Why the verve to print?
3D Printing technology is one of the most influential market forces in today's economy. It allows designers and innovators across the globe to add and capitalise on the entrepreneurial brilliance that made 3D printing possible to begin with. With the power of this calibre, creativity has an imminence to increase exponentially. Jobs will be created, industries will grow, and investors will profit.
Especially in industries such as Healthcare, Defence, Formula 1 racing, Architecture, Entertainment, Jewellery where most of the projects are either one-of-a-kind or very low volume, conventional methods become very expensive while digital manufacturing saves dollars and reduces the development time period. As, The Economist has said: 3D printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale.3D printers; the missing strand of manufacturing DNA
Leading companies worldwide have proven the power of 3D printing to reduce delivery time, lower production costs, improve quality and support lean manufacturing. They confirm Prototyping, fit and functional testing, and unsupervised builds as key benefits. Whereas, Concept modelling, construction and error identification, and end-use parts as the ultimate use of 3D printers.
Hiroshi Takemori from Honda Access says, “3D printers allow us to synchronise the development schedule with that of the vehicle itself and create the accessory parts simultaneously, improving both the quality and speed of the prototype process.”
SAP, which designs and manufactures customised seating and other parts for watercraft, added a 3D Printer to its design process and compressed its design cycle, reduced costs and revolutionised its manufacturing with end-use parts.
Is conventional manufacturing missing a link?
That being said about the one-of-a-kind projects, here we are to confer how 3D printing can make a petite but radical change in industries that have mass productivity. The one major area of manufacturing which is crucial before any product gestation is prototyping. Conventionally, plastic parts could not be easily 3D printed in-house. So industries machined metal prototypes for these parts. They worked well for concept modelling but did not represent the physical properties of the original part for functional testing.
In particular, engineers couldn’t validate the snap fit or shock resistance of components until committing to tooling and moulding prototypes. As a result, in many cases the first moulded parts did not meet specifications and the company had to create a new iteration, delaying the product introduction and usually requiring expensive modifications to the mould. In a few cases, the modifications were so great that a new mould had to be ordered, costing several months and six- figure retooling charges.
Now, through 3D Printers that work with production-grade thermoplastics, prototypes can be built with nearly the same properties as production parts. Functional prototyping is critical to avoid design changes that might require expensive tooling alterations or rebuilds. While outsourcing a typical prototype took three to five days, with 3D printers it can be done internally within hours. If it's a small part, the job is done in minutes.
How 3D printing bridges the gap between an idea and its conception?
In the conventional process the cost of making a mould varies, considering the complexity and the opportunity cost related with time taken to make the mould. Thus, a hybrid prototyping process is suggested, offering manufactures the best of both worlds - the speed and economy of 3D printing combined with the material and accuracy advantages of industrial moulding. The approach uses 3D- printed moulds to generate fully functional prototypes.
3D Printing is a good method for creating prototype moulds when complex geometry would make traditional tooling difficult and design changes are likely which calls for rapid prototyping. And it helps when low quantities are needed for sample testing.
In the jewellery business, personalisation has always been a dream which is made possible by 3D printing as during designing, a CAD/CAM software platform outputs a digital file that’s perfectly proportional, taking human error out of the equation. The company can then produce a 3D printed model of the piece of jewellery, made of thermoplastic wax.
If you are wondering how to go about the implementation of the technology that binds that missing strand in manufacturing DNA, an Indian company, Evolv3D understands the technicality in the manufacturing industry and finds strategic ways such as; in this case, technological advancements in the 3D printing industry which makes the creative designing of products that weren’t feasible years ago to be.
Evolv3D is a comprehensive manufacturing solutions company with a strong focus on new and innovative 3D printing technologies. Evolv3D has associations with innovators and best manufacturing companies to bring in cutting edge technology to India.
Authors: Aditya Atluri, Founder and Strategic Dimension, Evolv3D