3D printing is a technology that has been around for some time, but, within the last few years, its popularity has picked up steam and is now completely revolutionizing the way business is conducted. The technology itself has advanced, and with this advancement, the financial barrier to entry has dropped considerably; making it possible for businesses and even individuals to harness the benefits of 3D printing production. While 3D printing continues to be the playground for the maker community, it’s also branching into industrial manufacturing.
3D production of functional end-use parts is already one of the fastest growing areas in the manufacturing sector. In 2014, a PWC survey found that 11% of manufacturing companies had already switched to volume production of 3D printed parts or products. It is no secret that 3D printing is shaking up global manufacturing; below are seven ways the technology is asserting its influence…
- True Rapid Prototyping. The product development cycle has been shortened from months or weeks to mere days. Multiple design updates no longer hinder the development timeline, but instead can be accommodated for in a short period of time, thus delivering the final product to market faster.
- Rapid Design Iteration (A/B testing of physical products). 3D printing has gone beyond prototyping and into first-run production, allowing for market testing and rapid design iteration. Engineers are able to explore and test a variety of designs before finalizing for manufacturing.
- Low volume production. Companies are no longer burdened with high costs when they are producing small amounts of a product. For production runs of less than 1,000, many companies are considering 3D production as a cost-effective alternative.
- Mass Customization. Customers want customization and 3D printing can provide it. The days of “one-size-fits-all” is quickly fading away, and making room for personal product customization.
- Virtual Inventory. With 3D printing production, a company only makes what it needs at a given time, thus eliminating warehousing and other costs associated with storing large product quantities. Virtual inventory improves the efficiency of every business that uses anything manufactured. Inventories around the world will soon shrink dramatically as virtual inventory goes mainstream.
- The Long Tail of Parts. 3D printing is changing the way designers and engineers plan for the end of a product’s life cycle. With 3D production, you now have the long tail of parts. Hold on to the digital design files, and you can print any part for as long as it is needed.
- Product Innovation Renaissance. 3D printing’s lower barriers to entry and ability to produce radically more complex objects is changing the way we think and design products. The door of innovation is wide open. Harvard Business Review recently published a piece, 3D Printing Is Changing the Way We Think, and we could not agree more. A new realm of design possibilities is going to eventually make companies rethink the design of nearly all of their products.
3D printing technology is revolutionizing business and we are just skimming the surface of the sweeping changes to come.
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Referenced Source: 7 Ways 3D Printing Is Already Disrupting Global Manufacturing, Forbes
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