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3D Printing for Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is always looking at new and innovative ways of working and in recent years, 3D printing has been at the forefront. Advancements in the 3D printing technology, equipment and materials has resulted in the costs being driven down, making it a more feasible option to general manufacturing use.

Traditional manufacturing has to deal with the ever-growing demands of the world but it has some restrictions. That is where 3D printing can step in to take over. 3D printing for manufacturing comes with a number of exciting and unique advantages when compared with traditional manufacturing.

3D Printing in Production

A screwback that is 3D printed and used for manufacturing
A screwback that is 3D printed and used for manufacturing

Low volume manufacturing

Moving across to 3D printing will make it possible for businesses to consider short-run part production, where focused product teams can launch new products more frequently. They will be able to work beyond the realms of their imagination and certainly beyond the restraints that come with traditional methods. It delivers an agile development process for physical parts and has the ability to accelerate the production and the time it takes to get to market.

There is no doubt that 3D printing is way ahead of conventional methods when it comes to manufacturing the first several hundred parts. But is 3D printing also suitable for manufacturing on large scale?

 

3D printed object as an example of 3D printing for manufacturing on a large scale
3D printed wheel which is manufactured by 3D printing on a large scale

High volume manufacturing

3D printing is a technology that is developing and growing faster than most other technologies due to the way it can influence manufacturing processes and help businesses perform to a higher level. A production line that is set up for 3D printing is easier to alter than that of a production line for traditional manufacturing, making 3D printing a feasible option for many reasons.

The whole production line can be adjusted and adapted with the speed of the printing production line. Therefore, improvements to machinery, adjustments to the print speed or even a change of product can be made almost instantly. When you consider this against older methods, it can take several weeks or months to make the changes and then begin producing again.

It is inevitable that the capabilities that come with 3D printing and the way in which technology is evolving will enable businesses to adopt this new way of producing products or parts and it is likely that this adoption is going to grow well in the future.

What are the advantages of using 3D printing for manufacturing?

1. Reduction in costs

Traditional manufacturing methods are notoriously expensive, whereas the 3D printing process makes the creation of parts products cheaper and more accessible. Unlike traditional manufacturing where many different people may be required to operate a number of machines or a production line is required to piece together the product, 3D printing removes this. Each 3D printer will require an operator to start the machine before it begins an automated process of creating the uploaded design. Therefore, when using 3D printing for manufacturing, the labour costs are significantly lower as there is no need for skilled machinists or operators to form part of the process.

2. Reduction of risks

When businesses have the ability to confirm a design before committing it to production, it can help to remove the risk of errors, wasted materials and money. Creating products with 3D printing can help to increase confidence, especially when you consider that a 3D prototype is easier to redesign and alter than anything that has been created using a traditional method.
When it comes to setup costs, manufacturers won’t have to produce so much of a product in order to justify the setup costs. The traditional methods of production often relies on the efficiencies of mass production and requires a large number of assembly workers, whereas, 3D printing requires the filament material and not a lot more to fulfil an order.

3. Failure is cheaper and faster

3D printers will not need to be retooled between production runs. The speed at which a 3D printer can assemble could be deemed to be slower than that of a traditional assembly line. However, when you factor in machinery problems that can stop production and human error, there is more that can go wrong with traditional manufacturing.

4. Time to market

3D printing makes it possible to develop ideas at a faster pace. In some instances, it could be possible for 3D concepts to be designed and printed on the same day but in terms of large-scale manufacturing, it is certainly faster than conventional methods. This can help companies to reduce manufacturing time from months to days while ensuring that they remain ahead of their competitors.

Rain sensors produced in one week instead of half a year

3D printed wipers on a train
The 3D printed wipers are tested on a big window at Exalto's engineering department
An engineer studying a 3D model of a wiper to calculate the impact of 3D printing

As one of our customers, Exalto, explains: “We were working on the development of a rain sensor for train windows. In the first week that we had the printer, we were able to produce 12 prototypes of the key component for this innovation. Normally, that would take us more than half a year so this is a big bonus. The rain sensor for trains is the first in the world and, as we speak, it’s already being installed on new trains in Switzerland”. You can read more about the advantages of 3D printing for Exalto.

Employee of Exalta wipers

"I didn't know anything about 3D printing but these guys helped me out, now I have a machine that just runs and runs for months already."

- Ben Hart, Exalto Wiper Technologies

5. Build and grow

For businesses that adopt 3D manufacturing, it is possible to continue to grow and evolve through the production of items that have been created from their imagination. There are no limits when it comes to 3D manufacturing because things can be created virtually and then printed in a very short time frame. Therefore, for any business, a product can go from an idea, to a concept right through to the finished part.

6. No Limitations in geometries

For many years, standard manufacturing techniques have held back the design of products. However, with many improvements made already and more to come in the future, the 3D manufacturing process can create an endless list of possibilities. Geometries that were once difficult can now be achieved such as holes that change direction or square interior cavities. These kinds of designs have become possible and simpler to construct.

7. Less waste

As this is a relatively new technology that is gaining momentum, the material cost can still remain high. However, the range of materials is growing and this makes it possible for the price to decrease over time. But, in comparison to traditional methods, the overall cost is a lot lower. The manufacturing process can result in a lot of waste, particularly where traditional manufacturing is concerned. However, this is where 3D printing for manufacturing can transform the amount of waste, because of the way in which it uses resources more efficiently.

When it comes to using 3D printing for manufacturing, a 3D printer will only use the material that passes through the extruder of the printer and that is used for the assembly of the product.
In comparison to injection–molds, often there is a requirement to use additional materials to fill the molds. In the majority of mass production needs, 3D printing will deliver a lower amount of waste (for example the support material) than traditional manufacturing.

8. Less storage space

Many industries require businesses to store the parts and products that they need or sell. This means that a significant amount of storage space is required to house goods that can sit on a shelf for months or even years. This costs a lot of money. By using 3D printing for manufacturing, costs can be cut by reducing the amount of storage space that is needed. 3D printing makes it possible for goods to be made as they are sold. This means that there will be no overproduction and reduced storage costs.

What are the challenges of using 3D printing for large scale production?

Hand holding 3 tools that are 3d printed and being used for manufacturing
Tooling that is produced by using Tractus3D printers
Example of post processing an object that is manufactured with 3D printing
Post processing an object that is manufactured with Tractus3D printers

The benefits of using 3D printing for manufacturing cannot be ignored: efficiency, speed, waste reduction, fewer errors and reduced costs to name a few. Nevertheless, many manufacturers are still deciding on whether to make the move across from using traditional methods to this new manufacturing method. Identifying the main challenges can help you to make a decision as to why 3D printing will work for you and how you can overcome the challenges by seeing just how much of an influential technology 3D printing is and will continue to be in the future.

When it comes to the manufacture of certain large-scale parts, using a 3D printer does come with some challenges, which companies have to deal with, such as:

  • The cost of the equipment
  • The materials available for your industry
  • Post processing needs
  • Manufacturing costs
  • (Lack of) Expertise
  • Software development and capabilities
  • Recyclability

These are not all of the challenges that any business will face when it comes to using 3D printing, but the main challenges that businesses will face is the financial implications.

Despite the challenges, 3D printing will change the way of manufacturing

However, in the main, these are not challenges that cannot be overcome with some careful forward thinking and planning. The manufacturing industry is filled with competition and that means that these challenges are nothing more than hurdles to overcome. This is because the industry has to not only think about the technical benefits that 3D printing for manufacturing can bring, but also the value it can add to a business.

It is crucial that businesses do not only identify applications and parts that they can create with 3D printing, but their manufacturing strategy as a whole and how 3D printing should fit into that. This is down to the fact that the technology can enhance innovation and value to overall operations. So, it is not about finding products that fit the technology but ensuring that the technology fits the product and the business model.

Man holding a 3D manufactured round object
Manufactured fan wheel

Tractus3D Industrial 3D printers for manufacturing

Most advanced  Competitively priced  You are always covered

While much attention has been focused on the consumer marketplace, consumer-grade 3D printers are not suitable for  production grade 3D manufacturing. They do not have the speed, facilities or robustness which are critical for industrial manufacturing. Our industrial delta 3D printers are different. Do you want to 3D print large parts at once or produce a lot of small parts in one print session, Tractus3D printers make it possible. Need light weight parts which have similar properties as metal, with our PEEK 3D printer you can make it happen.

Create small and detailed parts

a FDM printing machine next to a desk

With a 3D printer on your desk you can easily create small parts and specialized tools yourself. It is far less complex than other machines, which means that you can produce more products in an efficient and simple way without the high costs. The 3D printers in our desk-series have a fast printing speed, a high accuracy and a low weight, making it easy to put on your desktop or move around.

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Create strong and lightweight parts

Man sitting behind his desk making a 3D model which he can send directly to his Industrial PEEK 3D printer for FFF 3D printing which is next to him

High-performance materials, like PEEK and ULTEM® (PEI) are stronger and more resistant than other thermoplastics, making them popular in a number of engineering applications. To 3D print such materials, you need a special printer that can handle very high temperatures. The T650-P is designed for 3D printing high performance thermoplastics, which are strong and durable for long-lasting parts.

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Create large parts up to 2,1 meters

Tractus3D big delta Industrial 3D printer 3D printing a big object

The ability to use 3D printing to enhance business operations, reduce costs and improve efficiency is exactly why a 3D printer has become a popular solution. If you’re looking for a way to produce detailed and big objects our large volume 3D printers are an excellent choice. They have a much larger build size than most other industrial 3D printers and can print objects fast at a high resolution.

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Do you have a question about 3D printing for manufacturing?

Find out how 3D printing can improve both outcomes and the bottom line of your company. 3D printing can positively affect many aspects of manufacturing, including reduced production times and avoiding costly mistakes. Our experts can tell you more about it so together we can discover how and where 3D printing can have a significant impact.

Contact us so we can start discussing the endless possibilities!

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