The manufacturing industry is experiencing ripples of competition from one of its lesser known challenger, 3D printing. Is it just a myth or is 3D printing really threatening to take over this mother of all industries. The answer is yes. However, 3D printing also has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Long ago, 3D printing was exploited for rapid prototyping. Not any more. Today, it is used to build actual, working components which go into the assembly line of many manufacturing sectors. In short products manufactured through 3D printing are functional in nature and not just ornamental or “case study” products.
Some of the reasons why 3D printing has become so popular and its advantages are mentioned below.
Cost and size
There was a time when these machines used to cost a bomb. However, they have not only become affordable but have also shrunk in size enormously making it a viable option for even small manufacturers which hitherto used traditional methods to build even customized products.
This also means new opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs and manufacturing firms operating out of small places or even homes. Increased affordability has also enhanced job opportunities. Creative and qualified folks can now offer some amazing products to the masses which no orthodox manufacturer would be able to do so.
Parts and tools
Traditionally, manufacturing products take birth from tools or moulds. These are shells with intricate “cut-out” designs build into them, and typically made from strong metal. These dies or moulds are costly to build and require regular maintenance. Secondly, the moulds have limitations in terms of design.
However, 3D printing allows production of parts and tools with equal ease. Now isn’t that a miracle? It is one of the reasons why manufacturing is seeing a major change, a shift from this time tested and conventional method.
Design limitation? What is that?
3D printing is much like additive manufacturing. It can therefore build complex parts or tools which no mould or cast can achieve. Moreover, it doesn’t burn a big hole in the manufacturer’s pocket. It costs just a fraction of the value of traditional method and supersedes design challenges. Sometimes parts build through 3D printing are used in tandem with traditional components. This marriage between two different technologies offers a great solution in terms of cost, functionality and form factor.
Rainbow of raw material
Yet another feather which 3D printing has added to its already crowded success cap is the array of materials which can be used for producing equally diverse products. Glass, wood, metal, casting, special alloys, concrete etc. the list is long and getting longer every year.
It typically means the day is not far when small houses, medium sized yachts, shops and even shells of airplane will be made via 3d printing. Some of the products listed here are already being manufactured by large firms. Material options and versatility also means cost can be brought down drastically with improved design performance.
The heart of 3d printing is its additive processing power which makes it a powerful option to build products which are efficient and low cost as compared to those produced through conventional ways. As mentioned above, 3D printing also complements products build via traditional medium creating hybrid components which are complex in nature and therefore reduce associated components to a great extent. It means cleaner product design.
Solo or hybrid, 3D printing is the answer to every need and requirement.
One the biggest advantage with 3D printing is its capability to batch-produce a particular part or product which is just next to impossible via traditional way, yet another area where it is making its presence felt and influencing the manufacturing landscape. Whether it is half a dozen or hundred, 3D printing can achieve the goal easily and cost effectively. However, for mass production, a 3D setup is not considered a viable option.
Logistics and localisation
Enterprises can now save money by lowering their inventory and also by localising some of the critical parts which can now be produced in house. It makes sense because tools can be quickly tweaked in case of essential design modifications and components produced in limited quantities. Transportation of such parts or components is completely bypassed or lowered.
3D printing is the future and an alternative manufacturing method which has very few limitations, and offers some stunning features which no enterprising firm can afford to ignore. It is here to stay. Only time will tell its effects, influence and repercussions.
Bio line :- Garry Forster is an online blogger at 3D Stuff Maker. He likes to blog on 3D printing Events, how to choose a 3D Printer, Technologies which are related to 3D Printing and 3D Printing Tutorial. Follow him on Google+.