3 Ways 3D Printing Is Disrupting the Manufacturing Industry

3D PrintingImage Credit MoonRay Desktop 3D Printer

3D printing was a big winner in the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Manufacturing 2018 list, with five of the top spots being taken by 3D printing entrepreneurs. One of the leading spots was claimed by Jeff Herman and David Pain, whose startup Fabric8Labs developed the world’s first non-thermal 3D metal printer, capable of producing solid metal objects made of copper, stainless steel, silver or gold. Tyler McNaney of Filabot won another top spot for its innovations in plastic extrusion. James Cao and Rain Wang of Skelmet also won for their 3D-printed eyewear technology, which creates ready-to-wear glasses in just minutes.

As these examples illustrate, 3D printing is disrupting the manufacturing industry. Here’s a look at three ways 3D printing is shaking up the manufacturing industry.

Lowering Prototyping and Production Costs

One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing to date has been its impact on lowering prototyping costs. When injection molds are cast using traditional subtractive processes, a block of material such as aluminum is placed into a CAD system and excess material is cut away, resulting in as much as 60 to 70 percent of material being wasted. Accordingly, building an injection mold using traditional methods typically costs anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more.

The additive process used in 3D printing eliminates most of this waste, significantly lowering costs. For example, turbine production companies Kutrieb Research and Turbine Technologies were able to use 3D printing to cut the cost of creating a wax injection mold from $20,000 to $2,000. As advances in 3D printing are making the technology suitable for large-scale production, the savings on prototyping costs are being brought to the entire production process as well. HP has introduced a new 3D printer, the HP Jet Fusion 3D 4210 Printing Solution, that it says can lower production costs by 65 percent compared to other processes.

Speeding Up Production

3D printing is also revolutionizing manufacturing by accelerating the speed of production. The potential of 3D printing for speeding up production was illustrated dramatically when start-up Apis Cor produced a 400-square-foot 3D-printed house in only 24 hours for a cost of just over $10,000.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, because 3D printing continues to get faster. University of Michigan researcher Chinedum Okwudire has discovered a way to cut 3D printing time in half by eliminating printer vibrations that dilute product quality. Not to be outdone, Desktop Metal has announced a new 3D metal printing production process that creates products 100 times faster than current processes at only one-twentieth of the cost.

Making New Designs Possible

3D printing processes are also empowering manufacturers to explore new designs using new materials. Because 3D printing is based on digital blueprints, designs can reflect virtually any configuration the human mind can express digitally. This allows 3D processes to use a wider range of designs, including designs based on innovative materials unique to 3D printing.

For example, HP’s new Jet Fusion printer can print products out of glass beads and polypropylene. Markforged has developed a new 3D-printable carbon fiber-infused nylon that is as strong as steel. Other materials that can be 3D-printed include graphene, carbon nanotubes, artificial human organs and even pasta.