Like many of you I have seen the odd piece in the press and rarely seen a 3D printing machine at some of the manufacturing clients we know well, so it’s interesting and refreshing to hear that this is about to change with the reducing cost of materials and machines. This has led to 3D printing becoming more accessible across various sectors.
The benefits of 3D printing offer a variety of benefits over traditional processes including:
– Sturdy & lightweight parts – particularly plastic (majority of 3D printing) and its application in aerospace and automotive.
– Low Cost – when it comes to small production runs, protoype machining using CNC/milling techniques can be expensive and requires more resource than 3D Printing.
– Flexible Design – a key selling point of 3D printing is the ability to produce complex designs that aren’t possible using traditional methods.
– Print on Demand – no more stocking up on inventory due to traditional methods. 3D printing can mean printing what’s required, when required which naturally saves on cost of materials and those associated with storage.
– Fast speed – rapid prototypes can mean rapid development, which is ideal for sectors and businesses who want to bring to market a new product quickly.
The industrial applications for 3D printing to date include;
– Drone – a number of complex plastic components found in drones are 3D printed.
– Aerospace and Defense – typically parts used in aircraft which ensures weight reduction and decreases fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
– Robot – components such as sensor mounts and grippers are expensive to fabricate. 3D printing can produce a large variety for end-of-arm tooling at low cost.
– Automotive – typically application features in racing and motosports, due to design flexibility, customisation and small production runs.
– Medical & Dental – 3D printing is now heavily used in the medical & dental industry, from bio-printing to prosthetics and medical devices. The greater customisation it affords can enable more patient-specific solutions such as dental, implants, enhanced medical devices, and personalised healthcare.
It seems to be that 3D printing suits those industries which require the manufacture of low volume, high-end products at a cheaper cost in a fast and efficient manner. In line with Environmental Social Governance (ESG) requirements, it can also help with reducing wastage, storage requirements and is therefore very sustainable.
This can only be a good thing for those businesses where its application is appropriate.
Earlier 3D materials and printer models were pricey, but with advancements in technology, the cost of these materials and machines has gone down. As a result, 3D printing applications have become cost-effective and more accessible across different sectors.