Solving the Top Engineering Problems with 3D Printing
As an engineer, you’re constantly finding ways to mitigate challenges in manufacturing – an inherently complex world. Thanks to the implementation of newer technologies, such as additive manufacturing (3D printing) processes, you’re empowered to overcome more obstacles than ever before.
Compared to how long manufacturing has been around, these 3D printing technologies are still relatively new, so not everyone is aware of its benefits and the problems it can solve. So, without further ado, here’s our quick list of the 5 ways we believe 3D printing is making life easier for engineers.
1) SPEED AND LEAD TIME
Quality manufacturing takes time. And with traditional manufacturing methods, waiting anywhere from several weeks to several months for parts was par for the course. Fortunately, advances in the 3D printing realm are aiming to cut into projected lead times, and subsequently, the time required to get to market. Even as it stands, some manufacturers are cutting their lead times down by as much as 70%, and those percentages will likely get higher - on average - with each passing year.
2) COST REDUCTION
Manufacturers are always striving to save money, and implementing different methods of 3D printing into their production processes can help accomplish this. Here’s how:
- Using certain additive technologies eliminates the need for tooling -which can be both expensive and time consuming
- Lower labor costs, due to largely automated processes and technology
- Being able to print multiple parts of an assembly at once
Some businesses have been able to cut their costs by up to 95%, using certain 3D printing technologies, such as PolyJet. And while costs savings this high are less common, technology and material improvements may stand to make numbers like these more common place in the future.
3) RISK MITIGATION
With traditional manufacturing, mistakes in prototyping and redesigns can cost manufacturers a great deal of time and resources. But thanks to the lack of molding and tooling requirements in additive manufacturing, the associated risks regarding potential missteps are largely nullified.
With 3D printing, making changes on the fly is far more feasible, and considerably less expensive when compared to traditional manufacturing processes. There is a level of added convenience with 3D printing that older methods simply cannot compete with.
4) DESIGN FLEXIBILITY
One of the biggest draws for additive manufacturing is the level of complexity that can be achieved when building parts.
Since many of the restrictions of traditional manufacturing don’t apply, typical concerns like draft angles and tool access don’t need to be taken into consideration. Because of this, engineers have far more freedom in their designs - ones that were previously too intricate to be feasible.
5) MATERIALS & SUSTAINABILITY
The issue of sustainability is one that has plagued the manufacturing industry for years, and with the uptick in consumerism, materials are being used at a higher rate than ever before.
With that in mind, certain 3D printing processes (such as HP’s Multi Jet Fusion), are helping pave the way to sustainable manufacturing with reusable PA 11/PA 12 powders and processes that are generally less wasteful.
Ideally, advances in 3D printing technologies will keep a similar trend and lead to a point where the manufacturing industry is unanimously seen as sustainable. In the meanwhile, minimizing the impact manufacturing has on our planet is a significant hurdle to overcome, and 3D printing is certainly a step in the right direction.