3D Printing Technology

3D printing is an emergent technology used mainly for rapid prototyping across a wide section of industries. How are 3D objects printed? There are several different printing processes, including breaking down a 3D digital file into cross sections, and depositing material layer by layer to build up a real, 3D object. The term 3D printing emerged when MIT patented several 3-dimensional printing techniques. 3D printing technology is most-often used in the automotive, medical, consumer electronics, and manufacturing industries.

Paul Doe, the chief engineer at Motorsport Technology, says 3D printing is transforming the way his company does business. Their previous experience with 3D printing was in making prototypes, and the main reason they bought a 3D printer was to validate new functional designs. After installation, their use of the machine changed a lot, however, to actually making production parts on demand for customers. They discovered that the resultant products were strong enough to use as parts for cars in the actual production line.

The company experimented further with their new 3D printer, and soon was able to print specialist parts at a fraction of the normal cost. This allowed them to avoid high fixed production costs, and to carry fewer stock parts on hand. In just this one automotive application, for example, Motorsport Technology saved a total of $80,000 using 3D printing. Not only can the company now print out individual parts, but it can print its own tools as well. Modification of pieces of tooling, which previously would have cost around $10,000, could now be printed for as little as $10. 3D printers are an affordable investment for a typical company, now costing around $20,000 each. Companies have recouped this cost in as little as a few months in some cases.

3D prototyping and manufacturing
3D prototyping a final product offers great savings in design costs. 3D prototypes can be used to accelerate product testing, where multiple design variations can be tested rapidly. This is crucial in short-run manufacturing, for example. Alterations can be made, and reprinted at a moment’s notice, even in the most intricate design specifications.