3D Printing and Design Possibilities

One of the most significant benefits of 3D printing is limitless design freedom. Design challenges like square holes, complicated overhangs and voids that change direction are difficult or impossible with traditional manufacturing, but are less challenging with 3D printing.

Engineering Challenges Solved

3D printing allows designers to overcome the engineering challenges faced in conventional manufacturing, and to create more complex parts and products. Because 3D printing involves building up a part layer by layer, voids and intricate details contained in the digital design file can be achieved. Increased design freedom allows engineers to innovate.

Innovation extends beyond designers, too. For example, surgeons at VA Puget Sound Health Care Center created the perfect mandibular implants for patients using the intricate customization made possible by 3D printing.

Material Variety and Use

3D printing material options include metals, ceramics, glass, carbon fiber and much more. Unlike traditional manufacturing where one material makes thousands of parts on a production run, some 3D printing technologies enable production of objects with layers of different types of materials and colors. This is especially useful for multi-functional objects, such as remote controls with soft plastic buttons and a hard casing.

Faster Time-to-Market

In comparison to tedious traditional manufacturing processes, digital designs for 3D printing can be rapidly prototyped in a fraction of the time. This translates into much shorter and cheaper design cycles that put prototypes in the hands of designers as fast as possible. This ultimately brings a product to market faster. Additive manufacturing also allows for rapid design of prototypes, thereby avoiding significant reworking delays calling for multiple design iterations or requiring tooling changes - or even an entire reboot of the process, according to Deloitte Insights.

Lighter and Lower Cost

3D printing inherently uses less material than conventional manufacturing to create an object. Unlike CNC machining, where the bulk of material is cut away to form parts, 3D printing uses only the amount of material necessary to build up a part layer by layer, plus whatever support material is needed. This lets manufacturers save on production costs because they're purchasing less material.

3D printing is ideal for industries like the aerospace industry, where weight affects critical factors like fuel usage. Lightweight materials like carbon fiber are available, and part weight can also be reduced by incorporating material-saving design features, such as an internal lattice structure.

Mass Customization

Mass customization is a manufacturing process that allows for flexibility and personalization for custom-made products with the low unit costs enabled by mass production. The term encompasses the production of one-offs, short-runs or large batch sizes.

According to Forbes, consumers are showing a growing interest in personalized products, such as customized shoes. Product designers are responding to this demand by leveraging the powers of 3D printing.

Additive manufacturing is gaining traction in digital dentistry for creating items such as crowns, bridges, and dentures. With traditional manufacturing, production changeover is costly and time consuming because it relies on tool or mold changes. 3D printing has no such constraints.

The benefits stack up, and 3D printing, with its expansive design and production possibilities, is quickly becoming the go-to manufacturing option.