We all know that printers are an exciting subject (seriously), but 3D printing takes excitement to the next level. However, they have not yet reached the mainstream in terms of usage so what will it take for 3D printing to become a cornerstone of production and manufacturing?
3D printing technology has a great amount of potential and could be used as an everyday business solution, instead of just a novelty production tool as many people to seem think.
3D printing will come to be an integral part of final product production in the next few years given the benefits it brings to manufacturing. Being able to print components and products on demand (reducing cash tied up in stock), as well as customising outputs are just some of the many possibilities. Prototyping and product development is an area where 3D printing excels, mock-ups of products can be created in-house to make ergonomic and design improvements easier.
The increased use of 3D printing in manufacturing is all down to value and increased productivity levels, taking the ‘Just in Time’ production model to a completely new level. Global manufacturers, such as Airbus, have already seen the potential that this technology has to offer – the first Airbus A350 XWB aircraft delivered in December 2014 included more than 1,000 3D-printed parts.
Perhaps we will begin to see aircraft made entirely out of 3D printed components once the ability to print in metals has been fully developed.
However there is once crucial downside to such technological advancements; could this end up democratising manufacturing? 3D printing technology would allow for component creation and prototyping to be accessible to everyone.
People would no longer be reliant upon large manufacturers and instead would turn to more economical DIY production. For example, car mechanics could print their own replacement parts rather than ordering them directly from suppliers.
3D printing is already becoming a crucial part of production for many organisations and will continue to grow and build over the new few years. It is no longer a new technology, nor is it just a fad, it has genuine business purposes for organisations of all sizes.