About a decade ago, 3D printing was hailed as the next big revolution in manufacturing. Tech-savvy people around the world were looking forward to a new age of transportation where goods could literally be shipped over the internet, with the customer’s machine assembling the physical object in their home.
Of course, 3D printing could never have lived up to this hype. But it’s a pretty mature technology now that has contributed to the design and manufacturing process in ways that the average consumer may not fully appreciate.
How has 3D printing affected businesses?
3D printing comes in many different forms. There is the kind that stacks molten plastic layer by layer to create a 3D model in layers. Then there is the type that fires lasers into a bed of powdered plastic, which builds up the object and discards the leftover bits.
Since parts are stored digitally in the form of STL files, it is possible to keep an extensive inventory without any storage problems. This also means that assets can be taken directly from architectural visualizations and games and transferred directly to the real world.
What influences the profitability of 3D printing?
There’s a good reason why 3D printing hasn’t replaced traditional techniques like injection molding. The cost of technology doesn’t scale. Sure, you don’t have to worry about tools. However, your unit cost is roughly the same whether you are making one item or a thousand. Therefore, the technology is currently used for small parts, special spare parts and prototypes.
The size and efficiency of the printer also have a major impact on its performance. Professional printers also benefit from regular maintenance and a constant supply of spare parts. The stepper motors that move the extruder from one location to the next can be replaced as they are exposed to extreme temperatures and the cheaper ones can wear out.
What are the disadvantages of 3D printing?
In addition to the cost of scaling, there are other disadvantages. There is the fact that certain sizes and shapes of the model are not suitable for 3D printing. This is because overhanging parts need to be supported from below during model building. Manufacturers can work around this by touching up a model after it has been taken out of the printer. However, this increases the manufacturing cost.
Finally, it should be noted that 3D printed components often lack the tensile strength of their counterparts made using other techniques. If you apply a shear force in the direction of the grain, there is a chance that the component will snap into place. This makes 3D printed parts for applications where mechanical force is transmitted, such as: B. Transmission, largely unsuitable.