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What are the challenges of 3D printing regarding to manufacturing?

With the well-known benefits of 3D printing, you would think 3D printing would be as common as the internet by now, but that’s not the case. Many companies are struggling to find ways to incorporate 3D printing technology into their product development and manufacturing operations – a less than 5% of the manufacturing market is made up of 3D printing, according to a recent report.

When it comes to a technology that has not been widely spread, people usually think if the technology is advanced/good enough or not, actually there are mainly 3 reasons that have been holding back the technology being spread. Let’s find out what are those 3 reasons behind.

1, Lack of Standardization

2, Environmental issue

3, Equipment and production are costly

Why is 3D printing a challenge? 

While 3D printing allows engineers to produce single items inexpensively. However, the truth is that the technology at times does come at a cost to excellence.

There is a lack of universal standards in the printing technologies – many manufacturers worry about their products or parts of products produced via 3D printing will be on a par with other manufacturing methods in terms of quality, strength and reliability. So, they remain warry of 3D printing technology, judging the risks involved too great to meet with the benefits. People working on this field have been working on it to end this uncertainty aiming at an industry wide standardization.

How can we reduce the environmental impact of 3D printing?

The most common material that we use for 3D printing is plastic filament. The plastic that we use for 3D printing is relatively inexpensive and of high quality. However, you will find that most of its byproducts tend to end up in landfills. It is a practice that generally contradicts everything that the environmental movement stands for.  

In order to make the widespread adoption of 3D printing happen, the byproduct of its use will need to be reused. Another issue pertaining to the use of plastic has to do with energy consumption. According to a study that was conducted at Loughborough University, the researchers established that 3D printers generally consume up to 100 times more energy compared to injection molding when making a similar item.

Likewise, another study conducted at MIT determined that laser direct metal deposition utilized more energy compared to traditional machinery. It is also important to point out that the desktop 3D printers users employ in small scale manufacturing and rapid prototyping in both home and office settings tend to release nanoparticles that are harmful.

To protect your welfare and those of others, there is a need to make sure that the 3D printers being used come equipped with filtration accessories or exhaust ventilation.

What is the reason behind the exorbitant rates of 3D printing?

For professionals who rely on 3D technology, the cost of purchasing the equipment was a major concern While using plastic to print is inexpensive and easy for most, acquiring metal printers that big organizations use can easily set the company back by tens of thousands of dollars.

Even when a company gets access to this equipment, many soon find that the printing process is not only slow but cumbersome as well. Unlike the normal manufacturing process, using 3D printing to produce or manufacture large volumes of certain goods comes with very high costs.

For example, metal printers required by big companies can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars – the process is slow, and costly. The time taken to 3D print depends on the number of layers that need to be printed, and the speed of the printer itself. Even the best 3D printers can only build between 5 and 40 cm per hour. 

As noted above, consumers could begin printing their own product parts. This is made even more problematic when we see that smaller businesses could begin printing product parts and whole products, copying the intellectual property of bigger businesses.

In order to overcome these challenges, we believe the industry must change the conversation from emphasizing additive manufacturing’s technical benefits to overall business value. Companies need to not only identify applications and parts to build with 3D printing, but look at their manufacturing strategy as a whole to see how the technology can enable innovation and add value to overall operations.

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