3D printing manufacturing is an additive manufacturing process where a 3D printer uses a computer aided design (CAD) drawing to produce a physical part or assembly. With 3D printing technology, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and manufacturers can take advantage of fast, iterative design processes for parts and assemblies. Let’s take a look at some advantages (and disadvantages) of 3D printing manufacturing.
Advantages of 3D Printing for Manufacturing
3D printing manufacturing will revolutionize manufacturing as we know it today. From concept to prototype to production, 3D printing offers manufacturers new advantages. These include:
- Low Volume Manufacturing: Need one part, just a few or a full run? 3D manufacturing handles it all (capable of printing over thousands of parts each week).
- Rapid Prototyping: In conjunction with CAD software, 3D printing enables rapid prototyping with physical products. Including, printing multiple iterations at the same time enabling companies to test and conclude better designs faster.
- Full Assemblies: With 3D printing, you can manufacture full assemblies, saving on time, storage and SKUs (ex: living hinges).
- Reduced Storage and Inventory: With print-on-demand, you’re not forced into manufacturing a full run that would require storage and inventory management. Supply chain is changed drastically, allowing for increased cash flow to enable a company to hire another employee or move forward with a project they have been waiting for.
- Waste Reduction: Most of the “waste” in 3D printing is reused and doesn’t end up on the shop floor. Due to the HP MJF process, there is no support structures needed and unused power is reused, making it one of the most sustainable 3D printing technologies out there.
- Cost Effective: For low-volume runs, 3D printing manufacturing is cheaper than traditional manufacturing.
- Strategic Advantage/Innovation: Manufacturers and their customers can stay ahead of their competition through faster design improvements from concept to shipping. Very easily create intellectual property (IP) to block out competition while taking advantage of all the other benefits of Additive Manufacturing.
- Risk Mitigation: Test a new part or assembly before doing a full run on the parts. That reduces the risk of a large mistake with high costs.
- Lead Time: Tired of 4-6 week lead times from shops or even longer? Additive Manufacturing is able to cut these lead times down from weeks to days, allowing companies to get to market faster and start bringing in revenue.
Disadvantages of 3D Printing
Other manufacturing processes, such as CNC and injection mold do have their advantages, which can be a disadvantage for 3D printing manufacturing. These include:
- High-volume Runs: Higher volume manufacturing can be more cost effective with injection mold manufacturing.
- Materials: 3D printing is limited to the materials that can be used with a 3D additive technology printer.
- Size: 3D printing takes place in a predefined space that can be smaller than some parts require.
- Post-Processing: There additional processing, or cleaning following the part printing.
- Tolerances: Traditional methods of manufacturing is able to meet tight/small tolerances needed for some parts.
How do you know when 3D printing is the best option for your manufacturing needs? Easy. Just give us a call or use our free online quote tool. We’ll help you understand how using 3D print can (and can’t) help you with your design/project.
Call us today at 480-206-4128.