According to the current trends, the 3D printing market is set to grow at a CAGR of 30.2% to reach a market size of $22 billion by 2022. Advanced technologies that ensure high-quality and throughput is the key reason for this rapid improvement. Besides conventional production, additive manufacturing is also offering a series of advantages in hybrid production. And the development of desktop printers has made the process easier. It is also helping manufacturers reduce their labor intensity and costs of production, enabling small and medium-scale industries to invest in the latest additive technologies. For example, the Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS technology was expensive before, with the SLS printers available at no less than $200,000. Only the large industries were able to afford them. But now, these are available in the range of $10,000, making the technology accessible for small-scale manufacturers as well.
Some of the sectors that are benefitting from this technology more than others are healthcare, aerospace, energy, transportation, and consumer products. Automobiles and infrastructure are also planning to make the most of it. The need to develop high-performance materials at a large-scale without increasing the costs of manufacturing pushed the aerospace industry to try additive manufacturing. And they are doing pretty well in this regard. From designing and prototyping to printing complex parts with high tensile strength, 3D printing has not disappointed the aerospace industry so far.
In the healthcare sector, additive manufacturing has opened new doors to development, and the experts are finding numerous applications of this futuristic technology. They have also succeeded in meeting the demands for protective gear in the worst days of the pandemic. In the future, the industry is planning to use this technology to develop surgical-grade components, anatomical models, dental devices, implants, and other useful equipment.
The benefits of 3D printing in the energy sector mainly revolve around the sustainability factor. It is used to create mission-critical components that can withstand extreme conditions, as well as lightweight, environment-friendly designs. In transportation, 3D printing underlines development in urban infrastructure by creating high-speed, temperature-resistant components, easily customizable to advanced requirements. Last but not least, the consumer industry is also making the best use of this technology to ensure faster and more effective designing and prototyping.
What if you do not fall on the list?
If your business has nothing to do with automobiles, aerospace, energy, infrastructure, or transportation, you may feel hesitant about integrating 3D printing into your business. There is no denying that the technology is still in its nascent stage and poses some challenges as well. If it does not offer high returns, there is no point in taking the trouble to integrate it into your manufacturing operations, right?
Well, you may be wrong here. Let us give you an idea about the basic functions of 3D printing to understand how.
It helps create real-time objects from three-dimensional models. Keeping all the complexities aside, the production takes place in a layer-by-layer manner, unlike the traditional manufacturing process of subtraction, casting, or molding. The technology is also energy-efficient, as it takes lesser time to develop complex parts. As every industry needs a range of tools and equipment to operate, 3D printing indirectly benefits them by providing those devices at far affordable rates than in the market. The 3D printer is a one-time investment, and it is available at budget-friendly rates in the market these days. Once you have it, you can print objects that are stronger and more durable than their predecessors. Additional physical tools are not required in the process, which further cuts down the costs of production. The machine is also self-reliant, thus reducing your labor costs and increasing design freedom.
How additive manufacturing can help create spare parts
Of late, 3D printing has been revolutionizing the spare parts industry. Spare parts management involves creating a balance between speed of production, lead time, costs, and stock, and additive manufacturing is helping in that. It is a digital manufacturing technology that helps store parts virtually, thus reducing the need for storage space and costs. It is also the right choice for low-volume production. While in the traditional manufacturing process, the costs of parts production are reduced by increasing the volume of production, often more than the company actually needs. Further, the lead time is also longer, hampering the reputation of the spare parts companies, as the clients have to wait longer to receive their orders. Last but not least, warehouse management gets difficult, as the manufacturers have no idea how much space they are going to need to store all the spare parts produced.
Additive manufacturing can resolve such issues quite easily. The process offers low-cost production, as it is automated and does not require additional tools. It also offers lower, fixed-cost production, which makes the process budget-friendly. Further, 3D printing comes with virtual inventories that store designs for future production. The manufacturers can get the designs from the digital inventory any time and send it directly to the printer to get it ready within a few days. Additive manufacturing also ensures faster lead-times for spare parts production, unlike traditional manufacturing that may take months to create designs and produce parts from scratch.
How can small businesses benefit from additive manufacturing?
3D printing benefits not only large-scale manufacturers but also small businesses. It can improve the design and prototyping phase to take a small business to the next level. One can create competitive designs and models within days to present to the investors without any additional cost. Developing valid proof of concepts is made easier through the additive manufacturing process. As prototyping is made hassle-free with the help of 3D printing, small companies can increase the speed of product development. In terms of marketing, it can give a small company or a startup an edge over competitors by making it more efficient and trendy.
Apart from these, short runs can be easily produced with 3D printing, unlike the more expensive processes like injection molding. These days, customization is required in every step of a design process. In additive manufacturing, customizations are way cost-effective than traditional manufacturing. No molding is required, as high-quality 3D molding software is enough to create bespoke designs by making changes to the STL file and printing the parts needed. 3D printing is also efficient in creating complex geometries, for example, impact-absorbing designs. Hence, the components produced via additive manufacturing are highly-resistant with increased strength.
A few developments in the additive manufacturing sector
With the latest innovations in the 3D printing sector, newer and better technologies and materials are being introduced to create complex objects. For example, nano-composites offer enhanced mechanical strength and resistance along with higher permeability. If you need more environment-friendly materials, the bio-composites offer the same benefits without harming the environment. Newer and better machines are also being developed to increase the speed of execution. Previously, the 3D printers were way expensive and beyond the budget of most small and medium-sized companies. But now, affordable 3D printers are widely available without any reduction of efficiency.
Besides these general advancements, 3D printing is also embracing automation to enhance its design process. Soon AI and machine learning will be integrated into this technology to increase its self-sufficiency. Sustainability will also improve development in the sector with recyclable and biodegradable materials. If the conditions are favorable, we may see these changes revolutionize the entire industry.
Can 3D printing be eco-friendly?
All industries of today have sustainability in their minds, and 3D printing is not an exception. In some ways, additive manufacturing is way energy-efficient than traditional manufacturing, as it does not involve additional tools and equipment and have a lower waste generation rate. It also encourages low-volume production, thus reducing waste further. However, these are the general eco-friendly advantages that 3D printing offers. If you wish to delve into specific details, scroll on!
With topology optimization software, new designs can be created just by optimizing the shape and size of pre-existing designs. The spare parts produced are also lighter, thus reducing the weight of an automobile or an aircraft without affecting its functionality or strength. In a subtractive process, like that of traditional manufacturing, parts are cut off from a component to create final designs. It increases the amount of waste generated. However, 3D printing is not subtractive at all, which automatically resolves this issue.
Biodegradable filaments, like ABS and PLA, increase the eco-friendly benefits of additive manufacturing. While ABS is a recyclable material, PLA is compostable under specific conditions. One can also invest in a filament recycler to reduce toxic waste. As the 3D printing process emits fumes that may harm the environment, the manufacturer can create an enclosure to minimize such issues.
How Additive Accelerator can help you
Despite all the benefits it offers, switching from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing can be difficult for a small or medium-sized business owner. You may need to plan and strategize the move, as well as ponder if the decision will favor your business in the long run or enhance your global scalability. The experts at Additive Accelerator can help you with that.
With years of experience in the 3D printing industry, we are the best people to reach out to for a consultation. You can use our knowledge and expertise to find the best applications of additive manufacturing in your business and reach the decision faster. We can also help you choose a technology that meets your specific requirements. From planning your 3D printing move to finding the most scalable solution, our experts at Additive Accelerator will be with you at every step.
Contact our team today to resolve your queries about additive manufacturing and get ready to take your business to the next level.