The technology of 3D printing and additive manufacturing has been on the market for 36 years and was first introduced in 1984 by Charles Hull. It’s only been as of recent years that 3D printing became more popular and accessible to professionals and hobbyists. There is currently a wide range of both corporate and individual clients who cannot successfully carry out promotions and branding of their products and/or services without seeking the services of 3D printing companies. 3D printing is not only becoming a new manufacturing tool but it also enables businesses to create new business models that were previously either not feasible or not economically viable. With on-demand production, 3D printing allows companies to satisfy the demand for certain parts without having to consider the high costs of mass production. I will be describing how modern printing works with today’s accessible machinery, the key factors that drive the 3D printing market, trends, and who 3D printing is right for. I will also be providing examples of how 3D printing is already changing the world of manufacturing and its impact on society.
The key factors that drive the 3D printing market are the reduction of errors, decrease in development time and cost, and the ability to build customized products. In other words, the industry of 3D technologies can be broken down into software technology, hardware, and the nature of the products. The 3D model is the starting point for all 3D printing processes and can be created by using various design or CAD software. Once the model is created, using slicing software, the design is customized and sliced into layers thus making the file readable by the printer. With a higher demand from companies and hobbyists, combining 3D printing software with AI will be the next big trend within the industry. This combination can enhance 3D printing design, production, and workflow processes. There’s always the possibility for growth, experimentation, and implementation with 3D printing software. Extensive adoption of 3D printing for prototyping, designing, and tooling are contributing to the growing demand from the industrial sector. 3D printing benefits manufacturers in terms of prototyping, structural designing the structures and end products, modeling, cost-effectiveness, and reduced time to market. The industrial printer segment has extensive adoption of 3D printing in heavy industries, such as automotive, electronics, aerospace and defense, and healthcare. This factor is projected to fuel the growth of the manufacturing and industrial segment in near future.
The overall cost of 3D printing varies by type of machine, the material used, and printing time. The cost is extremely cheap, even with factoring in labor cost and price markup. Using 3D printing generates upwards of 70% in savings for most companies. This is not only because 3D printing as a whole is significantly cheaper, but 3D printing companies and even small start-up printing farms are also competing with each other to gain your business. Traditional manufacturing requires mass production to even out the cost of labor, assembly, and production which can take weeks to produce an item. The cost and lead time can easily spike depending on the item and the need for customization. In other words, the more complex the item, the longer it takes to receive and the more expensive it gets. A still relevant 2015 study done by Sculpteo 3D compares the cost of multiple items produced by traditional manufacturing and 3D printing. The conclusion Sculpteo drew was that 3D printing can provide economical means to manufacture high quantity and quality batches at a more cost-effective rate as the cost does not change across the board. Unlike traditional manufacturing where you’d only receive a price cut after ordering in bulk. Small businesses have the most to gain from this as it allows for greater risk-taking in unique and customizable items without large costs or commitments to bulk orders that may or may not sell. To make the most of this tech, it’s important to look into specifics and see who 3D printing is the best choice for.
Jewelry design and production were defined as an expensive privilege due to their complexity and techniques. However, 3D printing has changed this concept as now jewelers can produce incredibly difficult and complex designs and geometries. These digital tools allow for more personalized creations. Thanks to a precisely controlled laser, 3D printing can produce extraordinary details, raised text, and detailed pave stone settings, all with amazing sharpness. Metal 3D printing brings efficiency and effectiveness to multiple industries. With castable wax models you can even cast directly off of your 3D Print. A single Form 2 Resin 3D printer can print upwards of 60 engagement rings at once. Hand carving one-offs is a thing of the past as jeweler and customer can discuss the design together and have a real try-on ring in a matter of hours.
3D printing allows artists to create intricate, and highly detailed pieces of work on a micro-level. As with any art, you’re only limited by your imagination. 3D printing can bring your vision to life with SLA models that will capture every detail no matter how fine it is. From very small 15mm models to extra-large models, it’s all completely viable. This allows artists to focus on the actual art itself rather than replication or reproduction. Joshua Harker is a well-known artist who is considered a pioneer in 3D printed art. He currently holds the record for the most-funded printed sculpture Kickstarter project, Crania Anatomica Filigre. His work is definitely worth checking out. Lastly, a great benefit for many artists who operate out of a small space will find that 3D printers and supplies require minimal space and can be way more cost-effective than the traditional means.
Manufacturing medical supplies and devices can help patients in need. 3D printing allows customization to fit a patient’s anatomy. We can see this in dental implants, prosthetics, and even scale models that can be created to exact specifications. One of the first examples of a 3D printed implant was a lower jaw created and implanted for an 83-year-old British woman back in 2012. Since then, several medical manufacturers produce high-quality replacements and implants for hips, spines, and even half of a human skull. Most of the medical devices use FDM printing thermoplastics or metal that can be sterilized by steam autoclave, or gamma radiation. Many surgeons and doctors feel with this level of sterilization and customizability, patients may see a faster and more natural healing process or will be able to begin their roads to recovery a lot sooner.
From concept models to house construction, architects have gotten a lot of use from what 3D printing has to offer. Architects who need to produce highly detailed architectural models can use 3D printing to create an intricate and durable design straight from CAD data and provide a clear picture of what the final project looks like. Architectural firms produce simple, complex buildings, structural models, or scaled furniture, in days rather than weeks or months. With a physical 3D Printed model, you can better engage your clients to understand the project by literally taking your pen and paper thoughts and making them into a 3D reality. Newer 3D printers can produce high-quality architectural prototypes with finer details such as exterior living and even swimming pools. Having multiple viewpoints allows for more accurate and robust visualization, unlike their hand-made equivalents, which is far more appealing for clients. If a client requires a readjustment after viewing the initial print, editing a 3D CAD can be done almost immediately.
Originally thought for engineers and product designers who need to create their designs faster than normal prototyping methods. 3D printing/rapid prototyping can provide excellent quality in an extremely short amount of time from early prototyping stages to all the way to the later stages of prototyping. Creation, layer by layer, in whatever material you’ve chosen can be used in all kinds of industries for a wide gamut of clientele. As mentioned above, this application benefits many industries by cutting down lead times allowing for must faster, more cost-effective, development, and testing of components.