3D printing is opening up a new world of possibilities in the Manufacturing industry. The forecasters are predicting that the design process for new products will be speeded up, costs of short production run, high-tech components will be slashed – and for the end-consumer, the result will be more choice, more customization, more everything, in fact, except cost – which could drop significantly if the forecasters are right!
Instant Accessibility of Products and Components
Imagine needing a new component part for a kitchen appliance, a lawnmower or the family car – or you want to buy a new product for your home. You go to your dealer for a repair and find that the component is manufactured overseas, or the product you want is out of stock and no supplies are expected for several weeks. This scenario could become a thing of the past, with the required part or product being made for you, right there, on the spot, on a 3D printer.
The time could even come when a consumer could browse online for the part they need, pay the price of downloading the software to their own 3D printer, then simply print off what is required and have it ready for use in the space of time it takes the printer to produce it.
Imagine the reduction in transportation, storage, warehousing and fulfillment that manufacturers would enjoy and the resultant benefits for the consumer in terms of immediate availability and reduced costs.
Infinite Possibilities for Customization
As an example of the customization possibilities of 3D printing technology, a top Athlete may want a custom-made pair of running shoes. With conventional manufacturing techniques, these might cost many hundreds or even thousands of dollars but the price might be worth paying for the performance benefit – as even tiny margins can make a huge difference for top sportsmen and women.
If the manufacturing cost of these shoes could be slashed by using 3D printing technology, this performance benefit could be made much more widely accessible. The process would involve 3D laser scanning to create exact models of the Athlete’s feet and then building 3D printed shoes around these models. The shoes would be molded to the shape of the athlete’s feet, ensuring a perfect fit. Only the material needed would be used, with no wastage, allowing for a shoe about 30% lighter than other commercially available counterparts.
The video shows how Sports Engineers at Loughborough University are using 3D printing technology to create personalize running spikes.
The implications are huge for all manufactured goods with many benefits for the consumer, being able to choose the exact color or customize the style of any product whether functional or decorative they want to have in their home or workplace.
3D printing technology could make it possible for the consumer to have a say in the design of items too as alterations to the design would not require an expensive process of retooling, simply a change in the software instructions sent to the printer to create the required changes.
Mass Manufacturing Overseas Could Become Obsolete
3D printing technology could revolutionize the way the World does business and result in great savings across the Globe in terms of:
- Savings on raw materials used (almost no wastage in the 3D printing manufacturing process)
- Transportation (goods can be made locally as needed)
- Warehousing (fewer unsold products on the shelves)
- Provision of local jobs in manufacturing (products and parts made locally on demand)
Manufacturing businesses will have more options as 3D technology develops. Economies of scale that meant making 100,000 pieces in a Chinese factory was the cost-effective way to go, might have to be re-thought. Being able to print smaller quantities of products and components, on demand, locally would also allow smaller businesses to compete with much larger ones and to offer the customization the consumer wants without becoming uncompetitive on price.