3D printers have come a long way since their inception in the early 1980’s. Today, these printers are no longer considered hype, a curiosity or fancy technology. The reason is because of its impressive growth in terms of design, availability of raw materials and of course reduced cost.
These serious advancements have turned industry folks and enthusiasts excited. They know 3D printers cannot be ignored any further and have become a force to reckon.
3D printers can not only build prototypes quickly, it can also customise to unimaginable levels and print small lots with minimum of fuss and expenditure. All these features make it an exciting technology which is set to disrupt the way traditional manufacturing industries have operated till now.
Mentioned below are 8 reasons why 3D printers will bring the next industrial revolution
1. Price point
One of the major reasons for its growing popularity is the expiry of “Sole Rights” of several 3D printing technologies and the subsequent impact on the prices of printers. Laser and fused sedimentation variants of 3D technology have now become free from patent restrictions which will allow the entry of several manufacturers offering the hitherto costly machines at affordable price.
This simply means mushrooming small scale industries that in return will support major manufacturers, by supplying odd lots, customised spares and other products which are just not viable to produce in house. These small enterprises will soon become the foundation of every large organisation, feeding their regular and irregular requirements.
Cheaper 3D printers will also mean ease of expansion. Small enterprises can rapidly grow to become giants themselves.
2. 3D printing workshop / hub
As mentioned above, with the expiry of several crucial patents vis-à-vis 3D printing technology, the cost of 3D printers has reduced drastically. Setting up workshops, factories or stores which cater to larger enterprises or even end users is no longer a daunting task.
Entrepreneurs need not depend on bank loans or equity participation. They can simply borrow from friends or family or tap crowdfunding websites to finance their project. In the coming days these ancillary units will typically specialise in one area and cater to the needs of certain requirements. This form of dedicated, targeted servicing will result in the birth of several other units, each with its own set of speciality.
3. Raw materials
Yet another factor which has led to the massive adoption and acceptance of 3D printers as a serious alternative to traditional manufacturing process is its ever growing raw material base. Today, a 3D printer can print from native or regular materials such as plastic, steel, aluminium and even ceramic, and at the same time prepared for newer materials such as carbon fibre. The latter material is exploited on a large scale in aerospace and automobile industry.
With carbon fibre and 3D printer working in tandem there is no dearth for ideas or products which can revolutionize the entire human needs and wants. Innovative products will further hasten the changes and the challenges. Improved printing machines and materials will not only produce amazing products but also act as a cure for illnesses and apply its incredible attributes for enhancing the shelf life.
The future printers and wonder materials will upset and replace traditional production practices completely giving rise to a fascinating process which will usher in a new line of products.
4. Increased application areas
With 3D printers evolving on daily basis, literally, and with the discovery of newer materials, it is now possible to think the unthinkable. Special costumes for mega “Star Wars” type film or those based on fantasy genre can now reap the benefits of 3D printers. These wonder machines can print amazing props, suits and caricatures. The biggest advantage with 3D printer is the ease with which changes can be made to prototypes. This in turn increases the authenticity of the scene and the landscape, and at the same time doesn’t send the budget of the film skyrocketing which typically is always under pressure.
3D textile printing is yet another area which is gaining momentum. More and more fashion designers are showcasing their garments based on this technology. These wearable are not just for display. They can be actually worn for parties and high profile gatherings.
Bicycles, aeronautics and space vehicles, biological imprints and weapons are some of the products which have a large component base manufactured from 3D printers.
5. Unlimited design concepts
3D printers typically depend on CAD software, and more so on STL or Standard Tesselation Language files. Today, CAD software is becoming more and more powerful in terms of designing amazing shapes, unshackling itself from design restrictions, making way for one piece products, unlike traditional ones which are assembled in bits and pieces. 3D printers provide the opportunity to use several materials during the production with varying polarity, transparency and flexibility to produce objects with minimum of parts. This in itself is a revolutionary metamorphosis that will catapult 3D printing technology to the next level.
6. The supply chain system
Today, certain parameters of supply chain system are rift with weaknesses. This includes overstocking of rarely used components, or last minute scramble for parts which have not been updated in the inventory control software and hence cost overrun. In such a situation 3D printer and printing technology offers a great mechanism to avoid these scenarios completely.
On the individual front, people will customise or make their own components in case the said part is not available in the market. However, one thing is for sure; spare parts and components which are less consumed will not eat into the bottom-line of manufacturing companies.
7. Layered technology
3D printing technology is not only additive in nature but subtractive as well. It means complex components need not be built in parts and assembled as followed in traditional manufacturing setup. This in turn lowers the cost of production, reduces raw material usage, brings down carbon footprint and offers a host of other benefits. So how is this possible; by layering certain sections with water soluble raw material? Once the product is printed it is dipped in the liquid. The water soluble portion gets dissolved offering an intricately designed product.
8. Anytime, anywhere
3D printing technology is innovative, flexible and adaptive in nature. With 3D printer large manufacturers need not outsource components which are required in small numbers from far off places. Irrespective of the location of requirement, components can be printed using internet or simply downloading the blueprint / CAD file and manufacturing in-house as and when needed.
This not only takes care of sudden production hitches and spikes but nullifies the transport element completely. This form of product management is simply not possible with traditional manufacturing process.
Author Bio :
Jean Grey is an online blogger for IPrint-Technologies. She likes to blog on different applications of 3D printing. For more information visit http://www.iprint-technologies.com/3d-printer-kits/