Transform Your Business With 3D Printing

How 3D Printing Works: Transforming Industries

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes, in an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. 3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.

Additive manufacturing is relevant in many areas and for numerous industries. Whether used for building visual and functional prototypes or small and medium series – and increasingly for series production. This method offers convincing advantages conventional methods cannot achieve. Product development and market entry can be significantly accelerated, agile product customization and functional integration can be achieved more quickly and at a lower cost. 

3D Printing: A Game-Changer for Numerous Industries

Adoption of 3D printing has reached critical mass as those who have yet to integrate additive manufacturing somewhere in their supply chain are now part of an ever-shrinking minority. Where 3D printing was only suitable for prototyping and one-off manufacturing in the early stages, it is now rapidly transforming into a production technology. Most of the current demand for 3D printing is industrial in nature. As it evolves, 3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry and change the way we live, work, and play in the future.

Advantages of 3D Printing

One of the main advantages of additive manufacture is the speed at which parts can be produced compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Complex designs can be uploaded from a CAD model and printed in a few hours. Where in the past it may have taken days or even weeks to receive a prototype.

One of the biggest concerns for a designer is how to manufacture a part as efficiently as possible. Most parts require a large number of manufacturing steps to be produce by traditional technologies. Additive manufacturing machines complete a build in one step, with no interaction from the machine operator during the build phase. As soon as the CAD design is finalized, it can be uploaded to the machine and printed in one step in a couple of hours.

Traditional Workflow vs Additive manufacturing

As a single step manufacturing process, 3D printing saves time and therefore costs associated with using different machines for manufacture. 3D printers can also be set up and left to get on with the job, meaning that there is no need for operators to be present the entire time. As mentioned above, this manufacturing process can also reduce costs on materials as it only uses the amount of material required for the part itself, with little or no wastage.

The restrictions imposed by traditional manufacturing on what can be made are generally not relevant for additive manufacturing. Since components are constructed one layer at a time, design requirements such as draft angles, undercuts and tool access do not apply, when designing parts to be 3D printed.

Ordering a faulty prototype costs the designer time and money. Even small changes in a mold or fabrication method may have a large financial impact. Being able to verify a design by printing a production-ready prototype before investing in expensive manufacturing equipment (e.g. molds or tooling and jigs) eliminates the risk during the prototyping process. This helps with building confidence in one’s design before making the large investments required for the mass production level.

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.

Subtractive manufacturing methods, such as CNC milling or turning, remove a significant amount of material from an initial block, resulting in high volumes of waste material. Additive manufacturing methods generally only use the material needed to build a part. Most processes use raw materials that can be recycled and re-used in more than one builds. As a result, additive manufacturing process produces very little waste.

Subtractive manufacturing vs Additive manufacturing