3D printing in engineering has already had an impact in various organisations. The industries range from aerospace, to robotics. 3D printing is used to design and prototype parts before they are mass produced. However in short run production , some companies are already direct manufacturing parts for commercial use. Materials are being developed constantly for professional desktop 3D printers which are stronger and more resistant. As a result, engineers can print more variation of parts that can be used for end products.
BENEFITS OF 3D PRINTING FOR ENGINEERS
3D printers are great for small production
Creating 3D printed parts is relatively a simple process. Simple or complex part can be made in a matters of hours, out-competing most suppliers and production companies that use traditional processes like CNC. Furthermore, 3D printers can create objects that cannot be produced by other manufacturing methods.
3D printing will do most of the work for you
Regular production often uses multiple methods or steps to create complex geometric parts. 3D printing in contrast for engineers has the benefit of being able to create complex shapes in one step using support materials that can be removed to leap areas like gaps and overhangs in objects.
3D printing decreases lead times
The efficiency of 3D printers is what makes it useful for prototyping. Every design iteration can be printed and evaluated the next day. This can help you recognize possible flaws and elevate opportunities much quicker. Speeding up the development process can not only decrease the product to market time but also increase the value of your product as well.
3D printer cuts production costs
3D printers significantly reduce production costs. However, it is only relevant for the production of small batches because of the speed. A regular manufacturing machine is more cost-effective when producing large quantities. A 3D printer is a cost-efficient solution when producing smaller quantities. The reason for this is no-startup costs and low material costs. This means that the quantities dictate if a 3D printer might be cost-effective for you. However, the break-even point differs per part and product. The graph nearby explains the relationship.
3D printing is low risk investment
Regular desktop 3D printers are cheap in comparison to other machines that engineers use. Therefore, the return of investment (ROI) of a 3D printer is high and it can quickly pay itself back. Additionally, starting-up and using a regular production machine requires more time, effort, materials and money. A 3D printer uses what it needs, and starts within an instance, keeping risks low and allowing you to start producing quicker.
Lower production risks with 3D printing
Because of the quick setup of a 3D printer, faulty production batches can easily be avoided. This 3D printing benefit can prevent an alteration on your injection mold. Simply testing the fit and shape of a new part or product, can turn out to be a huge benefit of 3D printing in your production chain.
3D printers excel at unique and customised objects
3D printers are great because of almost endless customization possibilities: you can tailor a product to each customer’s needs. It concerns the use of diverse colors, various shapes, and different materials. For example, you can print the same object in wood and in carbon for different clients depending on their preferences. This is especially handy when you have printers with independent dual extruders, which allow you to print the same product simultaneously in different colors or materials.
APPLICATIONS OF 3D PRINTING FOR ENGINEERS
Proof of concept with 3D printing
With a 3D printer, it is easier to bring a proof of concept to live and share it with your team. In the early stages of development, speed and cost efficiency are very important. With that, a 3D printed proof of concept also gives additional visibility. It makes the evaluation of concept easier compared to 2 dimensions.
Prototyping with 3D printing
A 3D printer allows you to quickly produce a prototype at low costs and access all the details of your future product. Because 3D printing is inexpensive, fixing potential design mistakes is not costly. Speed of 3D printers makes it easier to change design on the go.
Design validation with 3D printing
It is important that your model does not only look like something that will work but actually have a relevant functionality. With a growing number of various materials 3D printers could work with, it becomes easier and easier to make a prototype that can undergo design validation in real conditions.
Manufacturing with 3D printing
3D printing is also a great tool for the production of small or medium batches of the parts. New plastics and blends have great qualities. Some of them are able to withstand high temperatures, some possess outstanding strength, which allows using 3D printer instead of conventional methods to produce a part that you can use in real conditions.