The 3D technology is becoming more mainstream with each passing day, and so is the 3D printing aspect of it. The future of 3D printing is very bright, and the technology is becoming more intertwined and ingrained into our daily lives. The way and rate at which the 3D printing technology is in use keep on increasing daily. A lot of studies have been conducted to look into the case for 3D printing and how well they'd fare in the future. The studies, although focused on different aspects of the technology, have all come through with one obvious answer; 3D printing is the future! 3D printing doesn't just have a future, it is the future.
A lot of industries like healthcare, automotive, aerospace and defense among others have been incorporating 3D printing into their production and have been transforming their businesses and services. The use of 3D printing in these industries has made for more effectiveness in production, hacks, designs, efficiency, flexibility and many more options that have really given life to product design and manufacturing. With the growth of this technology, however, how will it affect production and manufacturing in different industries? What exactly does the future hold for 3D printing? These questions will be answered below as we look at the use of 3D printing now and in the future.
Scaling from Prototyping to Production
One of the uses of 3D printing is for bridge production. The use of this has grown in the last two years to over 70%, and have been used by the transportation, automotive and heavy equipment industries ore frequently than other industries for this prototyping. With 3D printing, scaling from prototyping to complete production and manufacturing is made easy. For example, producing a relatively low volume of parts for engineering testing, say about 100 parts can be done easily with 3D printing. Even if that number is increased in multiples, the production can still be done at no added costs of retooling. For low to mid-volume production, the way to go in 3D, and in the future, it will be used for large volume production. All that is needed to get it right is the level of planning, material development and engineering. With all of these in place, you can go on with the seamless production of equipment as needed.
On-demand production of equipment parts also becomes possible with the use of this technology. It erodes the need for producing a part and keeping in a warehouse where it can go bad if nobody makes a purchase. The on-demand production ability of the technology, then helps companies reduce their inventory and storage costs by a very large margin, leading to more profitability.
Improving Digitization and the reorganization of the supply chain
3D printing or additive manufacturing is the priest of all digital technologies. It doesn't need fixturing and tooling to be operational, thereby reducing the switching costs associated with moving an item or the printers to different locations. It is a very disruptive form of production that will continue to change the way products are manufactured far into the future. Additive makes it possible for digital forms and designs to be transitioned seamlessly into physical goods i.e. Your STL files is the representation of the final good, and not just a 'design'. It is the leader of the era of digital transformation.
In the future, hybrid manufacturing plants will be created where there'd be large factories for the production and manufacturing of several items. And there also will be smaller sites with 3D printers in various locations and centres where the products are distributed. These smaller sites or printer stations will enable users of the product to print out the parts of the larger products that need replacement easily and at an amazing speed. The future of 3D printing is definitely the one that proclaims ease of production and supply of products.
Greater Flexibility and more custom-made designs.
A lot of customers have this desire for products to be personalized and tailor-made for them. It is a growing trend that has actually been around for a long time now and will continue to be. Customers will go for custom-made products more time than they'd actually choose mass-produced items because these custom items are usually made with attention to the customer's taste, personality and style.
With 3D printing, the future is looking really good for flexible designs and custom-made items. With 3D technology, manufacturers can easily make responsive designs and make adjustments regularly as needed. This way, the companies will be able to substitute small quantity productions of unique items for larger quantities of identical products without attracting extra or higher costs.
Environmental Sustainability and Energy Conservation
These two benefits of 3D printing technology are probably the most important ones. More so in the future than in the present. With 3D technology of production, there will be a great reduction (and highly possible elimination) of scrap materials. We all know that in the production of various products (let's say automobile) there are a lot of materials that become scrap and gets disposed of or sometimes reused. However, no matter how much the materials are reused, they still produce a large number of scraps. 3D printing solves this issue quite easily because it is a less wasteful mode of production. What this does is to ensure environmental sustainability of the production process, and keep many of the harmful effects of scraps and wastes away from the atmosphere.
Another benefit of the technology is the conservation of energy. In a survey by the Metal Powder Industries Federation, there was a revelation of the steps required for making a truck gear using the traditional subtractive manufacturing process in comparison to the use of additive technology. With subtractive manufacturing, there are 17 steps, while additive technology only requires 6 steps. This significant difference in the production process of these two methods shows the high level of energy conservation that is achieved with 3D printing technology. Asides just conserving energy, 3D printing technology makes it possible to produce items in way less time than usual.
All these aforementioned praises for 3D printing technology goes to show how much the technology will be embraced and employed far into the future, and how much the technology will help to transform the future of production, manufacturing and distribution.