What Does The Future Hold For 3D Printing?

3D printing is disrupting traditional manufacturing, but can it scale up?

Consumer 3D printers have been gaining popularity for some time, and it’s exciting to see what people are doing with these new devices. However, the impact of 3D printing in development offices and manufacturing plants has been massive, and many are projecting a revolution in how products are made. The future of 3D printing is bright, but what will the future look like?

Rapid Prototyping

3D printing is older than many people realize, and it’s been in use for more than 30 years in high-tech fields. The falling price of 3D printing, however, means it’s finding its way into smaller companies. Rapid prototypes enable companies to try out bold ideas, as failures are far cheaper to absorb than with more traditional design and manufacturing. Anything that lowers the cost of innovation promises to bring new and better products to the market, and 3D printing will play a large role in development in the future.

Individualized Construction

When used in conjunction with 3D scanning, 3D printing can greatly lower the cost of tailoring products to individuals. The cost of custom orders for clothing and other items can drop significantly with 3D printing. Perhaps the most exciting change, however, comes in the health field. Access to high-quality prosthetics has traditionally been limited due to the high cost associated with custom manufacturing. 3D printing can cut costs dramatically, leading to better availability. This can be especially helpful for children, who typically outgrow prosthetics quickly.

Moving Beyond Plastic?

Plastic has long been the material of choice for 3D printing due to its easy use in printers; plastics melt at a relatively low temperature and solidify quickly. Metal printers are available, although they’re far more expensive and take longer to run. As investment continues to increase in 3D printing, businesses can expect to see initial and long-term prices fall, meaning consumers may soon be able to order custom-made 3D items. Consumer-grade metal printers, on the other hand, might be some time away barring a breakthrough.

The Repair and Replacement Revolution

When releasing products, companies have to decide how much support they’ll provide and how long this support will last. Manufacturing replacement components requires significant capital, and replacement parts that don’t sell represent lost income. With 3D printers, companies can create replacements only when they’re needed, enabling them to provide far longer support for products they sell. 3D printing also puts power in users’ hands; instead of ordering a replacement part, why not just print one at home?

The Global Supply Chain

In most cases, mass production is still the cheapest way to manufacture products. However, 3D printing technology has some advantages, including being able to create several components at once already assembled. Furthermore, investing in 3D printing capabilities means companies don’t need to invest so heavily in new machinery, providing more flexibility. 3D printing can even reduce labor costs. Predicting the impact of any disruptive technology is difficult, but there’s little question that 3D printing will change how businesses think about their supply chains on a global basis.

We recently spoke to Gary Taylor, Regional Manager at EOS, one of the leaders in the 3D printing space to find out more about the process and what it means for traditional manufacturing. Listen below or on Apple Podcasts

While research, development, and manufacturing have changed significantly over the years, basic paradigms have remained largely unaffected. However, many experts are viewing 3D printing as a revolutionary technology that will change how the products we use on a daily basis are made. Whether 3D printing is a bigger force in factories or in homes remains to be seen, but it will undoubtedly change how we look at the world.