Ever since it was introduced, 3D printing has set the world of manufacturing in a tizzy with its immense possibilities. According to recent studies over 70% of manufacturers have adopted this process of additive printing in some way or the other and over 50% believe that it will soon be used for high-volume product development. A leading 3D printing analyst firm, Wohlers Associates, estimates that between 2014 and 2020, the industry will grow at 31% annually and generate more than $21 billion in global revenues. A quick analysis of the top advantages:
Perhaps the biggest advantage of 3D printing is that it enables businesses to manufacture products far more quickly than with traditional methods like subtractive production or injection molding. 3D printing technology makes it possible for ideas to be tested with prototypes faster and a final design with the best fit chosen to offer to customers very quickly. With conventional manufacturing processes, this can often take several weeks to accomplish.
Easily Accessible Technology
Even though it has been around for decades, the concept of 3D printing really took off after 2010 and in a short period of time, both hardware and software of immense capability and complexity is now readily available to all. The learning curve for manufacturers is also not very steep and this makes it possible for them to readily offer solutions to customers looking for custom products or even incorporate the technology into their production cycle for volume requirements.
Better Quality Control
Poor design techniques and conventional manufacturing processes are often responsible for poor quality and this is often discovered by testing samples after a batch has been produced. Rejections due to manufacturing defects can prove to be extremely costly and a waste of valuable production resources. On the other hand, since 3D printing is additive in nature, you can do the assembly step by step while monitoring the process for quality continuously. This ensures that the end product is defect-free and can be shipped more quickly to the customer.
Easier Tangible Design and Prototype Testing
In conventional manufacturing, the design was developed and reviewed only on the computer screen and only when the designers were very sure was an actual model built for prototyping. The method was also very costly because the touch and feel could not be experienced onscreen and only after building the model, the flaws could be spotted. However, since 3D printing is very convenient, the manufacturer can build as many models as he likes and selects the one that he finds ideal.
3D printing has been embraced by virtually all manufacturers not only because of the many design development and manufacturing flexibilities but also for the possibility of dramatically reducing the cost of bringing products to the market. The need to manual labor as well as expensive production lines is virtually eliminated and a select number of technicians can handle everything. Raw material costs are so much less due to the additive nature of manufacturing while unmatched freedom and flexibility can be experienced in design and customization.
Guest article written by: Mark Menezes is the head of the production at a leading automobile manufacturer. He has worked very closely with some of the most reputed and best 3d designing services in Mumbai for developing custom accessories for his product line.