Is 3D printing worth it? – that’s the million dollar question manufacturers all around the globe have been asking but haven’t quite found the answer for. We introduce to you a case by case solution to give you a clear idea of the answer to this question.
You must have heard about the pros of 3D printing pitted against traditional manufacturing methods – its time and cost effectiveness, ability to print complex geometries and so on. There is no question that 3D printing has the potential to simplify and shorten your production cycle. However, similar to any other manufacturing method, 3D printing has its own set of cons as well. To put it simply, 3D printing may not be worth it for everyone.
The major advantages of 3D printing can be summarised below.
3D printing is ideal for products with complex geometries. In a powder-based 3D printing technology called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), no form of support is needed. This is due to the fact that the powder itself acts as the support. This means that any shape can be created and the only limit is your imagination!
Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printing is more suitable for manufacturing in small quantities. Traditional manufacturing makes use of molds, which can be expensive and take months to produce. As 3D printing does not require molds, it generates significant time and cost savings for the manufacturer.
However, a salient point is that results vary for each part. What is cost saving for one manufacturer may not be the same for another, as their products are fundamentally different. It is also difficult to determine the exact point when traditional manufacturing is going to be more cost effective than 3D printing, as the former is more suitable for mass production.
Therefore, manufacturers face a big challenge of making the call if 3D printing or traditional manufacturing is more productive and cost effective for their business.
The biggest challenge companies face is not whether or not to use 3D printing, but rather when and how to implement it in their production cycle.
For this, the Digital Part Analysis software comes to your rescue. The tool has the ability to conduct a technical and economical analysis to determine if 3D printing or a traditional manufacturing method is more cost and time effective. The analysis can cover one individual part to full-blown CAD assembly BOM files.
The Digital Part Analysis software is able to suggest 3D printing materials that are of similar properties and functionalities to your original traditionally manufactured part. It also makes recommendations for geometry changes to ensure that the part is suitable for 3D printing.
Most notably, the tool provides a financial breakdown in a chart form. It plots a graph to tell manufacturers at which point in the production cycle will traditional manufacturing be more economical than 3D printing. This financial analysis allows manufacturers to make an informed decision on which manufacturing method to use, at various stages of their production cycle.
If you decide to implement 3D printing in your production cycle, another important factor to consider is if you’re going to buy a 3D printer or engage a 3D printing service provider.
The price of a 3D printer can range between $100 for hobbyist 3D printers, to the thousands range for industrial ones. For manufacturers, keep in mind that you probably would not purchase 3D printers in the hundreds range as quality would be lackluster for producing industrial parts.
For 3D printing first timers, we encourage you to engage a service provider first to examine if the end result is suitable for your product. This is also due to the fact that if you wish to manufacture using 3D printing, you would need the expertise of creating 3D files and managing the printing and finishing process. Additionally, engaging a service provider is more economical if you’re printing less than 50 parts.
Once you have gotten an idea of how the 3D printed product looks and feels, you can move on to consider if purchasing an industrial 3D printer is productive for your business in the later stages. If you’ve decided to use 3D printing in the long run for your production cycle, it is then time to consider if a high quality 3D printer would be a worthwhile investment.
To determine if 3D printing is worth it, we recommend you to use the Digital Part Analysis software to make a financially savvy decision for your business. The tool will help you to have a clear idea if your part is suitable for 3D printing, the materials you should use, and the quantity of which will be economical to 3D print. If you decide to implement 3D printing in your production cycle, it is then time to decide between purchasing a 3D printer or engaging a 3D printing service provider.
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