Additive manufacturing, known to most as 3D printing, offers advantages over other traditional manufacturing processes. It is unlikely that 3D printing will replace these traditional methods, but many applications can be done quickly on a 3D printer with high precision from a functional material. Understanding some of the advantages of 3D printing will help engineers and designers make an educated decision on the best manufacturing process for their product.
Speed Of Production
One of the foremost advantages of 3D printing is the speed at which parts can be produced. Even complex designs can be manufactured within a matter of hours. This kind of speed allows for the rapid functional verification of a design idea.
Generally, the lead time on an injection molding can be weeks. The lead time on CNC machining is usually at least five days. The ability of additive manufacturing to quickly produce functional end-parts at low to mid volumes offers a huge time-saving advantage.
A conscientious designer considers the steps needed in the manufacturing process to make sure it can be produced efficiently. Some parts have to go through quite several manufacturing processes to become a finished product. Think of the fabrication steps that a custom steel bracket goes through:
- Cutting of steel blanks to size.
- Two complimentary blanks are clamped together and welded one at a time to form the bracket. Sometimes a custom jig has to be made to ensure all components are correctly aligned.
- Welds are then polished.
- Mounting holes are drilled into the bracket.
- Then the bracket is sandblasted, primed, and painted.
Metal 3D printing will manufacture the bracket in one step with no interaction from the machine operator during the process. The bracket’s design is uploaded to the 3D printer and produced in one step in about two hours. 3D Hubs makes the manufacturing process even simpler. Upload your design to our online 3D printing services and have your part in production within a few minutes.
Cost Of Production
Cost savings with 3D printing is in the labor cost. No highly skilled machinist or operators are needed. Once the design is uploaded to the printer, all that is needed is someone to push the print button. The printer does the rest. If there are any post-production finishing work required, then added labor cost will be applied.
The production of prototypes that verify the form and fit is considerably cheaper with additive manufacturing than with other manufacturing methods. Low-volume production runs are competitively cost-effective. The cost comparison diminishes with high volume production runs. Due to material cost, other forms of manufacturing will be cheaper.
Decrease Of Risk
The time and money lost in making a prototype that needs design changes are directly linked to the manufacturing process chosen. As mentioned above, the cost and speed that prototypes can be produced with 3D printing are significantly lower than with other manufacturing methods. Additive manufacturing provides a verifiable and functional production-ready prototype before expensive molds and jigs are produced to go into mass production.
Complexity And Customization
Additive manufacturing is not limited to the complexity of the geometric design. Since 3D printing produces products one layer at a time, then designers have the freedom to design very complex geometries.
With simple adjustments to an already existing design, parts can be customized for different audiences. A popular trend today is to have child prosthetics customized to the personality of the child. If a child likes Spiderman, then his prosthetic hand can be manufactured to reflect that liking.
Both plastic and metal 3D printing services are available for manufacturing. This manufacturing process saves time and money while at the same time, offering great flexibility. As a leader in the additive manufacturing industry, 3D Hubs’ online 3D printing services are helping engineers, designers, and businesses to have easy access to this innovative technology.
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