What are the real benefits of 3D printing?
Read more about the future of manufacturing and 3D printing trends.
We are on the edge of the fourth industrial revolution. 3D printers are at the frontier of this movement, becoming more and more popular and finding its way in every chain of production. However, it is important to know what specific benefits 3D printers will bring to your business.
What can you expect from this advanced industrial technology and how will you use it to your benefit? The main advantages and disadvantages of 3D printers are detailed below:
Usually speed is considered to be one of the main advantages of 3D printers. This statement is not precisely correct: 3D printing is not as fast as you might expect when compared to injection molding or even CNC milling. In order to manufacture large quantities or 3D prints, you would have to use many 3D printers at the same time.
3D printing is not for mass production
3D printers are great for small
However, starting a 3D print only takes a couple of minutes which make them ideal for small series of production. A complex part can be made in matters of hours, out-competing most suppliers and production methods. And if you are looking to create unique and customised parts, then this 3D printing will be even a bigger advantage for you! More on that later.
3D printing will do most of the work for you
Regular production often use multiple methods and need a form of post-production. 3D printing has the benefit that you can make a complex shape in one step. And only in some cases post-production will be needed. The reason is because it is additive manufacturing, so it will only create what you need for your product.
3D printing is easy
Technology used to be complex but as the technology grows, so does the user experience. 3D printing is a commercially new production method which means that using it is easy. Most 3D printers work with wifi and touchscreen. This saves you time - you could just start a 3D print and work on other tasks in the meantime.
The efficiency of 3D printers is what makes it also very applicable for prototyping. Every design iteration can be printed and evaluated the next day. This can help you recognize possible flaws and opportunities much quicker. So speeding up the development process can not only increase the product to market time, but also increase the value of your product as well.
3D printing decreases lead-times
3D printers might significantly reduce costs of producing goods. However, it works only if you are considering production of small batches. This is related to the speed: a regular manufacturing machine is more cost-effective when producing large quantities. A 3D printer is a cost efficient solution when producing smaller quantities. The reason for this are no-startup costs and low material costs. This means that the quantities dictate if a 3D printer might be cost-effective for you. However, the break-even point differs per part en product. To help understand this relation, please take a look at the following graph:
Using a 3D printer is cheap
Most desktop 3D printers will not produce goods of industrial quality. Regular production methods will create an object from a larger, solid piece of material. It will then start removing material until only the desired shape is left. Additive manufacturing works in the other direction. This means that, similar to fusing to cubes together, the result will not be made from ‘one piece’. The good news is that the 3D printing technology is getting better and better. This means that there are industrial 3D printers on the market available for a low price, but offer industrial quality.
3D printing does not create solid parts
Regular desktop 3D printers are cheap compared to other production machines. So the return of investment (or ROI) of a 3D printer is high and it can quickly pay itself back. Additionally, starting-up and using a regular production machine requires more time, effort, materials and as a result money. A 3D printer uses what it needs, and start within an instance, keeping risks low and allowing you to start producing quicker.
3D printing - low risk investment
Lower production risks with 3D printing
Because of the quick setup of a 3D printer, faulty production batches can easily be avoided. This 3D printing benefit can prevent an alteration on your injection mould. Simply testing the fit and shape of a new part or product, can turn out to be a huge benefit of 3D printing in your production chain.
Among advantages of 3D printers you always could recall customization of each manufactured product: you could design a product in a way that would be suitable for each customer individually. It concerns not only usage of diverse colors and various shapes but also various materials: for example, you could print the same object in wood and in carbon for different clients depending on their preferences. Especially this is handy when you have printers with independent dual extruders, which allow you to print the same product in different colors or materials which can be found in the Bolt Pro. With the recent trend toward unique production this benefit of 3D printers makes them useful advanced manufacturing tools.
3D printers excel at unique and customised objects
It might sound strange for a tool that works with production of plastics but one additional benefit of 3D printers is that their production method is sustainable. Instead of removing material to create the object you want, you only use what you need. This means that there is almost no excess of material which either needed to be recycled or would be discarded.
3D printing is sustainable
There are also several options to make 3D printing even more sustainable. One example is using recycled plastic as a print materials or biodegradable material. Another is producing the part or object on-site, to decrease CO2 emission of the otherwise used transportation.
Picture: Scaffold & PLA immersed in water for dissolution
Can 3D printing benefit your situation?
3D printers have lots of advantages that might contribute to your business, allowing you to meet the expectations of your client better. Producing in a fast manner with a cost-effective method while using a sustainable technology. Many say that 3D printing is the future and although it will not be the future by itself, it will definitely have a multifunctional place within many systems. If you would like to learn more from other companies using 3D printers, we suggest looking here for more information.