Four Ways How Companies Can Benefit From 3D Printing
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about 3D printing and how it’s revolutionizing design and manufacturing across all sectors—from home furniture to human organs. And while the technology’s advantages have been exploited early on by designers and artists to construct novel creations and mind-bending computer-generated sculptures, 3D printing—or “additive manufacturing”, as others prefer to call it—has made an even more significant impact on industrial applications. For example, the technology has enabled engineers in the automotive and aerospace industries to potentially create components that are both stronger and lighter than those they are designed to replace. Now, as the prices of 3D printing systems continue to drop, businesses are slowly taking notice and finally waking up to their potential. And though we can probably list dozens of uses that individuals may have for the technology, it may be more valuable to talk about a few fundamental ways in which entire companies can benefit from it. Let’s take a look at four of them:
Create Prototype Samples Quickly and Cheaply
In the area of prototyping, there’s arguably nothing that can come close to the speed and ease-of-execution afforded by a 3D printing system. That is why the term ‘rapid prototyping’ has become almost synonymous with 3D printing. Companies—startups, especially—experience incredible pressure to get new concepts and products to market faster, without increasing cost. These machines allow them to do just that.
3D printing creates prototypes that allow companies to test and improve their design ideas. It enables the testing of a product’s form, fit, and function in the early stages of product development, which, in turn, offers companies a cost-efficient means of validating and narrowing down the best design concepts and evaluating real-world practicality. This is why no other area in the manufacturing industry has been revolutionized by 3D printing as much as the field of prototyping. It has given even small companies the opportunity to independently and inexpensively actualize ideas and designs that might have previously only existed inside computer programs. The technology bridges the gap between what the human mind can conceive in limitless digital space, and what our hands can touch, feel, and interact with in the real world.
Obtain Much-Needed Spare Parts…Where You Need Them, When You Need Them.
From clocks, to cars, to wind turbines… all equipment and machines occasionally break down and require spare parts no matter how well they are maintained. But when the equipment in question is one that a company relies upon for its operation, getting it up and running in the shortest possible time becomes a most urgent priority. This is why for any business aiming to operate smoothly, constant and immediate access to the correct spare parts is essential. 3D printing permits a company to obtain specific spare parts on the spot and as needed, eliminating the guesswork concerning the quantity of each part that needs to be stocked in-house. Given access to digital blueprints of every component, a company with a 3D printer will never be faced with the issue of part shortages.
Beyond just manufacturing spare parts on-the-spot, 3D printing is showing great promise in realizing a truly local distributed manufacturing model, through which entire products are produced on demand and in the exact vicinity they are needed, minimizing expenses for both warehousing of inventory and shipping of finished products around the world.
Reduce Manufacturing Cost Of Complex Components
Due to its ability to create precise and complex objects with ease, many companies have adopted the use of 3D printing as part of their manufacturing process. Converse has been employing the technology since 2004, and, as a result, creating each shoe thirty times faster and for much lower costs than traditional methods allow. Italian coffee maker manufacturer, Alessi, reportedly saved 70% in manufacturing costs by incorporating 3D printing techniques. Moreover, though its “additive” nature (using material where it’s needed), 3D printing produces less waste material than traditional “subtractive” (removing material where it’s not needed) manufacturing methods. This is not only a cost saving feature, but is a potentially eco-friendly attribute as well. Add this to this the fact that a 3D printer can build different objects without the need for specialized tools for each part, plus the fact that 3D models can be transmitted electronically (they can be printed out wherever they are needed), and what you get is a sustainable manufacturing process.
Prepare Your Company For The Future
Investing in 3D printing capabilities is like buying an insurance policy that future-proofs your company’s design and manufacturing. Only the most flexible companies—with the ability to respond to and capitalize on the latest developments and trends—can ever hope to grow beyond the startup phase. And flexibility and adaptability are exactly what companies get from investing in 3D printing technologies.
It’s no longer a question of which manufacturing industry will be transformed by 3D printing, rather, which one won’t be. As access to 3D printing spreads, people are devising more and more ways to utilize the technology. With virtually endless possibilities, there really isn’t a manufacturing or design process on which 3D printing cannot leave a mark.
“…Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.”
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