to using additive manufacturing is the reduced time-to-market when conceptualizing new products. Without having to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in tooling costs in order to create prototypes for testing or for investors, this is a great alternative.
Although 3D printing has its definite advantages, it looks like it won’t replace manufacturing after all. But, it is a great technology for companies to invest in to save cost on prototyping and testing out designs.
Stay tuned for our next blog post!