Overview: 3D Printing has carried around with it the ‘what if?’ tag for many years, perceived as a hype job by many with industry experts pointing to numerous times where 3D printing has flattered to deceive and left us empty handed and pondering what could have been.
The industry as a whole has had two attempts at breaking into the mainstream, a decade ago and in 2012 when it looked like 3D printing was going to become a common feature of the workplace for small businesses alongside industrial manufacturing, both times it came to nothing.
For many people, 3D printing had all but disappeared and faded away, so attention focused more on the latest releases of new multi-functional printers and cloud software management systems for the likes of the hp deskjet 3630, hp deskjet 2540 and hp photosmart 5520; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact, the 3D printer industry has been doing quite the opposite.
With market share increasing and industries suddenly clamouring for 3D printing units there is somewhat of a seismic shift in industrial manufacturing’s perception of what these machines can produce and where they can now take us.
The impact of new 3D printing on Manufacturing
The possibilities seem endless but translating them into a household or for a small business to use proved a difficult hurdle to overcome.
The theory itself is intriguing enough, consumers and small business enterprises being able to create a vast array of items, in a relatively short space of time with materials that are readily available would surely render traditional manufacturing production lines useless and to the point of extinction.
If consumers can print at home or small to medium-size businesses print their goods in-house, this will upset the manufacturing balance that has been the status quo for decades.
Just as the printing industry is undergoing a paradigm shift of the most significant transformation in its long history from traditional to digital print, so can 3D printing have the same effect on the manufacturing industry.
With executives seeing how 3D printing can open up new doors in a vast array of areas for job creation, skepticism is subsiding as the realization hits that the pros can outweigh the cons considerably.
3D Printing in Research and Development
Traditional manufacturing relies heavily on prototypes and moulds. In a typical set-up, this is a time consuming but none the less a necessary process. However, using 3D printing prototypes cuts through the process saving both time and money.
In the automotive industry, Aston Martin has invested heavily in research and development to bring prototypes to physical testing. Notably in its DB range, the range that made the brand famous.
3D printing components have been prevalent in the DB range since 2016 in its custom-made frames and engine components.
Aston Martin pointed towards 3D printing enabling the design team to develop its DB11 engine to be lightweight for extra performance.
Additive Manufacturing is the new Buzzword
With traditional manufacturing being a subtractive process whereby the raw material is used and re-used over and over again, 3D printing is quite the opposite and manufacturers are waking up to the fact that there is less wastage and more precise output using this method.
Consider a car factory, for example, a sheet of metal is used to cut various shapes that are required for body parts of the car, the remaining metal is then melted down and re-shaped to be cut and used again in the same manner. There is considerable energy used during the back-end of the process.
Then consider 3D printing whereby the precise shapes are printed to the required specification at the first attempt, with no cutting or melting down, no re-shaping or re-processing. Therefore making the manufacturing process additive not subtractive, resulting in:
. Less waste
. Less processing time
. Less equipment
. Less energy output
Redefining Cost Calculation
As the technology and software advance, it is becoming more apparent to manufacturers and businesses that the impact of 3D printing on materials and production is having a significant effect on reducing production costs.
Depending on what purpose the printer is used for the machines tend to range from around $5000 to $500,000. Indeed, for larger scale manufacturing set-ups, the reality is starting to become clear and apparent that the speed in which ROI and break-even point is achievable is considerably quicker than traditional manufacturing and other process technologies.
Getting more done in a Creative Way
Precise prototype printing saves manufacturing time. By 3D printing these process companies are affording more time on concentrate on other initiatives as it allows them spare capital to invest in other areas that they usually wouldn’t be in a position to do.
Having the ability to make in-house prototypes quickly, and efficiently allows companies to invest on getting creative and gives more room for trial and error and gives business owners a little more freedom to push the envelope in creativity and development of their brand and products.
Mass production manufacturing can be somewhat of a closed door to competition, where smaller companies cannot compete with labor costs and material costs in such substantial quantities. 3D printing narrows the gap considerably, to the point of leveling the playing field to be exact as through appropriate software just one operator can manage an entire floor of 3D printers.
With technology advancing more materials and software will enable more items to be created, in effect democratizing manufacturing. The equalizer of 3D printing is that it is no more expensive to manufacture one piece than it is to make 100,000.
With a uniformed price, producing highly complex parts eliminates the need for economies of scale and low labor costs, therefore, leveling the playing field for industry competition which can only be beneficial to the consumer and the end product.
So centralized mass production where labor costs were a significant factor doesn’t have an advantage. Now thousands of 3D printing enterprises can become start-up’s around the world, at a cost effective rate using less space in which to produce the same parts.
Large-scale industrial trends are effective at manufacturing and shipping a million pieces of the same part to a select amount of locations, but not so effective at sending a million different customized parts to numerous locations.
Environmental Change with 3D Printing
3D printing leaves considerably less of a carbon footprint than its traditional counterpart. Aerospace has got in on the act as they have understood the value of being able to produce precise models with a precise cut, in doing so, reducing wastage of raw materials and the CO2 emissions that further processing entails.
Finally, 3D printing realizes its potential. The investment capital that had all but dried up from venture capitalists over the last decade has come flooding back into research and development. Now the funds are being used in the right areas, the aviation, medical, dentistry, aerospace, automotive and fashion industries are no longer at prototype or R & D stages they are in full production. On tomorrow’s flight, the cabin your captain is sitting in on an Airbus has been 3D printed along with your seat; I wonder how many passengers who board that aeroplane tomorrow know that.
3D Printing has arrived, and this time it won’t be fading away, the next generation will be growing up with 3D printing as this generation has with mobile phones.
Author Bio: David Blakey is a seasoned tech writer. He writes about computer gadgets, 3D printing and the latest software support. He is associated with Hottoner who supply hp officejet pro 8600 and brother mfc-9335cdw in Australia.