3D printing is changing the way we manufacture or make different objects like tools, toys and even body parts. A two dimensional object can now be easily transformed into a 3D object by clicking a few buttons. The printing is done in by adding materials layer by layer to create smaller parts and the final object is being assembled by these interlocking parts. All this is possible with the help of 3D printing technology which is also known as Additive Manufacturing. This technology has triggered a transformation in the field of industrial manufacturing. This transformation is very wide right from product design and production to restructured supply chain, 3D printing is leaving an everlasting impression on this industry for the good.

According to the report that was published by PwC about 3D Printing and the manufacturing industry, almost 67% of manufacturers are currently using 3D printing at some point in the manufacturing process, either for making proto-types or for making the finished good. And the rest plan to implement this new technology in some way or the other in the near future.

According to Bob McCutcheon, PWC’s US industrial products leader, “Applying 3D Printing for rapid proto- typing is nothing new for many manufacturers as it enables them and their suppliers to side step the often laborious and costly traditional processes. However, we’re starting to see signs that the technology is on the cusp of becoming mainstream and companies need to understand the disruptions and opportunities that it could create. There are core questions all manufacturers ought to be asking themselves if they’re looking to implement a 3D Printing strategy that could potentially expand their businesses and make them more competitive in the marketplace. Companies investing in 3D Printing hardware and the relent to run it are seeing gains in speed and flexibility in R&D, in addition to anticipation savings in materials, labor and transportation costs. However, as organizations wade into 3D Printing wither through implementing or at least through experimenting and or assessing potential applications, the technology at present is still limited in the size, strength and complexity of the product it can produce, even as it picks up stream as a powerful tool.”

Benefits of 3D Printing:

  • In the traditional manufacturing method, manual labor was required to drill, cut and shape the product which results in mounts of scrap and also a lot of energy and time was wasting in this process. Since 3D Printing can directly create objects from the base material so there is a much lesser quantity of waste that is associated with the manufacturing process.
  • In case of 3D Printing once the blueprint is ready and the data is uploaded in the printer, the extrusion head of the printer is obey the instructions given by the computer. There is no need to attach a different mold for different objects in a 3D Printing which makes the manufacturing process a lot easier and financially viable.
  • The creation of a niche component for a car or an entire house can be done quite easily with a 3D Printing. Even the manufacturing of a single piece of anything is very simple. Presently there is a lot of demand of customized items 3D Printing are the best suited machines for this chore.
  • The entire process for making a product can be easily done in the factory. The parts can be straight away taken to the site and can be assembled. This reduces the manufacturing hazards.
  • 3D Printing can generate new product development cycles which would then result in getting new products to the market more quickly and consistently especially in the case of customized products.
  • The manufacturing sector which is showing a growing trend of shifting into the usage of 3D Printing in the manufacturing process has started using this technology in rapid proto- typing. According to a survey almost half of the manufacturers said that it is likely that 3D Printing will be used mostly for making low volume and highly customized products in the next three to five years.
  • 3D printing is helping companies to avoid producing products which are unpopular and only print those products that are making inroads to customization of popular products.
  • The technology could also impact the aftermarket of the products especially for manufacturers who make products that have a long life and have a relatively high demand for the replacements of parts and also repair. According to the PwC report, almost 70% of the manufacturers think that 3D Printing will be used for obsolete parts while 50% think that 3D Printing will be used for the production of aftermarket products.

The report that was published by the PWC stated that only 35% of the manufacturing industry is using this technology in proto- typing and for doing other minimal processes in the production phase. At present there is a lot of demand for customized goods and the volume of production has also decreased. This new trend cannot be handled by the traditional method. For this change the usage of 3D Printing is the best.

McCutcheon said, “Mass manufacturing companies are already experimenting with shop floor and training exercises in 3D printing. The idea behind these exercises is to understand the capabilities of the technology and customize it to their production mode. The technology is already capable of producing high quality products, the value (that it unlocks) in manufacturing can lead to development of new products and services.”

The Vice President of The Manufacturing Institute, Grdner Carrick said that he does not think that 3D Printing will affect the manufacturing jobs in a significant way. The shifting of the manufacturing industry from the traditional method to the 3D Printing method is more of a thing that has taken place because of the heavy demand of personalized items. This change has also attracted a new set of people with a new skill set which according to him is very important on the shop floor. He also said that with 3D Printing there is a fair amount of chances of manufacturing jobs becoming “less blue collar and more white collar.”

Image Credit: John Lloyd (flickr handle: hugo90)