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Top 10 Advantages of 3D Printing
One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing technology is Rapid Prototyping. Rapid prototyping is the ability to design, manufacture, and test a customized part in as little time as possible. Also, if needed, the design can be modified without adversely affecting the speed of the manufacturing process. Before 3D printing industry came to flourish, a prototype would take weeks to manufacture. Every time a change was made, another few weeks of time were added to the process. With shipping times figured in, fully developing a product from start to finish could easily take a year. With 3D printing, this can be done in as little as 2-3 days. For small production runs and prototyping, 3D printing is the best option as far as speed is concerned.
For small production runs and applications, 3D printing is the most cost-effective manufacturing process. Traditional prototyping methods like CNC machining and injection molding require a large number of expensive machines plus they have much higher labor costs as they require experienced machine operators and technicians to run them. This contrasts with 3D printing process, where only 1 or 2 machines and fewer operators are needed to manufacture a part. There is far less waste material because the part is built from the ground up, not carved out of a solid block as it is in subtractive manufacturing and usually does not require additional tooling.
Traditional manufacturing methods can result in poor designs therefore poor quality prototypes. Imagine baking a cake, where all the ingredients are combined and mixed together, then placed in the oven to bake. If it happens the elements were not mixed well, the cake would have problems like air bubbles or fail to bake thoroughly. The same can occur with subtractive or injection methods; quality is not always assured. The nature of 3D printing allows the step-by-step assembly of the part or product, which guarantees enhancement of the design and better quality parts/products.
With 3D printing, fewer parts need outsourcing for manufacturing. This equals less environmental impact because fewer things are being shipped across the globe and there is no need to operate and maintain an energy-consuming factory.
9) Risk Reduction
Because of the previously mentioned advantages of Quality and Consistency, 3D printing allows a business to mitigate its risks in manufacturing. 3D printing technology allows product designers to verify product prototypes before starting out on substantial manufacturing investments that can be potentially disastrous.
Another big advantage of 3D printing is that any given printer can create almost anything that fits within its build volume. With traditional manufacturing processes, each new part or change in part design, requires a new tool, mold, die, or jig to be manufactured to create the new part. In 3D printing, the design is fed into slicer software, needed supports added, and
then printed with little or no change at all in the physical machinery or equipment. 3D printing allows the creation and manufacture of geometries impossible for traditional methods to produce, either as a single part, or at all. Such geometries include hollow cavities within solid parts and parts within parts.
4) Competitive Advantage
Because of the speed and lower costs of 3D printing, product life cycles are reduced. Businesses can improve and enhance a product allowing them to deliver better products in a shorter amount of time. 3D printing allows the physical demonstration of a new product to customers and investors instead of leaving it to their imaginations, therefore reducing the risk of information being misunderstood or lost during communication. It also allows for cost-effective market testing, obtaining feedback from potential customers and investors on a tangible product, without the risk of large upfront expenditures for prototyping.
6) Tangible Design/Product Testing
As previously described in competitive advantages, seeing a product on a screen cannot compare with actually touching and feeling a prototype. A physical prototype can be tested and if flaws are found, the CAD file can be modified and a new version printed out by the next day.
As mentioned above relative to quality, traditional manufacturing processes can result in a percentage of a batch of parts being defective or inconsistent in quality compared to the rest of the parts. In 3D printing, the parts are printed in succession. Each successive individual part can be monitored, allowing errors to be caught in real time, reducing the overall number of failed parts and wasted materials while increasing consistent quality of
the parts produced.
3D printing systems are much more accessible and can be used by a much wider range of people than traditional manufacturing setups. In comparison to the enormous expense involved with setting up traditional manufacturing systems, a 3D printing setup costs much less. Also, 3D printing is almost completely automated, requiring little to no additional personnel to run, supervise, and maintain the machine, making it much more accessible than other manufacturing systems by a good margin.