Businesses seek to increase profits, lower costs, or speed up production. However, it is not always clear what can improve business operations. 3D printing is an effective technology that can both lower costs while speeding up production. Depending on its intended purpose, it can create customizable pieces or lower excess material waste.
Before Implementing 3D Printing
Each industry and business has its method of operating. But typically, a business’ operations can be broken down into sections. It starts with market research, moves towards some form of research and development, which may or may not include prototyping, then manufacturing, the result of which is either it is put to market or incorporated into the business. The timing of this process varies across businesses and industries, but it can easily take years. The R&D and prototyping portion of operations can last from months to a few years.
This process is generally labor-intensive and expensive, especially with R&D and prototyping. For starters, R&D and prototyping generally require low quantities, making it impossible to balance out the overhead cost over a large quantity. Prototyping alone requires several rounds of modification and improvement. This means that the total amount spent for each prototyping model builds up quickly. With each round of prototyping also comes the time spent waiting for each part to be produced. 3D printing allows businesses to produce parts quickly with less expense which leads to a faster and more efficient prototyping period. A faster prototyping period leads to a faster market release compared to a business’ competitors with less investment in time, production cost, and staff labor.
How 3D Printing Improves Production
3D printing makes the production timeline and effort more efficient, especially during the R&D and prototyping production phase. 3D printing prototypes shortens the research and development phase because a prototype can be printed in several hours compared to requiring several days with traditional methods. Industrial 3D printers also allow businesses to create prototypes with little to zero manual labor, lowering their production costs. By lowering the required manual labor, a business also lowers the need for tool production. Tool production can increase the production timeline and cost. By lowering the need for tool production, a business eliminates the costs, lead times, and labor associated with tool production.
Sportmaster is a retailer of apparel, footwear, and equipment. To stay competitive Sportmaster relies on 3D printing prototypes for fast testing and minor adjustments. Before using 3D printed prototypes Sportsmaster would create designs of new products and a third party would manufacture these designs into prototypes. If the third party made an error, or the prototype testing revealed the need for a minor adjustment, Sportsmaster waited weeks for the updated design. After using a Raise3D printer to create the 3D printed prototypes, Sportsmaster saw a 40% reduction in production time for new products and a 30% reduction in production costs. Click here to learn about Sportsmaster’s success with 3D printing.
3D Printed Parts are Customizable
3D printed products and components are highly customizable. This customization capability gives the business the flexibility to design the exact parts and components that are needed, avoiding complex assembly requirements. This, in turn, lowers labor and costs associated with the assembly process. Faster design and prototype production means a business can reach it to market before competitors.
Livemaster had the unique challenge of mass-producing custom dolls and doll accessories for collectors. Before using an industrial 3D printer from Raise 3D, Livemaster relied on using gypsum but disliked the quality. After creating 3D printed dolls and accessories Livemaster produced stronger and more detailed pieces at a higher quality. To learn about Livemaster’s 3D printing process, click here.
3D Printed Manufacturing Parts and Components
At times suppliers and vendors go out of business or retire a manufacturing part that is essential to business operations. If something of this nature occurs, replacing the necessary part by traditional manufacturing methods is impossible. In other situations, perhaps it is still possible to locate the manufacturing component, but the cost is too high. The solution to both situations is 3D printing. Since an industrial 3D printer can produce customizable parts efficiently and cost-effectively, it can produce any type of necessary manufacturing piece.
DRAKES is a manufacturing and development business that produces 3D printed car parts for the automobile community. Before using 3D printing, DRAKES would create parts using the traditional method which relies on heavy labor and materials like resin and fiberglass. This method led to many inaccuracies. After DRAKES replaced the traditional manufacturing method with 3D printing, the cost of labor reduced and many parts were produced a day. To learn more about DRAKES success with 3D printing in the automobile industry, click here.
3D Printing is Less Wasteful
Traditional manufacturing requires the builder to create a part or component from a block of material. 3D printing technology prints thin layers of material to build the object directly. By printing an object directly, a business avoids material waste. Lower waste of materials leads to a lower cost. By printing the object directly, the production team also have design freedom to print complex designs.
Industrial 3D Printers Lead to Local Manufacturing
The size and required capabilities of a 3D printed part dictate the type of 3D printer that a business requires. However, even large 3D printers for special capabilities are available locally. As a local manufacturing model, 3D printing produces the necessary products on demand whenever they are needed. Most businesses that require 3D printing, ultimately choose to keep a 3D printer in-house.
How to Recognize 3D Printing Opportunities
There are plenty of ways of incorporating 3D printing into business operations. The most common opportunities for 3D printing are in research and development, prototyping, customizing, and manufacturing. For example, R&D and prototyping overlap for certain businesses, other times they do not. Regardless, any form of testing a new product or piece for function or design can be done with 3D printing.
What Changed to make 3D Printing More Accessible?
The world saw a surge in popularity of 3D printing in 2009 with the early 3D printers from Makerbot. 3D printing has come a long way since then, and in its progress, it has become more accessible. One of the biggest changes since 2009 is the development of a variety of higher-quality printing materials. These materials are generally different forms of plastics such as PLA, ABS, and TPU. 3D printing plastics are also known as filaments. However, it is possible to find filaments of wood and metal. This array of printing materials widened the opportunity to use 3D printers. This allowed more businesses to use 3D printers for more projects. With more businesses adopting 3D printing techniques into their operations, the cost of 3D printers and filaments lowered significantly since 2009.
Over time the 3D printing industry has become more accessible and easier to implement in businesses across many industries. 3D printing offers many benefits such as lowering cost and increasing production. It replaces traditional processes and methods which require too much time or cost for a business. Choosing a 3D printer involves a few steps. First, know the kinds of projects the printer will be involved with. Next, set an appropriate budget to purchase a quality 3D printer to produce high-quality 3D printed parts. Finally, research and understand which kinds of filaments the project will require. Click here for a thorough explanation of how to choose a 3D printer.
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