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Advantages of 3D printing

(and disadvantages)

 

TL;DR : The main advantages of 3D printing are: reducing costs, less waste, reduce time, get an competitive advantage, reduce errors, confidentiality, production on demand. Disadvantages …

 

As far as recent inventions go, the advantages of 3D printing make it one of the most promising technologies. The additive technology is one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing, it opens a whole new way in which product are created and it offers a lot of advantages compared to the traditional manufacturing methods.

There are many different types of 3D printing technologies available, but the benefits of 3D printing discussed here are applicable to the whole industry. Through fast design, high levels of accuracy and the ability to make informed decisions, the following 3D printing advantages make this technology a real prospect for businesses but also highlight its importance in future production techniques.

 

Our 7 advantages of 3D printing:

  1. Cost reduction
  2. Less waste
  3. Reduce production time
  4. An enhanced competitive advantage
  5. Reduce errors
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Production on demand

Cost reduction

Less machine, material and labor costs

For any business, costs reduction is important and one of the advantages of 3D printing is that it will help to bring those costs down. Manufacturing costs are split into three different categories known as: machine operation costs, labor costs and material costs.

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 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.

Labor costs

One of the good points of 3D printing is the fact that labor costs are kept low. Unlike traditional manufacturing where different people may be required to operate a number of different machines or a production line is required to put the product together. Each 3D printer will require an operator to start the machine and start the automated process of creating the uploaded design. Therefore, the labor costs are significantly lower as traditional manufacturing.

Material costs

The range of materials used for 3D printing is growing and this makes it possible for the price to decrease over the last years. But, in the same way as the machine operation costs, in comparison to traditional methods, the overall cost are a lot lower.

Less travel costs

One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is that it 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.

Next to the design and production of prototypes, it’s also possible for spare parts to be produced on site and that can help to significantly reduce the carbon footprint.

Less waste, more sustainable

The traditional manufacturing process is mostly a subtractive process, where the raw material gets wasted and reused over and over again, this results in high costs and waste. An advantage of 3D printing is the unique way it builds the product with very little waste, this is called additive manufacturing.  While 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).

Reduce 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. One of the big advantages of 3D printing is that 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.

Provides an enhanced competitive advantage

Tha ability to reduce the time of the prototyping phase, businesses can deliver better, improved and enhanced products in a shorter space of time. Giving a competitive advantage over the competition. 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.

And the competitive advantage given by 3D printing is taken to the next level with our 3D printers. Having the ability to create a life-size prototype makes it possible for designers to think differently about the products that they design.

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. One of the advantages of 3D printing is that it 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.

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 businesses to obtain feedback from potential buyers and investors in a way that could never be achieved before. The product can be customized 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.

Reduce errors

When it comes to designing parts and products, designers have to consider efficiency. Many parts and products require a high number of steps using traditional methods of manufacturing in order to be produced. Therefore every step could result in an error, with the risk of starting over again, leading to problems with the overall manufacturing process. A single step manufacture process is more beneficial.

There are many industries that have a long and drawn out production process. Where some of the steps are to create 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 none of the steps can be skipped because they all play a part in the production process. However, one of the advantages of 3D printing is that it creates the product in one single step, with no interaction from operators during this process. Just finalize the design and upload it to the printer. This removes dependence on a number of manufacturing processes and enhances the control over the final product.

During the traditional manufacturing process, faulty prototypes cost time and money. With every faulty prototype, you need to go back to the drawing board, with no guarantee it would be right the second time around. Even small adjustments have a significant financial and time impact on the whole process. 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 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.

Confidentiality

Continuous prototyping and manufacturing in-house with a 3D printer ensures that designs never leave the company premises, safeguarding your intellectual property. No third parties can ever claim your innovations for themselves. Every innovative design is kept in-house, so there is no need to worry about confidentiality any longer.

Production on demand

The ability to have full freedom in the design is one huge advantage of 3D printing. It also enables designers to customize designs. As 3D printing is perfect for one-off productions and building single parts in one process, it means that the ability to customize 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 customized implants and aids. In fact, sporting gear can be created to fit athletes and so, custom, person specific parts can be created in a way that has never been seen before.

Traditional methods relied on molds and cutting and this makes customizing a very time-consuming process. In contrast to this, the customization of products created through 3D printing can have enhanced structural integrity improved, complex changes made and parts altered to fit certain requirements. Customization in this way, gives 3D printing an endless amount of possibilities.

Conclusion

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 want their items quickly and efficiently.

It is clear to see that there is a wide and varied array of 3D printing 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 3D printing 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 strong point 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.

 

Disadvantages of 3D printing:

  1. Initial costs of printer
  2. Post processing
  3. Printing time
  4. Special skill required for 3D models
  5. Manufacturing Job Losses

 

  1. Initial costs of printer

 

  1. Post processing

 

  1. Printing time

When it comes to manufacturing many objects, the 3D printers are slow in comparison to other manufacturing technologies. Next to the mass production, an other disadvantges is the long printing times for one off prints. Depending on printer size and quality, it can take several hours to days to print, but when the printer makes a fault when it’s almost finished printing, you have to start over again. However, by making sure the 3D model and the print file are designed and sliced well and the printer is setup correctly you can almost guarantee the print will come out perfect.

  1. Special skill required for 3D models

 

  1. Manufacturing Job Losses

As we mentioned in the advantages of 3D printing, the technology can make product designs and prototypes in a matter of hours as it uses only one single step. It eliminates a lot of stages that are used in traditional manufacturing. As a result it doesn’t require a lot of labor cost. As such, adopting 3D printing may decrease manufacturing jobs. For countries that rely on a large number of low skill jobs, the decline in manufacturing jobs could dramatically affect the economy. However, it’s likely that robotics will have a much larger impact here.