The 8 ways 3D printing is changing manufacturing forever

People debate whether 3D printing / additive manufacturing will really have an impact on design and manufacturing. Hod Lipson, professor at Columbia University, recently gave a presentation on why 3D printing will definitely disrupt what we know of today as design and manufacturing. Here are his 8 reasons.

1. No assembly required
3D printing enables designers to develop and build whole assemblies, such as a clock with all the gears already put into it, or a bearing with the balls already inside, or,
very soon, parts with the electronics printed in. This capability reduces the need for a manufacturing assembly line, or at least eliminates many of the assembly stations, which saves cost.

2. Variety/quantity is free
With traditional manufacturing, it costs you to change a machine or line to accommodate a variation. With 3D printing, you can switch from printing a car to printing shoes to printing jewelry to printing just about anything on the very next build. All that’s required is to download the CAD file. On top of that, you can can print 1, 100, to 10 000 parts, and not add cost to the project (except for cost of material used).

3. No skill in manufacturing needed
Once the design has a CAD file, manufacturing the object consists of pushing the “on” button. Today, kids are printing complex parts on their 3D printers.

4. Reduce or eliminate lead time
You can hold your design in your hands within hours, instead of days or weeks. Then you can alter and change it, and iterate the design as many times as you want until it’s perfect.

5. Design constraints are only limited by your imagination
Parts within parts. Parts with various geometry holes in them, or parts with amazing geometry shapes. You can make things that were impossible just a few years ago. Throw out convention! Challenge your imagination.

6. Compact, portable technology
Some 3D printers are as large as machining centers. But many are about the size of a large piece of a luggage. If you have a power source, you can build your designs nearly anywhere.

7. Complexity really is free
With traditional manufacturing, complexity entails multiple steps and time to develop the tool path—if that path is even feasible. With 3D printing if you can dream it and design it, you can build it. And adding features does not add to the cost to make. This is a first in human history. You can add holes, slices, tunnels, and so on without adding to the cost to make the part.

Leslie-Langnau 8. An increasing array of material choices
More vendors are offering thousands of colors in their build materials. In addition, vendors are exploring with textures and durometers. You can create blends of materials into meta materials. These meta materials will have properties not possible with traditional metals or plastics. This is just the beginning.

Leslie LangnauManaging Editor
llangnaur@wtwhmedia.com

On Twitter @ DW_3Dprinting

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