Why 3D print those production parts?
Additive manufacturing is an increasingly viable option for manufacturing production parts and not just prototypes and early stage models. There are several compelling reasons to deploy 3D printing for production. What are some of the advantages of using 3D printing over conventional manufacturing techniques?
Additive manufacturing eliminates the need for tooling. The lead time and cost of manufacturing production tooling for many parts and products is a large part of the total lead time and cost of any product. This is especially the case where there may be many different parts within the product all of which need tooling to be designed and built. Using 3D printing is often cost effective when compared to conventional manufacturing even up to a few thousand parts because you do not need to invest in tooling.
By removing tooling from the production cycle you are reducing time and also risk. There are all sorts of risks associated with the design and manufacture of tooling for injection molding. One of the biggest risks is at the end of a long lead time the parts you get are not up to standard, and you need to go through many revisions and rework cycles before you get what you need. If you use 3D printing to make the parts any and all issues can be checked and solved very quickly.
The speed to market 3D printing allows could also be a very real competitive advantage versus a competitor who has chosen the conventional manufacturing route and has a lead time of weeks or months for their tooling.
Production tooling for injection molding is quite complicated and the process itself takes its toll on the tools so you often have downtime and lots of time, money and labour spent on maintenance and repair, with additive manufacturing this is no longer a problem.
Additive manufacturing allows for truly agile manufacturing. With conventional production tooling you are locked in to a certain design and no matter the feedback from your customers about changes of improvements they would like to see to improve their experience it is very difficult for you to implement these quickly or cheaply. With 3D printing you are free to change the design and offer personalised and customized solutions for your clients based on their user feedback. 3D printing allows you to change a product mix quickly, another game changing competitive edge.
Just in time and other lean manufacturing techniques become not just ideals to strive for throughout your manufacturing and supply chain but natural ways of working. As you can manufacture to need additive manufacturing is enabling true just-in-time production of components and parts.
We have already touched on the advantages both personalisation and customisation can bring to your business. The ability to offer your customers tailored solutions to their unique problems is a convincing reason for them to choose you over a competitor. Additive manufacturing allows you to offer real value to your clients.
Additive manufacturing allows complexity for free and design for increased performance. Whereas via conventional manufacturing parts need to be designed to enable manufacturer rather than performance this no longer applies if you utilize 3D printing. In the parts a parts performance may have been sacrificed to make it simple and easier or more cost effective to manufacture. Now using additive manufacturing, you can design a part based on its eventual use and function, optimizing for performance rather than how it will be made. 3D printing, whilst also having constraints, offers a great deal more geometrical freedom than conventional manufacturing techniques.
Light weighting is another example of how parts can now be designed for their intended use and the desired performance. Using topology optimization and generative design techniques parts can now be designed to achieve certain predetermined jobs whilst allowing for lots of the materials to be removed because of the ability of 3D printing to make complex shapes. Design element such as lattice structures which were near impossible using conventional manufacturing have opened up a world of light weighting opportunities.
Distributed production is truly possible for production via 3D printing. The desire to squeeze as much value as possible from supply chains saw massive outsourcing to lower cost countries. Additive manufacturing enables and actually encourages parts to be produced where they will be used and is generally more cost competitive when done this way. Being able to manufacture parts where they are needed removes a lot of risk from the supply chain.
Another compelling reason for using 3D printing for production is opportunities for part consolidation. Many products are not made as a single part but comprise many different parts and assemblies. Many of these assemblies are only this way due to the constraints of manufacturing via conventional methods. It would have been impossible to manufacture many products unless they were broken down into pieces, manufactured this way and then reassembled. With 3D printing this is no longer necessarily the case and many products which could not have been built in a single piece before can be today. Part consolidation is an attractive prospect for many reasons, not least the cost and labour savings made from not having to assemble the part. You also do not have to tool for and manage production of all the individual parts in an assembly and so the compacted risks are also avoided.
Sustainability is another consideration worth noting. Additive manufacturing generally results in less waste than conventional manufacturing techniques. If you combine this localized manufacturing and parts only being made to order then there is a compelling argument for 3D printing as a more environmentally friendly choice.
As 3D printing becomes better understood and utilized throughout the product design and production life cycle more and more reasons for selecting it as a viable alternative to conventional manufacturing will present themselves.
HLH, we make things for you…….