3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is revolutionizing product design and manufacturing. Technology is changing not only how things are created, but also how they are designed and how business is conducted. As technology advances, materials become more readily available, and the cost of adopting the technology decreases.
3D printing is beginning to affect facets of our daily lives in ways that most of us aren’t even aware of. Those who think of additive manufacturing as a niche or fringe technology may be shocked to hear that it is already widely used in a variety of industries. Every commercial airliner is anticipated to use 3D-printed parts within the next decade. Furthermore, 3D printing is employed in a variety of industries, including medicine, vehicles, industrial manufacturing, prototyping, and end-use parts. Read on for more about 3D printing for product design!
It’s no secret that manufacturing in the United States has declined significantly in recent decades as companies go overseas to take advantage of reduced labor costs. A tool built in China or Vietnam can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 less than one made in the United States or other wealthy countries, owing to lower labor costs.
However, this has created some difficulties, as the greater distances involved in product development have caused certain obstacles. Long lead times, high import and export costs, shipping costs, and inventory costs, combined with sole-sourced suppliers and the difficulty of working with manufacturers who are far away and rarely seen in person, have created an unfavorable environment for new product development. Furthermore, consumer awareness of concerns such as climate change and a desire to support local economies has added a moral incentive for businesses that can manufacture locally.
Many of the issues that have arisen in offshore manufacturing are being addressed by additive manufacturing. The manufacturing landscape is shifting, with the industry returning to the United States. Although 3D printing is not the primary driver of this trend, its capacity to manufacture more sophisticated designs, substantially reduce lead times, and increase efficiency are all helping to bring manufacturing back to the United States.
The Prototyping Stage
The prototyping phase is one of the most significant impacts additive manufacturing is has had on product development. A working prototype that approximated the performance of the end-use product would have to be tooled in traditional manufacturing. The prototypes would then have to be delivered back to the designers in the case of offshore manufacturing. Any design changes would necessitate retooling and a new production run.
All of those change with 3D printing. Designers can now get prototypes made locally and on the spot, without the need for tooling. Prototypes are simple to iterate, allowing designers to take chances and make mistakes early in the design process without incurring high costs or extensive production delays. Customers can also provide early input to designers using this new paradigm. All the types have been worked out and thoroughly tested by the time the product is ready for full production.
The availability and capabilities of in-house additive manufacturing technology continue to grow. Individuals and independent designers are rapidly adopting 3D printers capable of manufacturing functioning prototypes and end-use parts for use in their own homes or small businesses, as well as by companies in a variety of industries. As the cost of technology decreases, this tendency will undoubtedly continue.
Outsourced suppliers, on the other hand, continue to provide a valuable service. The most obvious benefit of outsourcing 3D printing is that it allows individuals or businesses to gain access to cutting-edge technology that would otherwise be out of reach. This is especially important considering the rapid advancement of technology. Someone might put a lot of money on a top-of-the-line system today, only to have it eclipsed by something even more powerful in a few years. Meanwhile, that system, which they spent so much money on, is likely to be significantly less expensive in a few years.
The equation is different for companies that specialize in 3D printing services. When technology is your business’s operating principle, it makes sense to invest in the latest and greatest. To put it another way, outsourcing is a paradigm that reduces investment risk for all parties involved.
Expansion of Additive Manufacturing
3D printing has slowly but steadily evolved from a way of providing visual aids and prototypes to a technology capable of producing end-use parts. While some people still think of 3D printing as a tool for making models and trinkets, the reality is that it is already being used for useful parts in a range of industries.
The aerospace and automobile industries are the most apparent examples of 3D printing’s broad adoption. These are the industries that were among the first to use 3D printing for end-use parts, and they therefore have the most experience. These industries benefit greatly from the ability of additive technologies to produce single, lightweight pieces with complex internal geometries.
Parts can be printed using materials that are virtually or totally equivalent to production-grade materials used in traditional manufacturing thanks to technologies like Laser Sintering and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Metal printing is one of the most fascinating and highly valued technologies, and its applications are developing rapidly across industries. For final production parts, high-temperature polymers and rubber-like materials are also in high demand.
The automotive and aerospace industries are expanding their horizons thanks to carbon fiber 3D printing. The creation of bio-based materials for use in the medical business has been one of the most exciting advances in 3D printing. Engineers have been able to 3D print stem cells, artificial blood arteries, and even small organs for testing vaccinations, in addition to FDA-approved materials for medical applications. In addition, 4D printing is pushing the boundaries of additive technologies.
We hope you have enjoyed our article covering some of the most basic information associated with 3D printing for product design! If you are looking to outsource any or all of your 3D printing work to a 3D printing company, be sure to reach out to Tangible Creative first! We are dedicated to ensuring that our modeling service is as easy and as fast as possible to you!