3D printing’s ability to produce complex shapes and interlocking parts introduces exciting possibilities for in-house manufacturing.
Whether you are a small business or a large-scale manufacturer, 3D printing puts mass production and rapid prototyping on your desk.
With a suitable material and a 3D printer, it’s possible to replace aluminium and composite parts manufactured with traditional techniques like CNC machining, laser cutting, and high-temperature injection moulding.
It’s safe to say that no other technology offers such portable capability, and the world agrees, with the global 3D printing market expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.3% between 2022 and 2029 (now that’s what we call explosive!).
If you’re new to 3D printing and considering getting started, this article reveals the five most significant reasons to give it a whirl and invest.
Let’s jump in!
3D printing is the only desktop technology that can manufacture models directly from CAD software – but that isn’t even the best part.
The best part is you can create structures with undercuts, overhangs, and cavities that are impossible with conventional technologies. A 3D printer can produce radically complex shapes and geometries from files you design and slice in minutes.
You are only bound by mechanical limitations, such as extruder head movement with FFF machines and laser diffraction with SLA machines. However, these are easily overcome with infill patterns and surface tweaks to provide efficient build paths.
Additionally, some CAD/3D modelling software (such as Fusion 360) helps you build efficient paths to achieve the quality and design you want.
The bottom line – 3D printing lets you produce complex and intricate models rapidly, with repeatable results. It puts design freedom in your hands, with mechanical limitations easily overcome with ingenuity and AI recommendations
Got A Design You Want To Bring To Life?
3D printing is a proven technology for speeding up time to market and time to the final part. It can facilitate rapid prototyping for product development and produce end-use parts from engineering-grade materials.
Businesses that adopt additive manufacturing find increasingly useful applications. For example, Volkswagen Autoeuropa uses 3D printing to create custom tools and parts across the production line. Some 3D printers can also produce hybrid tooling, such as this hybrid gear made with the Markforged Mark Two.
Rapid production fosters product development by instantly sending digital drawings into physical production. Simple shapes are printed in minutes, small series parts in hours, and complex shapes in around a day.
The bottom line – 3D printing unlocks faster manufacturing times on the print bed but also speeds up your time-to-final-part by keeping production in-house. You can potentially cut out the suppliers creating supply chain bottlenecks.
While some baulk at the investment cost of 3D printing (one printer will set you back between £5,000 and £15,000 on average), you must consider the lifetime value of the technology. Simply put, 3D printing pays for itself.
3D printing pays for itself with faster development cycles, design optimisation, lower material wastage, in-house tooling, engineer/designer freedom, and the most crucial benefit of all: innovation.
Innovations in processes to increase your efficiency or streamline your manufacturing and development cycle can save you millions.
You could see a return on investment within a few days or weeks of usage, depending on the problem you are trying to solve. Ultimaker provides a PDF on the ROI of 3D printing if you want to find out more.
The bottom line – 3D printing pays for itself many times over by bringing production costs down significantly. From eliminating suppliers who charge a fair whack for tooling to improving designs to increase reliability and reduce product returns, a 3D printer can save you money in several ways.
Interested In What 3D Printing Can Offer You?
Ease of use
The great thing about 3D printing is there are several approaches to use, making it the most accessible manufacturing tool on the market.
For example, you can 3D scan an existing part/model and input that data into CAD software, which will map it and provide an interface for modification.
Alternatively, you can start from scratch. While CAD and 3D modelling software take expertise to produce professional-grade designs, there’s nothing you can’t learn online with free or paid tutorials and lots of practice.
Additionally, many software programs have a catalogue of shapes to start, and some (such as Tinkercad and Tinkercad alternatives like 3D Slash) have a drag-and-drop interface.
Simply put, it doesn’t take an expert to start 3D printing because there are several ways to get a head start without starting from scratch.
When it comes to 3D printing, it’s as simple as slicing the CAD file in software and sending it to print. It really is that easy.
The bottom line is you can start 3D printing with no training and learn everything you need to know online. Additionally, you can produce complex models and shapes from existing objects with a 3D scanner and download 3D printer files for inspiration. Those with experience can also play with professional CAD software.
3D printing can reduce material use and waste from other manufacturing processes by simplifying designs, incorporating hollow infills, and producing thinner walls that retain the mechanical strength required for production.
The sustainability of additive manufacturing also extends further down the chain. For example, 3D printing can produce lighter, more substantial parts, helping carbon-heavy industries like aerospace produce more efficient products.
These savings soon add up. For instance, a 1-kg weight saving in a plane translates to annual savings of 2,500 litres of kerosine.
Another key to sustainability is the durability of parts that experience repeated cycling, such as robot gripper arms on production lines and cogs in electric motors.
Alternatively, you can 3D print metal with metal FFF.
The bottom line is 3D printing reduces material use and waste and enables the production of lighter, stronger parts that last longer, reducing emissions across multiple industries. Several materials are also eco-friendly – PLA is biodegradable under commercial composting conditions, and PC, PET and PETG (three of the most common thermoplastics) are also recyclable.