3D Printing: Definition
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, builds objects one layer at a time with higher precision and accuracy. Unlike traditional manufacturing, the human involvement is generally restricted to the creation of 3D CAD model which is uploaded to the 3D printer. The 3D printer creates the object referring the 3D model using any of the different 3D printing materials used. The procedure of creating a 3D model is automatic and it generally takes few hours to create a functional model. Read on to know the advantages of 3D printing over traditional manufacturing.
Traditional Manufacturing: Definition
Traditional manufacturing heavily relies on tooling, machining, and casting to produce highest quality level parts with dimensional and geometrical accuracies. The traditional manufacturing process begins with taking more material than needed and selectively removing the material until the desired shape emerges. This process is often time-consuming and labor-intensive leading to production delays.
Now that you have a clear distinction between two processes, let’s see the advantages of 3D printing over traditional manufacturing.
Cost-Effective Prototype Production
One of the biggest advantages of additive manufacturing is you don’t need special tools to create a prototype. This saves a lot of money which would be otherwise spent on tooling the production line and setting up a new assembly process. If the designs needs rework, traditional manufacturing methods would require retooling and make fine adjustments to the assembly process just to churn of few prototype parts for testing. All this leads to waste of material, labor and time. With 3D printing, any changes in the design would only mean making changes in the CAD model and the 3D printer can build prototype relatively fast based on new design.
So when you need limited-run prototypes for functional testing, 3D printing has a clear advantage over traditional methods of prototype manufacturing.
3D printing technology enables you to manufacture any design regardless of complexity and you can also build integrated components with relative ease. Unlike traditional manufacturing, there are no constraints related to machining and molding and the manufacturing cost remains unaffected by the complexity of the parts produced. This gives product designers and developers a free hand to try different designs without worrying about manufacturing costs.
Traditional manufacturing methods use complete sheets of metal to create a design. The process begins with drilling holes or cutting sections of the metal sheet. The scrap material cannot be used in the actual product building until it is recycled which also incurs some costs. 3D printing is highly resource efficient. The only material used in 3D printing process is the material that passes through the extruder of the 3D printer. It would not be wrong to say that this technology leaves no stone unturned to minimize waste material and keep the planet green.
Printing on a small scale
Huge volumes are not a guarantee of success. Today’s customer seeks uniqueness in the products he/she purchases. 3D printing which builds one product at a time allows more customization options which is not possible with traditional manufacturing. It is well suited for one-off production where customization is an integral element. For example, custom implants, prosthetics, dental aids, custom sunglasses are some of the manufacturing scenarios where 3D printing can play a decisive role in meeting the needs of the customers at lower costs.