The advantages of 3D Printing
As far as recent inventions go, 3D printing is up there as one of the most important because it provides a wide range of benefits.
Through creating layers, 3D printing opens a whole new way in which products are created and it offers a lot of advantages compared to the usual traditional manufacturing methods. 3D printers will be used to deal with a wide range of tasks in the same way that the digital revolution of twenty years ago enhanced lives and businesses in ways that could never be imagined. It can take a digital design and turn it into something physical in a matter of hours. It has been touched upon that it is still a relatively new technology, but it is one that is improving and growing, meaning that it will become increasingly versatile.
In the main, 3D printing has two targets and that is to reduce the time in which it takes to get a product manufactured, and remove any constraints that are often experienced through the usual traditional manufacturing methods.
There are many different types of 3D printing technologies available, but the advantages discussed here are applicable to the whole industry. Through fast design, high levels of accuracy and the ability to make informed decisions, the following advantages make 3D printing a real prospect for businesses but also highlight its importance in future production techniques.
The main 3D printing advantages:
A. Stay ahead of competition
B. Reduce time
C. Reduce costs
D. Reduce errors
F. Production on demand
A.Stay ahead of competition
A1. Provides an Enhanced Competitive Advantage
Through having the ability to reduce the life cycle of products, businesses can create room for new products that have been improved and enhanced – delivering better products in a shorter space of time. This gives a competitive advantage but it also makes it possible to develop products early, creating prototypes more frequently until the product is perfected and ready for production creating a highly effective product launch. Having the ability to create a life-size prototype, in the same way as the Tractus3D T3500 makes it possible for designers to think differently about the products that they design. In the case of vanLochem you can read more about how “With 3D printing their total design time is 5-10 times shorter.”
A2.Communicate Products Better
In business, it is important to show customers or investors the products that you are going to offer. But, to produce a product that they may not even like can prove costly and so, it is often left to the imagination as products have to be described. This increases the risk of information being lost somewhere during communication and that can cause severe problems at some point. However, 3D printing makes it possible to create a product quickly that people can physically hold, removing any concerns or miscommunication. While it may be a prototype and open to alterations, it at least provides a small insight into what the product will look like, offering a truer representation than that of a description.
A3.Test the Market
Understanding whether a product will be a success requires a lot of research, especially where traditional manufacturing methods are concerned. However, creating a prototype through 3D printing will make it possible for you to obtain feedback from potential buyers and investors in a way that could never be achieved before. The product can be customised and altered right up to the very last minute which is something that traditional manufacturing methods do not offer. This means that 3D printing offers a unique and valuable way of identifying whether a product has the potential to make it to market and be successful at the same time.
We live in a fast paced world where everything is required quickly and so, this is where 3D printing can really make a difference. Parts and products can be manufactured a lot quicker than they can using traditional methods. Complex designs can be created as a CAD model and then transformed into a reality in just a few hours. This delivers design ideas in a way that enables them to be verified quickly and designed in a short space of time. This is so advantageous over traditional methods as they can take weeks or months to go from the design stage to prototype stage and right through to the production process.
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. This 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 here more about the the advantages of 3D printing for Exalto.
C1. One Step Manufacture
When it comes to designing parts and products, designers have to consider efficiency. Many parts and products require a high number of steps in the manufacturing process in order to be produced using the chosen traditional methods. This can lead to problems with the manufacturing process as there is a risk of error and so, a single step manufacture is more beneficial.
There are many industries that have a long and drawn out production process that includes creating a CAD model, then developing a prototype that may require adjustments before it is finally sent for final production. This is a process that takes a lot of time and the steps cannot be missed because they all play a part in the production. However, 3D printing creates the build in one single step with no interaction from operators during this process. It is a simple case of finalising the design and uploading it to the printer. This removes dependence on a number of manufacturing processes and enhances the control over the final product.
C2. Alleviates Risk
During the traditional manufacturing process, faulty prototypes cost time and money and even then, when they went back to the drawing board there was no guarantee it would be right the second time around. Even small adjustments had a significant financial impact but this is where 3D printing can remove risk because designs can be verified through creating a production-ready prototype before going ahead with the final creation. This removes the risk and helps to increase confidence in the design before investments and further money is paid to take it to the next level of production for the mass market.
As one of our customers, Orto+ explains: “The process before using Tractus3D printers was very long. Each iteration had to be handmade. Now, all iterations can be printed at the same time and we can ensure consistent, reliable results. The level of detail is impeccable.” To create the orthopedic models, specialist technicians needed to undertake precise, demanding tasks, such as sawing the model to move it into the correct position. With 3D printing this is all done automatically and the process of customization is made easier. You can read more here about how 3D printing reduced the labor time of making orthopaedic products.
D. Reduce costs
D1. Less machine, material and labour costs
For any business, costs are important but 3D printing will help to bring costs down. The costs are split into three difference categories known as Machine Operation Costs, Labour Costs and Material Costs.
A. Machine costs
Machine operation costs play a very small part in the overall cost of the manufacturing process. While the energy required to create parts in an industrial environment can prove to be high, the ability to develop and create complex parts and products in one step creates an increased level of efficiency and saves on time. Therefore, the cost of running the machines is offset by the savings made during the manufacturing process.
B. Labour costs
One great advantage of 3D printing is the fact that labour costs are kept low. 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, the labour costs are significantly lower as there is no need for skilled machinists or operators to form part of the process.
One of our customers said “On average it takes 2-3 design iterations before a product design is finalized for production. This can severely impact time to market, with up to an additional 30 business days added in. The cost of the 3D printed model costs less as, without any manual labor, it only takes 2-4 hours to create a model. You can read more here about the advantages of 3D printing for Orto+
C. Material costs
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 the same way as the machine operation costs, in comparison to traditional methods, the overall cost is a lot lower.
The manufacturing of products through 3D printing makes for competitive costing compared to traditional manufacturing. The creation of prototypes that authenticate form and fit, the costs are a lot cheaper than those associated with other manufacturing methods.
Along with this, the cost of complexity does not change. Creating complex mechanical products or parts requires skill and precision and that results in an increase in cost. However, 3D printing does not require any additional costs for complex parts as the parts can be designed prior to being uploaded for printing and are then sent for creation in one simple process.
Coen Viguurs of Hans Boodt mannequins explains the advantages of 3D printing for their business: “This way of working doesn’t only speed up the process; the costs are around 1/10th less when compared to the traditional methods. A handmade mannequin is ten times more expensive than a 3D printed one”. Read here more about the advantages of 3D printing for Hans Boodt mannequins.
D2. Less waste
Many manufacturing methods result in high costs and waste. 3D printing is unique in the way that it only uses the required amount of material to create a part or product and that means very little waste. While many of the more traditional methods will have waste that can be re-used or recycled it still takes time and effort to determine just how and when the waste will be used. This makes 3D printing a very sustainable option.
Thermoplastic materials, for instance, can be melted, cured (cooled down such that they become solid), melted again, cured again, and so forth. Therefore manufacturing waste can be reused (thus preventing it from becoming “waste” in the first place). Our Tractus3D T650P can handle all these high temperature materials.
D3. Less travel costs
We live in a world where sustainability is vital and 3D printing can also help to reduce the amount of distance that a product will travel. As 3D printers can create a product from start to finish, it enables designers to design the product in one country, email it to another country in preparation for production. There is no requirement to create prototypes that have to be moved around from factory to factory in order to complete the process. This makes 3D printing an industry that can be created around the world without leaving a footprint. Therefore, there is a reduction in shipping, air travel and road travel. It is also possible for spare parts to be produced on site and that can help to significantly reduce the carbon footprint.
And as our industrial 3D printers are very light compared to other printers in the market, they can be easily moved around the factory.
D4. Reduction in 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 kind of storage costs money but 3D printing can help businesses to cut their costs by reducing the amount of storage space they need. Traditional methods are time consuming which meant that is was cost efficient to produce goods in high volumes for storage. However, 3D printers remove this problem because it makes it possible for goods to be made as they are sold. This means that there will be no overproduction and reduced storage costs.
D5. Using more efficient materials
Many industries have already adopted 3D printing technology because it provides access to materials that are sturdy enough for use in a wide range of products. On light of this, as the technology develops and materials improve it will mean that use will increase significantly in a wider range of industries. As industrial strength materials improve, industries such as Aerospace and the car industry will turn to the 3D printed parts, resulting in lighter aircraft or cars which will enhance their performance. This is a technology that almost has no limits and as more and more businesses adopt 3D printing in place of traditional methods it will only enhance the research and development in the technology.
Daniel van Mourik explains the advantages of 3D printing for his former drone-building business: The weight of a drone affects its flight time. The lighter the drone is, the longer it flies. A light drone has improved battery life, is more responsive and agile during the flight. It also remains stable in case of hard landings or crashes. The 3D Printed parts are made lighter by optimizing the design structures to carry the required weight. The choice of raw material used for 3D Printing also plays an important role in making the parts light. Read more here about the advantages of 3D printing for building drones.
Continuous prototyping and manufacturing in-house with a 3D printer ensures that designs never leave the company premises, safeguarding your intellectual property. Designs never leave the company, so third parties can never claim your innovations for themselves.
It is also easy to repeat the results without having to put your trust in the possibly unsteady hand of manual labor. Every innovative design is kept in-house, so there is no need to worry about confidentiality any longer.
F. Production on demand
F1. Fully Customisable
The ability to improve the freedom of design is one huge advantage of 3D printing but it also enables designers to customise designs. As 3D printing is perfect for one-off productions and building single parts in one process, it means that the ability to customise is there to take advantage of. Therefore, many industries such as medical and dental have embraced 3D printing and design because of the ability to create customised implants and aids. In fact, sporting gear can be created to fit athletes and so, custom parts can be created in a way that has never been seen before.
Traditional methods relied on molds and cutting and this makes customising a very time-consuming process. In contrast to this, the customisation of products created through 3D printing can have enhanced structural integrity improved, complex changes made and parts altered to fit certain requirements. Customisation in this way, gives 3D printing an endless amount of possibilities and that means that designers can allow the imagination to run wild.
Coen Viguurs, Product Development Manager at Hans Boodt Mannequins, states that: “3D printing has revolutionized the way we work at Hans Boodt. 3D printing mannequins can be done at request, with an unprecedented level of quality and in a matter of days”. Fashion designers now have more design freedom to develop cutting-edge mannequins. Mannequins can now be custom made for one look in a very particular color. From now on, it is going to be completely normal for fashion labels to design their own mannequins to match their clothing lines, their branding and the look they’re aiming for. Read more here about how 3D printing changed the way they work at Hans Boodt mannequins.
F2. Delivers Customer Satisfaction
For any business, their customers are key to their success and so, customer satisfaction becomes an important part of their strategy. Through keeping ahead of the competition and providing customers with what they want, 3D printing has changed the way in which businesses deliver exactly what their customers want. The expectations of customers has changed because they now want their items quickly and efficiently.
Therefore, many businesses are turning to 3D printers as a way of gaining a competitive advantage. Many businesses that compete will do use using the same methods, price and operational constraining. However, using 3D printers to meet the ever changing demands of customers can help to differentiate one business from another.
Joost Motoren uses 3D printing for printing motorcycle custom parts. “For my customers, this service had an enormous advantage as I could really fulfil all of their wishes and they were no longer dependent on the standard retail parts. You can 3D Print the hard to find spare parts of your drones rather than running in search for them every time they break off in a crash. This would save you from a lot of downtime.”. Read more here about the advantages of 3D printing for Joost Motoren.
It is clear to see that 3D printing comes with wide and varied array of advantages. Many different industries are starting to introduce 3D printing into their processes in an attempt to benefit from using the technology in the various different ways. It is a technology that has grown considerably in recent years and it will continue to grow as it continues to fine-tune what it has to offer. When all of the advantages are considered, it is obvious that this will soon become a technology that will overtake traditional methods, it is just a matter of time.
It is the ability to print complex shapes and interlocking parts without the need for any form of assembly that makes 3D printing so unique. It is possible to create small, intricate shapes at a very small cost and in a short space of time. The ability to develop and produce different shaped objects without the need for specific tooling offers businesses a higher level of flexibility when it comes to production and it helps to reduce costs. The great thing about 3D printing is that it improve innovation and is perfect for on-demand customisation needs. It gives businesses the power to design and create products in a way that has never been seen before. It is a process that enables the imagination to be free because there are almost no boundaries. It can bring back to life old designs for a number of industries where parts have become obsolete.
Despite 3D printing being a relatively new technology, it has grown in popularity to the point where it is now accessible due to a reduction in costs. The number of printers that are being sold is growing at an incredible rate and what was once a niche technology to only those who could afford and use it, it is not reaching far and wide to many different industries. This ease of access has changed the manufacturing process in a way that has not been seen for decades.