3D printing has become an incredibly popular way to manufacture goods. While it doesn’t seem as though it has been around for long, it is about 40 years old. As it has molded the past, it will continue to shape our future.
3D printing comes with advantages and disadvantages. 3D printing can’t be done with a variety of materials, cannot be used to make large quantities, and may lead to a reduction of jobs. Although, 3D printing allows a designer much more freedom and takes far less time, and is more eco-friendly.
Together with both the pros and the cons, 3D printing is still used widely and will continue to grow in use as technology progresses. It is important when you first start 3D printing to understand the risks as well as what good it can do for your business or your life. Depending on your circumstances and the circumstances of the world, you may very well see the pros and cons differently from time to time.
3D Printing Benefits and Drawbacks
The earliest 3D Printing was done in the 1980s, but it has progressed a lot and expanded in each reach since then. Nowadays we have the capacity to build 3D houses and even print in space. So, what are the great parts of 3D printing, and what are some not-so-great parts?
|Less Waste||Limited Materials|
|New Shapes||Size Restrictions|
|Fast & Effective||Copyright Issues|
|Light Parts||Large Scale Slowness|
|Quick Process||Post Processing Work Load|
|Freedom of Design||Cost|
Let’s take a closer look at each of these pros and cons so that we can see if 3D printing suits our needs and the needs of others. Each of these will help you determine which source of manufacturing is best for you! It will also just give you a small glimpse into what 3D printing looks like and how it has begun to function in our society not only as a way of manufacturing products for sale but also as a hobby and at-home machine that helps individuals and companies bring their dreams to life!
As we see from the table above, there are a variety of really great outcomes that 3D printing has to offer. Today it has become cutting-edge technology that has helped to manufacture things that were impossible to do before. Consider these advantages and disadvantages to decide if 3D printing is right for you. There are a variety of options out there if 3D printing does not work best for you.
- Less Waste – In other forms of manufacturing, they will have a large piece of material and cut out the shape of what they want to create, leaving all the excess as waste that most of the time can not be recycled. 3D printing does not take away from the material but is an additive process, meaning that things are added to create the shape, and only minimal shaving off and sanding is required. Plus, the material that is used is normally recyclable and is often made of recycled material itself. This makes this process better for the designer, but also for the environment.
- More Shapes – All of a sudden we can create things that we could not create before! We can now make more intricate designs and use more complex shapes because of 3D printing. 3D printing frees up quite a few things to ensure we are able to create anything we desire.
- Fast & Effective – For simple, basic, or even slightly more detailed items, 3D printing an object can be done in a matter of a few hours. This is much faster than other manufacturing techniques, such as molds or machined parts. It is quite fast for the quality product it creates. In addition to this, you can also print on demand with 3D printers, rather than buying your manufactured product in bulk and keeping up a huge supply for a year while it sits in a warehouse and gets dusty. Instead, you can print stuff right when you need it. This way it saves you time, money, storage fees, and heartache from lost products. It is fast not only in its creation, but also in its ability to make this more smooth and quick in retail.
- Lighter Parts – Another really great advantage of 3D printing is that you can create parts for cars and other similar things that are much lighter than the metal parts we use now. This adds to fuel efficiency and helps to create a way for us to move forward. While it is plastic and lightweight, it still remains strong and capable. In the creation process, elements can be added to make a part heat resistant, have greater strength, or even repel water.
- Quick Process – Because putting your design in the 3D printer is only part of the process, it becomes easier to be creating one design while another is in a different stage, and therefore it allows more freedom in the use of your time. Once a machine has started working on a design, it can be run by a single person, and that one person can be running multiple machines at once so that things are happening quickly and effectively.
- Portable – Have you ever wanted to make something away from home? Or away from work? 3D printing makes this possible. Each 3D printer is different in size and shape, and while there are larger printers that can be used on an industrial level, there are also small, portable ones that you can take with you anywhere you go. This allows you the freedom of creating and printing things where ever you may be.
- Freedom of Design – Things, that before were not possible, have become possible with 3D printing. You can now create extremely complex geometric designs with just the push of a button. Normally, items like this cannot be made, and so 3D printing has opened up a new door for creators and inventors to create things that before would have been impossible to make.
- Accessible – Because this is a fairly new industry, and because it has become so popular, it has also become very accessible. If you need something 3D printed and you don’t have a printer yourself, many places will make it for you. It also is something that is around in most places locally, meaning that outsources the creation of products to another country may be more expensive than to just create them where you are and not worry about shipping them overseas.
While all these advantages are good, we must keep in mind that this is still a fairly new industry. It has been around for 40 years, but it has made most of its progress only recently. It allows you to do great things, but may also lead to small problems in the economy and in the manufacture of items that a person plans to sell or use. Carefully review each and see which will be most detrimental to your situation.
- Limited Materials – Thus far, only a limited amount of materials have been able to be used. They used a limited selection of plastics and very limited types of metal. The materials must be able to be temperature controlled well so that they can be used, and there are not many materials that fit the criteria needed to ensure a well-working item.
- Size Restrictions – The chamber within a 3D printer where the creation actually happens is actually relativity small. There is not enough room in there to create something that is larger in size. Even larger printers that are industrial grade do not have enough space for some items, meaning that larger items still must be made using another form of manufacturing, like injection molds. This might change in the future, but for now, 3D prints are small.
- Copyright Issues – Just as with any new technology or creation, after it has been around for a few years, there begins to be problems with legal issues. It is important that each product created through 3D printing is not copyrighted. It could pose a serious problem if people began to create fake products and advertise them as the real thing, not only taking revenue from the actual product and company, but also overlooking important safety features and rules.
- Large Scale Speed – While we talked about speed as an advantage, it is also a disadvantage. While 3D printing has made things be able to take place more quickly, it is still not fast enough to create large quantities of any one thing, and after you get to a certain point, it is more cost-effective and timely to use another form of manufacturing that can keep up with a large quantity demand. And yes, most prints only take a few hours, but that’s only one print, and if you are making a lot of an item, then those hours add up really fast.
- Post Processing – After the item is created, it isn’t the end. Prints don’t necessarily come out as a finished product as you might have hoped, and most of the time 3D printing is used to create parts that must later be assembled and finished. It also means that you may have to sand and add other details that were impossible for the machine to add.
- Reduced Employment – A lot of new technological advances mess with the economy and working-class people. 3D printing is not exempt from this. The more we are able to use this technology, the fewer people will be needed to manufacture products. A group of 30 people can be replaced by one person to run 30 machines. This is not helpful to the economy and the working class.
- Cost – A 3D printing machine is actually pretty pricey when compared to other manufacturing machines. They cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. It is a considerable investment that may take some time to pay off. Plus each is manufactured to the needs of the buyer, so it is important to understand that it may take weeks to actually get the product once you have bought it. Materials also have a large price tag, and so the creation of things adds to the cost each time you want to use them.
- Part Structure – Another problem may be that parts which are created with 3D printers are strong, but sometimes not strong enough to pass strength tests. This will all depend on what you are creating and what you are using it for. Only for certain products will strength tests be required or relevant.
“Additive manufacturing allows parts to get printed in layers that adhere to each other during the creation process. That means these items can sometimes separate or break under certain stress levels or with part orientation.”source
3D printing has opened a whole new world of opportunities and experiences. It is really still only in the beginning stages and is sure to continue to progress and be refined as time goes on. Through a careful analysis of its pros and cons, we can find out that 3D printing may not be the best manufacturing for all things, but for some, it is the best option! It all depends on what is being created and what components it needs to function. It is also important to consider the cost to create things; in some instances, 3D printing will be the cheapest option, while at other times it will be different than what you would expect. It is a new technology and we must learn to progress with it!
As we see, there are a whole plethora of advantages and disadvantages. We have chosen to show you both sides so that you may see what could potentially go wrong if you were to enter into that system of manufacturing. It is phenomenal technology that will continue to enhance life at a creation level, but as with all things, it will always have its downsides that we will have to work through. It is just a matter of deciding which is more important to you, and how you can make it work as you create and print.