Tristan Domville’s Exploration 1
What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
3D printing is becoming increasingly more prevalent in all kinds of industries, one of which is the aerospace industry. Aerospace engineers use a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) for better prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing. The figure below, depicts a timeline showing an approximate estimate of when 3D printed aerospace technology will become commercialized.
What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
Two of the benefits to 3D printing, as stated by 3D Printing Industry (3DPI), are the fact that products are tool-less and sustainable. With the 3D printers, products are able to be printed in their entirety within the printer, meaning that there is no need for tools or people/additional machines to assemble these products. Additionally, the printers are environmentally friendly, for a couple of reasons. The first of which is that products are only printed when they are needed, rather than big batches in order to try to make a profit. This means that there is substantially less waste. Secondly, the printers print by additive printing which means that little to no material is wasted in the process, as unused material can be recycled.
Two of the limitations of 3D printing are the fact that room for error still exists and prints are limited to the size of the printer.
What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?
According to Rick Smith, a contributor on Forbes.com, 3D printing is disrupting traditional manufacturing in seven ways:
- Rapid Prototyping – Due to the malleability of the 3D printing software, it has become increasingly quick to create prototypes as adjustments can be made easily. This means that prototypes previously took a month to finalize, can now be ready in as little as a few days.
- Rapid Design Iteration – With the release of the 3D printer, companies can quickly make molds for their products so that they can test what type would be best before spending money on the final mold. These molds are often very expensive and mistakes can be costly so the 3D printing software allows manufacturers to eliminate some of the risk associated with making a mold.
- Low volume production – When companies only need to make a small amount of product, the 3D printer is the most viable option due to the fact that they have little to no start up costs. According to Smith, companies will generally deem the 3D printer a better choice if they need to manufacture less than 1000 units.
- Mass Customization – When creating a product, it is difficult (and costly) to make each individual unit unique. A lot of the time when trying to create a customized product, many different molds must be bought in order to create the look that the consumer is looking for. However, with a 3D printer, designs are easily changed on the computer to produce an individualized product quickly and efficiently.
- Virtual Inventory – With 3D printing, companies are able to manufacture parts on an as needed basis. Previously, warehouses would be needed to store parts for equipment, but now everything can be stored within a CAD program.
- The Long Tail of Parts – Going off the virtual inventory, parts can be saved on the computer forever so that means even when dated equipment starts to fail, the parts are still available.
- Product Innovation Renaissance – Finally, 3D printers allow people to create products that have previously been regarded as impossible. Manufacturers are now able to create items as a single part, rather than having to print many different parts and connect them. This means that companies can be faster and more efficient and will come up with ideas that were formerly inconceivable.