There are many ways businesses can use 3D printers to enhance their business. It is necessary however to know the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing to get the maximum benefit.
Rapid prototyping was one of the original business uses for 3D printers. It is still a great way to reduce the development time of new products. There are different ways of integrated 3D printers in the new product development workflow of your company.
Designers can print complete parts to check in an assembly. This can save a lot of design and manufacturing expenses if the design can easily be tested before manufacturing. Another useful way to use prototypes is to just print a small section of a part to check for fit and function. Just interested in how the hinge works? Just print the two hinge sections without the rest of the unit. You can quickly test the hinge without printing a large part
If you have an in-house designer working with 3D design software you can consider buying a 3D printer for your designer to work with. This will speed up their workflow if they can print and test parts as they design them.
If you don’t have an in-house designer for new products it is probably not a good idea to buy a 3D printer. The best solution is to get your designer or design company to buy a printer. They can then charge for the printing they do as part of the project. The saving in development time should still justify the printing expenses. Your designer can send the design files to the studio for printing. They will then courier the printed parts to you for evaluation.
If your external designer cannot financially justify the acquisition of a printer then looking at 3D printing studios is the way to go. The article at https://io3dprint.com/advantages-disadvantages-of-3d-printing/ states that you have to be knowledgeable of the advantages and disadvantages in order to make a decision if it’s worth buying or not. If you think that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, then looking for the right 3D print to purchase should be your next step.
2. Scale Models
Although printing parts where you can check fit and function scale models is another great application for 3D printing.
This is an often forgotten application, but holding a small-scale model of the motorboat, racing car or house you are designing can be really helpful. Scale models will give you a good feel for the proportions, lines, and feel of the design. This is sometimes hard to do with a model on a computer screen.
It is also a useful tool to convince your client about the design before committing to manufacturing. As an experienced manufacturer, you might be used to looking at digital models, but your client might not. Giving them a scale model to hold could be useful in convincing them of the design.
Another useful feature of scale models is that they can often be used to do tests like wind tunnel tests. If you need to check for drag a small-scale wind tunnel test can be a great way. Scale models can also be used for testing in wave tanks.
3. Finished Parts
In some rare, but growing industries the final parts can be 3D printed. This is not the one size fits all solution for all businesses, but for small-batch manufacturing of suitable parts, 3D printing can be the best solution. For large batches of plastic parts, you should rather look to injection molding.
If you are manufacturing the end-user product or parts of it by 3D printing you have two options for the process. Again you can do it in-house if you have the skills to handle the production by 3D printing. Another great option is to use a 3D printing studio to do the printing for you.
The great thing about leveraging 3D printing in your business processes is that it can be done by using external 3D printing studios to start with. After you know that the process works and is worth the investment you can always look at acquiring a 3D printer. One thing to consider though is that it is a lot easier to find a good 3D printer than to appoint someone with the necessary skill to operate it and design parts for printing.
The other great thing about 3D printing is that the barrier to entry is very low. You can for instance start with a small desktop printer to help your designer with prototyping. When he is up to speed and it has proven itself you can start looking at limited production with 3D printers. At that stage, you will already have a skilled employee who can help with printer selection and training for operators. Manufacturing can also easily be ramped up by just purchasing more machines.
3D printers are not magic. They are another manufacturing process that when applied correctly can help your business. Make sure to take the time to think about how a 3D printer can be applied to your business. Also, take the time to think if you should outsource or buy a printer.