By Shawn Mike
The future is here – that is exactly how any 3D printing enthusiast would describe this technology to other people.
Since its inception, 3D printing has played a major role in the aviation, healthcare, and education industries. But now, it is slowly finding its way into the manufacturing world. This shift towards the 3D printing is understandable since it has revolutionized the production phases.
With that being said, let us closely examine why 3D printing is the next big thing in manufacturing. But first, let us go through the basics!
What Is 3D Printing?
When someone talks about a printer, the images of ink and paper come into the mind. With the introduction of 3D, this imagery is bound to change. When it comes to 3D printing, all the action takes place on the computer screen. With the help of product design, the 3D printer prints out the object that is the physical copy of what you see on the screen.
However, the working process of a 3D printer is more complex than a traditional one as there are tons of obstacles to overcome. Developing a product design and the selection of the right material all adds to the complexity of this procedure.
Is it the Future of Manufacturing?
Currently, 3D printing is limited to prototypes only. However, it is slowly making its way from the prototypes to the manufacturing and production area. But what it is about 3D printing that compels people to think of it as the future of the manufacturing world? Here are a few areas in which 3D printing is helping manufacturers.
You do not even have to understand how a 3D printer works to acknowledge its potential (although it would be quite an interesting read). The most obvious way of acknowledging its potential lays in the various design possibilities.
For some time, designers faced issues when it came to transforming their ideas from paper into physical objects. Due to this, many designers had to drop their original ideas as it was nearly impossible to construct the shapes present on paper. Also, the lack of proper tools and expensive machinery further worsened the condition. However, with the rise of 3D printing, designers can get creative with their ideas.
What is more is that 3D printing has created enough space for ordinary individuals to pursue their custom designs. Because of this, many individuals can order a product online which will be made according to their requirements.
However, with custom-made designs, you need to be careful as a slight error can wreak havoc on your end product. So before you begin designing a 3D model of your product, make sure to give this article a read.
The best thing about 3D printing is the ease with which you can compose and compare various prototypes at the same time. Just design various models, print them out and compare them to decide which one will work better in the manufacturing setting.
Manufacturing tools through the traditional method are time-consuming. Compared to this, 3D printing allows individuals to sample and quickly replace the parts with a better version of itself. Creating prototypes through 3D printing saves money and enables the manufacturing research to be continued at low costs.
With traditional manufacturing, a turbine blade requires months for production. On top of that, manufacturers need a lot of money to purchase the machinery for building a turbine. With the help of 3D printing, the entire production time can be reduced from eighteen months to six weeks! This is how 3D printing technology has facilitated the manufacturing department.
The low-volume factor of 3D printing provides individuals with an opportunity to change their product design swiftly if need be. There is no need to check with the entire operation process and there is absolutely no need to change or order new product designs. Simply update the 3D model of your product and you are good to go.
The traditional method of production requires raw material such as rods, beams, and plastics. All of this has to be cut or drilled which produces scraps of material that cannot be used in any way. Although much of it is destroyed or recycled, it still makes up to 21% of the total waste.
In contrast, 3D printing only uses the material which it needs to build the products. Although there is some leftover material, it is usually utilized for the printing of other products. Because of its less waste policy, more and more companies are opting for 3D printing as it saves millions in waste.
One famous example is the Adidas 4D FutureCraft shoes which utilize 3D printed sole. The sole is acquired with only one piece which means that its construction is devoid of any additional material.
Hurdles in Global Acceptance
As of now, 3D printing is widely used for printing prototypes only as it is cheaper and easier to develop. Also, this technology is ideal for low-volume production or materials that are usually smaller than a baseball such as jewelry, dental crowns, small parts of machinery, prosthetics, etc.
3D printing technology is also suitable for the mass production of complex and lightweight products for cars and aircraft. Because of its efficiency, many companies are investing millions into this technology so that someday it could be used for producing heavy machinery.
Although it is quite useful, many people argue that it will never truly replace the traditional manufacturing processes as it consumes a lot of time. Production of some of the complex materials can take up six to seven days to complete.
In addition, the cost of the 3D equipment, and the material required for printing items are still out of reach of many people. In comparison, the costs of manufacturing products through the traditional method are relativity easy on the pocket for many individuals.
Considering all of this, 3D printing has definitely found its ways into the manufacturing world. However, this technology is not without a few faults. Apart from requiring excessive time to print out products, the individuals capable of working with this technology are quite a few in numbers. Since this technology is fairly new, the production costs hinder people from trying it out.
Until someone figures out the issues and finds a solution to tackles all these problems, 3D printing still has a long way to go.