3D Printing and Its Impact on Manufacturing

3D printing technology has made major contributions in different fields since its conception.

With the ability to extensively customize production, many people consider 3D printing as “the future of manufacturing.” In reality, this technology is already playing a critical role in manufacturing with different industries making the most of it to aid their operations. If this trend continues, 3D printing will eventually change the economy and norm of large-scale production.

Use of 3D printing in automotive manufacturing

The technology used in 3D printing evolves year by year and it has come a long way since it was first introduced. It is now gaining grounds in making things easier for automotive manufacturers. We’re not taking 3D printing an entire car here. But using 3D printers in the creation of assembly parts is quickly gaining popularity in the automotive industry. The technology provides plenty of customization options with the cost-effective factor in play.

Some manufacturers are using this to their advantage. Take the Honda Access for instance. One of their specialties is in creating custom accessories according to the preferences of local buyers. They traditionally used CNC machines to fulfill these needs and preferences. However, this proved to be expensive and inefficient. They have started using 3D printers to make the customization process more efficient and cost-effective.

In addition to this range of benefits, Honda Access also managed to improve the overall design of these accessories. 3D printing enables designers to monitor the 3D forms on a real-time basis during the design process. As a result, they are able to modify and correct the designs are required and within a short period of time.

While 3D printers are commonly used to create small automotive parts, there are now printers that can produce larger parts. Some can even create wheels as big as 14 inches in size. So there have been significant developments in 3D printing for automotives and its current contributions are already recognizable.

3D printing for end-use products in consumer goods industry

For years, 3D printing has been used by big companies like Ford and General Electric in creating prototypes of new designs. The technology helps designers and engineers to come up with concepts for new products. It enables them to be more efficient in creating prototypes of those designs and then testing them. This means that it is already making significant impact in the manufacturing process of consumer goods. However, this may not be enough for adapting to the rapid changes and the high demands of the manufacturing industry.

This brings to question the ability of 3D printing to create end-use products on a large scale. While this may be the case, some start-ups are starting to use the technology to aid them in the production of finished consumer goods. It’s no longer sticking to just prototypes for these companies. 3D printers can now create items that are ideal for end-use products. The main setback is that this is so far only applicable to produce smaller parts about the size of a baseball.

New Balance came up with the world’s first 3D-printed running shoes, wherein the midsole has been produced using a 3D printer. The technology is also popular for creating customized jewelry where you can print rings, bracelets, brooches, pendants, earrings, and necklaces from 3D jewelry models. So the use of this technology could have a much bigger influence in producing fashion accessories this year.

Along with jewelry, smaller items like hearing aids, earphones, and dental implants are ripe for 3D printing.

The economy of 3D printing and experimental investments

Overall, the 3D printing industry continues to experience significant growth. In fact, the market is expected to reach $30.19 billion by 2022 according to a report by Markets and Markets. The growth rate between 2016 and 2022 is predicted at 28.5%. At the same time, some big names in 3D printing like Stratasys and 3D Systems expected somewhat of a downfall in share prices and revenue towards the end of 2015.

The good news is that the cost of 3D printers is continuing to decrease, which fuels the increase in role played by the 3D printing technology in the field of production. It is especially playing a huge part in the areas requiring mass customization.

This is because even smaller businesses have some more freedom to make experimental investments due to the fact that there’s less financial risk involved. A lot of businesses may have been constrained by costs before but are now able to invest in 3D printers to improve their ideation process. This ultimately leads to higher efficiency in production.

Viability of 3D printing in the long run

In addition to all these developments and contributions, 3D printing also offers lower energy usage and waste as compared to traditional production.

So it could be a much more viable option and could take over the manufacturing industry a few years down the line.