The savings that come from 3D printing include savings from reduction of materials, combining of multiple parts into one, cycle time savings, process and assembly reduction savings, product integrity as well as time to market.
Traditional prototyping involves making molds and patterns for every prototype revision. Since 3D printing does not have this constraint, prototyping becomes much faster. Design teams can validate design integrity faster. Revisions are not expensive or time-consuming any longer. Product design is not at the mercy of tool makers. There are less delays in project deadlines. Prototyping ceases to be in the critical path.
In traditional manufacturing, manufacturability drives design. 3D printing removes this constraint. This enables designers to build in more features into each part. As a result, process steps get reduced. It becomes possible to add several materials in a single product run. This means there is less need for assembly. This reduces cycle time and the need for labour. The product is better integrated and is more stable.
This is one of the biggest and most often missed advantages of 3D printing. The elegance of 3D printing design helps to introduce greater complexity in each part. This helps in reducing assembly costs since several parts get reduced into one. The manufacturing process becomes incredibly versatile. The dependence on many vendors is no longer there. This has a positive impact on lead time and costs.
It is possible to develop tools with 3D printing. The time for tool development using additive manufacturing can reduce the time from months to days, as compared to traditional manufacturing. Tools made using additive manufacturing will save energy, time, labour and production cost. 3D printed tools have been put to use for several applications starting from simple tools all the way to aircraft wings. This integrates 3D printing into the design process.
“Good, cheap, fast – pick any two”. With 3D printing, it is possible to have all three. With 3D printing, it is possible to have production quality moulds and tools in less than two days. It is a totally new way of using additive manufacturing to empower traditional manufacturing.
Here are some more examples of 3D printed parts that could help Engineers to take advantage of the process and make significant gains: