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USA & Canada

5 Ways to Cut Cost for Low-Volume Production with Stratasys

Jim Romeo
Jim Romeo April 04, 2023
April 04, 2023

3D printing is great at building prototypes. This saves time when scheduling and allows a working prototype to be fabricated so that subsequent high-volume manufacturing (most often using traditional manufacturing) can then replicate the prototype. 3D printing is also great for building tools and jigs that assist high-speed manufacturing fabricate at scale. 

But can 3D printing be a smart choice for actual product fabrication and production?

With advanced technology in 3D printing equipment, it is now feasible for low-volume fabrication.

3D printing and additive manufacturing are usually not the choice when it comes to higher production volumes, at a greater scale. For such higher volumes of required parts, we usually think of other methods such as CNC machining, metal forming equipment, blow mold and injection mold production, and other methods.  

However, many businesses nowadays do have a need for low-volume production of certain parts. For example, a luxury or custom car manufacturer may have a finite and limited number of after-market parts they sell as spares. The demand for these after-market parts may be low and it doesn’t always make sense to invest in a full-scale production line capable of producing a high volume of parts. 

This is where additive manufacturing can be put to work and be a significant advantage. Additive manufacturing can be efficiently used for low-volume production. 

Here are five advantages of AM for low-volume production: 


1. Only Pay for the Material You Need

Yes, it is possible for supply to exactly match demand when you utilize additive manufacturing for small part quantities and volumes. Parts may be made to order upon receipt of the order in many cases. Or small inventories of parts, of limited and low demand and volume, may be produced in a batch and kept in inventory.  The material cost of 3D printing in such situations is significantly less expensive than traditional metal materials. Low-volume fabrication with AM allows for a leaner method of producing the necessary parts.

This results in greater savings by reducing excess inventory.  It also results in greater cost savings for materials. When demand is intermittent and of low volume, AM allows efficient fabrication of a precise quantity of produced goods that exactly matches the quantity ordered.  

2. Product Timelines are Minimzed

When AM is used for low-volume production runs, designs are easier to tweak, and the product’s overall time to market is minimized.   

This is unlike traditional, higher-volume production, where production usually requires trial and error in design before implementing the tooling for full-scale manufacturing.  Designers must alter designs to fit higher volume manufacturing.  This requires more time and more effort. 

With low volume, the design and production timelines are minimized. Overall, costs are reduced. 


3. Cut Lead-Time for Tool Creation

With lower production volumes, AM may be used for many types of tooling, specifically metal forming.

With traditional manufacturing processes, tooling can be a headache.  Attaining or creating the precise tooling needed for a low-volume, full-scale production can be expensive and time-consuming. 

With an additive process, the tool may be created with the right 3D printing equipment at a significantly lower cost. Learn how East/West Industries leveraged their Fortus 450mc to fine-tune their metal forming process below.


4. Design Iterations are Easier

Cumbersome design iterations are more often associated with traditional manufacturing methods for higher-volume production runs.  Different designs are tried until the best design is achieved for full-scale manufacturing lines.  It takes time.  

This is not true for low-volume production using 3D printing. Fabrication trial and error is faster and easier, allowing designs to be more quickly tweaked and proven. And in some cases, iterations are not required at all.

This allows designers to focus on other priorities, reduce the product’s timeline to market, cuts costs, and fill orders faster.


5. 3D Printing for Low-Volume Production: Cutting Costs

With quality 3D printing equipment in-house, the option of insourcing within your own enterprise is viable and feasible.  But there's always an option to outsource to external sources where and when needed.  It’s an option that provides economical choices.  This translates into better efficiency and subsequently lower overall costs. 

In summary, fabricating low volumes of parts and forms with AM may be performed in days, versus months (unlike CNC and other traditional fabrication equipment). Material cost is reduced as you use only what you need.  Your overall design iterations and product timeline are minimized. There's flexibility to outsource or insource depending on need and offers the option to do either. At low volumes, 3D printing is faster, cheaper, and a smarter choice.


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