Is 3D Printing the Next Big Thing in Manufacturing?
– An Industrial Revolution Yet to Come
The art of prototyping and design simulations revolutionized the manufacturing segment. And since the manufacturing industry serves pretty much every single industry vertical, the ability to design, simulate and efficiently prototype has the potential to make a global impact. However, the technology also faces a range of challenges that it must overcome first before taking over the manufacturing industry vertical by storm.
Consider the devices that were not developed before 3D printing. Prosthetics and organs are unique for every individual patient. Real-world physical design prototypes of aircraft parts. The possibilities are endless. And although one could argue that the art of prototyping has always been present, the sheer speed and effectiveness to design prototypes have never been accessible before.
In fact, 3D printing has often been compared to the next great industrial revolution along the lines of Henry Ford’s early 1900’s car manufacturing. It is the standardization and efficiency that drives industrial success – and when you add innovation to the mix, the result is often nothing short of revolutionizing. The principle of mass production inherently depends upon rapid prototyping and testing. At the current pace of research and iterative development, organizations cannot wait to test the latest models for improved results. 3D printing lets these agencies perform quick iterative developments and realize the changes in physical form, faster than ever before.
Another critical proposition that comes with embracing the 3D printing technology is the ability to reduce or possibly eliminate waste – in material as well as the process. In the world of economies of scale, any defectively manufactured product will potentially be discarded to maintain the desired quality standards. With the 3D printing technology, however, allows manufacturing companies to make without necessitating standard molds. 3D printing can work as personalized molds that mass produce for a growing range of diverse customer base instead of the one size fits all manufacturing concept applied to bulk manufacturing.
However, 3D technology for large-scale manufacturing is still a thing for the future and not quite ready for present-day industry standards. The technology has every potential to outsmart and replace traditional batch processing and manufacturing practices, but the cost and quality remain a challenge for mass production with 3D printing technologies. The technology can, however, efficiently revolutionize industries that focus on bringing low production quantities at speed and bespoke design features. For instance, customizing a phone cover with your name is not only possible but viable only with 3D scanning and printing technologies.
Perhaps the most exciting concept arrives in the form of digital manufacturing, where customizations go up a notch and into the control of consumers themselves. Imagine customers ordering bespoke designs to manufacturing companies and receiving unique products. When the manufacturing industry adapts to the technology and overcomes the cost challenges associated with the mass manufacturing with 3D printing technologies, the impact will resonate across all verticals. Mainly the everyday products such as shoes and clothes, among others.