How Has 3D Printing Mutated Manufacturing?

How Has 3D Printing Mutated Manufacturing?

September 01, 2016

Since the steam engine kicked off the industrial revolution, the manufacturing sector has pretty much followed the same fundamental rules governing the mass production of goods.To be fair, the sector is poised to see some tremendous advancements and efficiencies through the use of PLC programmers and automated robotic workforces but now, thanks to the rapidly evolving applications afforded by 3D printers, the manufacturing landscape is on the cusp of a truly remarkable and unprecedented change.

For many emerging companies, the cost and length of the product development cycle can be a non-starter.Prototype development in particular can cost thousands of dollars to create a physical sample, and only then does a glaring design or functionality error present itself.

Using a 3D printer to produce a viable prototype can drastically reduce the cost of flushing out a product’s concept, even if conventional manufacturing processes will be charged with producing the final iteration – and that’s just one of the benefits of this emerging technology.

Consequently, 3D printers give companies the opportunity to increase the liquidity of their new and established products’ designs to more quickly adapt to consumer demand providing the means to offer highly customizable and personalized products.

Much as some would like to detract from the promise 3D printing presents, taking a product from design to working prototype in less than forty-eight hours is almost too appealing to pass up.

3D Printing Goes Where Conventional Manufacturing Can’t

In some cases, 3D printing is already proving superior to conventional manufacturing, particularly where complex components are concerned.In the airline industry, a 3D printed fuel nozzle is now widely used throughout a company’s fleet of planes.The reason? The printed component is constructed using a one-piece design rather than being made up of more than twenty smaller components; meaning that it is stronger, more reliable, cheaper to produce, and less likely to malfunction.

Complex aeronautical components aside, 3D printing is also revolutionizing the manufacturing sector when it comes to producing medical equipment like prosthetic limbs.

Though the medical establishment is not conventionally considered to be a member of the manufacturing sector per se, 3D printers can be used to expedite the healing process by producing regenerative tissues using nanomaterials to heal burn victims, replace limbs, and even produce a genetically perfect and healthy copy of a lost or diseased organ.

The way food is produced and the method by which consumers purchase it can also be significantly impacted by the widespread adoption of 3D printers within the industry.Imagine being able to being able to print food on demand? Such a technology would make supermarkets, and perhaps even world hunger, a relic of the past.

What Sort of Impact Will They Have On Global Supply Chains?

Would the implementation of 3D printing technology shrink global supply chains? Would this technology reverse a long time manufacturing trend and increase domestic production? At this point, it may be difficult to say – but that doesn’t mean that this technology couldn’t significantly impact supply chains on a global scale.

Apart from the delivery business, UPS operates more than 1,000 of what they refer to as “global field stocking stations”. Positioned strategically, these expansive facilities store vital components for thousands of manufacturers in the event they need to be shipped on very little notice.While some might think that the propagation of additive manufacturing through the use of 3D printers would spell the end for this portion of UPS’ business, the multinational corporation views it as an opportunity to provide value to its customers.

By partnering with a firm called CloudDDM, UPS is looking to retrofit its Louisville, Kentucky facility with over 1,000 printers in order to make on-demand components for its corporate clients.Not only will this allow UPS to continue to provide value to its customers, it will also help them to drastically reduce the amount of overhead cost associated with operating so many stations around the world.

Granted, there are many applications for this technology that cannot yet be conceived, even though its limitations can.Quality of goods and size are two major hurdles the 3D printing industry is currently facing.In its current state, the technology is far from perfect, requiring those with a passion for technology to unlock its potential.

If even 5% of the manufacturing sector is converted to 3D printing, it’s estimated that the printing of goods industry would be valued at almost $700 billion dollars.With so much on the line, there will obviously be a need for electronics technicians to ensure they’re functioning properly. George Brown College’s online technology courses provide students the skills necessary to begin their journey towards a fulfilling career in the rapidly changing world of manufacturing.

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