Three-dimensional printing or 3D printing as it is more well-known has become much more accessible to us within the comfort of our homes. There is a lot that 3D printing has to offer which is why today’s article is dedicated to listing out the advantages of 3D printing.
However, that’s not all we aim to accomplish with this guide as it will provide much-needed insights into different points about 3D printing such as its origins and its major applications. So, if this is a topic that intrigues you, we recommend that you stick around for the ride.
What is 3D Printing?
First, let’s take a look at the origins of 3D printing technology. It was first thought up by Ralf Baker’s work in the early 1900s, however, it was the innovations by Hideo Kodama that laid the early foundations of resin material prototyping. Finally, in the 80s, we got the first 3D printer.
However, this was extremely expensive, not as accessible and of course, nowhere near as advanced as the technology we have today. The technology became super accessible in 2009 with the end of the patent and so the costs reduced as well. Now, there are countless options, price ranges, and products to choose from.
That was an insight into the humble beginnings of this technology but you might be more interested in what 3D printing is. Well, it is the creation of solid 3D objects using computer processing and digital data. To make this process work, it uses additive processes.
What this essentially means is that your object is made by adding layer upon layer one after the other. That’s why 3D printing can create phenomenal and intricate models and prototypes. It is quite the creative process even though it is fully automated. If you can think it up, with the right design, it can be created.
Unlike conventional manufacturing processes, with 3D printing, you get to create complex and different shapes with resilient plastic materials. In this way, it provides you a unique outlet in comparison to something handmade or even made by machines.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
Your work begins with the creation of a virtual 3D model in your computer or app. There are even pre-made options available at 3D libraries so you have most of your work already done for you.
In case, you aim to create your model, the first part of the equation is the 3D software you will use. The best part is that your options are vast with open source and free ones to industry-specific ones. If you’re just starting, then we’d recommend using a free and open-source option. Simply use one that works online and start creating.
You can even export your file with ease via these programs. Your next step will be to transfer this file to the printer. You’ll need a slicing program to create hundreds of layers of your model so the printer knows how to layer it. After that, it’s just a question of starting the printing process.
- 1 What industries is 3D printing used in?
- 2 What are the advantages of 3D printing?
- 2.1 1. It is completely automated
- 2.2 2. It is better for the environment
- 2.3 3. You can create on-demand
- 2.4 4. The parts are durable and lightweight
- 2.5 5. It is a quick process
- 2.6 6. Great for small businesses
- 2.7 7. Serious edge over the competition
- 2.8 8. Low-cost solutions
- 2.9 9. Designs have consistency
- 3 Are there any disadvantages of 3D printing?
- 4 Conclusion
What industries is 3D printing used in?
There are quite a few industries where you can use 3D printing on a larger scale. These include the following options;
- Aerospace industry – for the creation of lightweight planes and models.
- The automotive industry – easily creates intricate parts and custom jobs.
- Medical field – for the creation of much-needed prototypes.
- Robotics industry – what better method to create robots and machines than with exact 3D printing?
Now, that we have a decent base for 3D printing and its applications in the real world, let’s move onto discovering the advantages of 3D printing.
What are the advantages of 3D printing?
1. It is completely automated
When you begin your 3D printing journey, you’ll appreciate this the most; the fact that the process is completely automated. All you have to do is get a 3D model either by creating it or finding it online, feed it into the printer and the rest can be left up to your device. There is little room for error when the entire process is automated and you will get excellent results each time.
2. It is better for the environment
Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, with 3D printing, you’ll see that waste is reduced quite a bit. You won’t need massive machines that such up electricity and energy for starters. You also will be making each component of your model with the printer so, there will be no need to outsource for specific components.
As we mentioned, you will have no costs associated with running an entire factory or production line. Of course, it won’t be as mass-produced as that either, but you’re certainly not contributing to energy consumption as factories do. A lot of the materials that you use to create 3D objects are designed to be recyclable as well.
3. You can create on-demand
Let’s say you’re a small business, chances are you do not have any storage space such as a warehouse to store your products. Luckily, with the 3D printer, you won’t need it either. You can easily print on demand and rather quickly so that you need no inventory.
You will not need to keep stock in bulk and it can save your time and money as well. the main reason behind the success of this angle is that all the data or information on your 3D models are stores on the 3D printer. Once you feed it in, it’s there for good.
So, you certainly do not need anything more than your CAD or STL files. They can also be easily amended, customized, and adjusted as per your or your client’s needs. You won’t even need space for storing tools so, overall, you are good to go whenever.
See also: Top 10 Best 3D Printer for Miniatures
4. The parts are durable and lightweight
While you might use certain types of metals for 3D printing, the most common material used is plastic. Not only are these plastics created to be long-lasting and durable but they are also lightweight in a way that metals cannot compete. Apart from this, these plastics are also easier to mold without industry-level tools or temperatures. You can also get better resilience and heat resistance from these in comparison to metal objects.
5. It is a quick process
Before 3D printing became as popular as it is now, it was mostly utilized for rapid prototyping. It implies that a user can design, execute and apply that object within a little time so that it is ready to use. The entire focus is on the customized appeal since even if manufacturing processes are quick, you can’t expect them to be used to make custom options instantly.
This is used a lot in the field of medicine or engineering where tiny components and intricate details need to be tweaked and adjusted for different purposes. The modification of your design will not even halt the process and is super quick.
Creating a prototype was nothing less of a struggle before 3D printing took over since it would have to be done manually for the most part. Otherwise, you’d have to create a machine that could make individual parts and that wasn’t cost-effective at all.
6. Great for small businesses
If we talk about the bigger picture, 3D printing has opened up impressive avenues for smaller businesses. Now, with the aid of just one printer, business owners can churn out hundreds of customized and personalized products that they can sell on shops like Etsy. It costs less, it provides a niche product and it is super-fast.
Of course, as we mentioned earlier, with this technology, the sky is the limit. You can easily design and create whatever your client throws at you. You won’t need any expensive tools or machines. As long as you have a decent understanding of CAD and 3D models, you can use them to your advantage.
7. Serious edge over the competition
Just as there are advantages of 3D printing for smaller businesses, they also apply to corporations. It is easier to listen to feedback from their customers regarding new products and quickly make amendments to them without having to make your customers wait.
The entire process is sped up quite a bit and it adds to the competitive edge you have over your competitors. Imagine you’re about to show your new products to your stakeholders at a meeting. Instead of a prototype or visual imagery, you can show them the product there and then thanks to the speed of a 3D printer.
It is also much cheaper than creating a prototype for businesses since that requires more complex processes and manpower.
8. Low-cost solutions
We’ve been touching on the cost benefits of 3D printing throughout these advantages since it is one of the best reasons to opt for this technology. You are not paying for any material that will not be used. There are no excess raw materials leftover and your manufacturing process becomes seriously cost-effective.
Again, unlike conventional factories or production floors, there is no need for that space, those machines, or any unnecessary labor to oversee it all. Instead of needing skilled technicians, you just need one individual who knows about the 3D printer enough to supervise it.
The reason why material costs are so low has to do with the layering process we talked about before. Through the printer’s nozzle, only that much material will come out as is needed. So, instead of working on a block of material, the object is built from scratch.
9. Designs have consistency
Since we mentioned that this is an entirely automated process, there is little room for error. That implies that you will create the same level of standard for the first object as you did for the second one. Consistency is key in any manufacturing process and it applies to 3D printing as well.
You won’t have to worry about any part being defective in the chain and this has a lot to do with the layering process. Each section of the object or product is carefully thought out and executed by the machine carefully and in a calculated manner.
Now that we have gone over the main advantages of 3D printing, we can move onto the disadvantages next.
Are there any disadvantages of 3D printing?
1. Fewer options for Materials
We’ve discussed above that your raw materials for 3D printing can be better than metals since they are more durable while also being lighter in weight. Unfortunately, you will find that while this is true, you also have to deal with the fact that you have fewer options in comparison to a conventional manufacturing process.
You need materials that can be easily heated up and molded easily by the printer and then retain this shape afterward. You also need to keep in mind that printable options are rarely food-grade safe.
2. Not the best for mass production
It should be a given fact that you cannot expect volume from 3D printing. You can easily cater to your small business niche by printing on-demand. However, when it comes to becoming a mass-produced equivalent, 3D printing is still quite far off. Of course, you can produce larger quantities by processes like injection molding, however, you will find that these do not mean a reduction in overall costs such as the economies of scale in mass production.
3. Needs a considerable amount of post-processing
If you’re working on a smaller scale, you might not pay a lot of heed to this but on a larger scale, you will need to clean and hone up the final product quite a bit. This post-processing is vital since you will need to smoothen out certain surfaces so they just look neater.
Some of the most common processes including heat drying, sanding, water jetting, and chemical soaks. So, overall while 3D printing is relatively fast as a process, you will need to spend some time on the objects afterward. That can slow you down if you’re not equipped for the task.
4. Potential reduction in jobs
We’ve been hearing this for years; the machines will take our jobs. However, this might have some truth to it because once 3D printing is scaled in a way that it can mass-produce products, then we will see a reduction in employment opportunities for humans. This might still be quite a while away but it can certainly happen. The most impact this could bring would be to 3rd world countries where most of the first world outsources their production and manufacturing processes.
5. Issues with copyrights
One of the biggest potential issues with the popularity of 3D printing is that since you can essentially create just about any design, people can easily create fake and counterfeit products. These can be so identical that you might have quite a bit of problem with this overall. So, there are quite a few copyright issues you might have to deal with.
6. Issues with quality
While it is true that there is little room for error in the 3D printing process, you have to keep in mind that not all 3D printers are created equal. You might find a considerable difference in the overall quality of the results depending on the model or make of your device. You might have to fix all of that in the post-processing time but of course, that means more specialized labor and time will be consumed.
Some additional information:
If you are interested in dabbling in the world of 3D printing, then this extensive review has laid out all the information that you might need on a surface level. However, if you’re going to work with a 3D printer at home, especially from a DIY kit that can be purchased online, then we recommend getting to know more about them first.
The entire process can be quite expensive with electricity, materials, and the initial cost of purchase included. Other than this, the wiring and assorted internal mechanisms are something you need to familiarize yourself with first. Some of the basic safety precautions are to never leave the machine unattended when it is working on your projects and keep it away from all flammable objects.
It is vital to invest in a good quality device and maintenance is key. It has certain heating elements and filaments inside that can easily be replaced in case they are worn out or older. So, just keeping an eye out for this can help prolong your purchase’s life and keep you safe.
3D printing can be tricky to master and even though it is all automated, you need constant supervision to make sure nothing malfunctions. With that, we are ending our in-depth review on the advantages of 3D printing. We hope that our readers know more about the topic now and it helps them get into the world of 3D printing better.