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What is 3D printing? Simply put, 3D printing is a manufacturing technique that is growing in usage to make proofs of concepts, prototypes, or end-use products. Companies today have begun to implement 3D printing at different stages of their manufacturing processes and use this technology to rethink their business strategies to stay competitive.
So how does it work exactly? 3D printing is a technique that builds objects layer by layer using a 3D file, allowing businesses to transform a digital version of an object into a physical version.
You must determine which 3D printing process you want to use to create the best possible part. Understanding the different 3D printing processes is essential to creating a successful project. Let’s take a closer look at the seven types of additive manufacturing.
With additive manufacturing, there are plenty of choices for 3D printing materials, from plastic to resin or metal. Within those general materials, there is a wide range of different kinds with different technical properties. After learning the seven types of 3D printing processes, it is easier to identify which material and process best suit your 3D printing projects.
Additive manufacturing over the years has also advanced to offer the possibility to create parts for demanding sectors using advanced materials such as extremely resistant and rigid materials or professional, flexible plastics. It has also become a way to implement more sustainable manufacturing using bio-based materials, with a series of Nylon PA11 materials. BASF and Sculpteo have combined their strengths to offer a series of bio-based materials with high mechanical and performance to meet all your demands and maintain sustainability.
Here are some examples:
Ultrasint® PA11 & MJF PA11 – These are bio-based materials, perfect to create durable parts able to withstand high mechanical loads and stress. Living hinges, parts with high impact resistance, and skin contact certifications, these Nylon PA11 materials are offering great opportunities for the medical and automotive industries.
Ultrasint® PA11 CF – A 3D printing material reinforced with carbon fibers, provides advanced mechanical performance for your parts when strength and rigidity are needed. If your project requires a high strength-to-weight ratio and a high impact resistance, then Ultrasint® PA11 CF might be the perfect solution.
Ultrasint® PA11 ESD – Ultrasint® PA11 ESD is a bio-derived powder material with electrostatic discharging properties for increased process safety in advanced applications. This material offers new possibilities for a wide range of new applications, especially for the electronics sector, due to its high mechanical performance.
Other high-performance materials available:
MJF PA12 – The Multijet Fusion PA12 creates parts from a fine polyamide powder. The material is characterized by good elasticity and high impact resistance and is resistant to chemicals, especially hydrocarbons, aldehydes, ketones, mineral bases and salts, alcohols, fuels, detergents, oils, and fats. HP plastic is great for experienced professionals and beginning designers because of its high precision. 3D printing plastic appears to be a good substitute for plastic injection for product development, rapid prototyping, and even production process.
Prototyping Resin – This Prototyping Resin is 3D printed using a Stereolithography process. This material is perfectly adapted to developing prototypes and could improve your whole prototyping process. This resin offers the opportunity to create highly detailed parts and non-functional prototypes. As this Photopolymer is UV sensitive, products 3D printed with SLA resins might change shapes and colors in sunlight. Always check the design guidelines and technical specifications before sending your part to 3D print.
Ultrafuse Stainless Steel 316L – is a new industrial-grade metal filament for professional uses. Created by BASF, Ultrafuse 316L filament is composed of 90% stainless steel and 10% polymer binder, allowing it to be used in any FDM/FFF printer.
The material is characterized by its impressive mechanical properties and low cost of production, making it an affordable metal for 3D printing.
Ultrasint® TPU88A & TPU01 – An excellent option for parts that need flexibility and resistance and are rubbery. With good resilience and high UV stability, this SLS TPU material offers numerous advantages for your projects requiring an elastomeric material.
Why are so many businesses turning to 3D printing for their manufacturing needs? Let’s explore some benefits and values that additive manufacturing can produce for individuals and businesses.
Additive manufacturing is known to be an efficient prototyping technique because it is faster than traditional manufacturing techniques in creating a proof of concept or a prototype. Making it possible to make iterations quickly since you are working with a digital version of a part, enabling you to make changes to a 3D file directly on your 3D modeling software and then printing a new iteration to see if the results meet what you require.
Making a new version takes no time at all, enabling you to be able to create rapid prototypes.
Moreover, this process is cheaper than traditional manufacturing because costs do not increase as you re-print and re-test your prototypes.
Traditionally, businesses would have to order a certain number of parts or products in order to be cost-effective and then store those items in a facility until products are sold, distributed, or delivered. With additive manufacturing, products can be manufactured when needed and in quantities required. This revolutionary technology is changing the manufacturing game and enabling businesses to save time and money with on-demand manufacturing.
With on-demand manufacturing, businesses can also deliver precisely what customers want regarding quantities and customization. A customer can order a single prototype with complex geometries and have it made and delivered in very little time. Custom manufacturing is crucial in many industries, like medical prosthetics, where individualized prostheses can be made per each client’s needs.
This brings us to the ability for mass customization without the high cost; with 3D printing, it can be cost-efficient and adaptable to your clients’ needs. Whereas using traditional manufacturing techniques makes customization expensive, exclusive, time-consuming, and tends to be for niche products. The flexibility of additive manufacturing offers customization at scale!
Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) allows for innovation by rethinking and creating your part, optimizing, and improving it without the manufacturing constraints of traditional manufacturing methods. It also allows the creation of complex parts that are easily manufactured and maintain high mechanical properties. So, what can DfAM do for you:
Additive manufacturing is also helping businesses rethink their supply chain and inventory to add more adaptability to their business strategies. Instead of storing parts that, as mentioned earlier, take up space in a warehouse, 3D printing allows you to produce parts when they’re needed by dematerializing your production and storing 3D files. The digital inventory now allows you to produce the exact amount of parts needed by each customer when needed. Check out our article “What are the advantages of 3D Printing” to learn about the benefits and advantages.
The medical industry was an early adopter of 3D printing, a sector with a lot of potential for growth. The biggest advantage of additive manufacturing for this sector is due to the customization and personalization capabilities that AM technologies provide and the ability to significantly improve people’s lives financially and physically as the technology advances and materials are developed that meet medical grade standards.
In addition, 3D printing technologies are being used for all kinds of applications in the medical and dental industries, such as metal castings of dental crowns and dental aligners and real-life molds of patients’ bone structures for specific operations to aid surgeons in their work. Another advantage is the ability to directly manufacture stock items, such as hip and knee replacements/implants, and patient-specific products, such as hearing aids, orthotic insoles for shoes, personalized prosthetics, and one-off implants for patients with very specific kinds of diseases. Discover how Medical 3D printing is saving lives!
Another early adopter of 3D printing for the use of rapid prototyping was the automotive industry. Currently, AM is being implemented beyond rapid prototyping and for the development and adaption of its manufacturing process. It helps businesses respond quickly to customers’ changing demands and incorporate the benefits of improved materials with high-mechanical properties for automotive applications. Many automotive companies now look at the potential of 3D printing for producing spare/replacement parts, on demand, instead of holding huge inventories or becoming obsolete. Interested in 3D printing an entire car? Yes, it is possible. Check out Automotive and 3D printing: the complete guide to 3D printing a car.
A real draw for the drone industry to 3D printing is the ability to create lighter, stronger, and more functional drones requiring less assembly and fewer parts. With AM, it is possible to create tailored fixtures and lattice structures to reduce the weight of drone parts. 3D printing has become the ideal solution for the drone industry to manufacture iterations to adapt products to clients’ needs.
Find out how the company Hexadrone used AM to innovate and adapt their most popular drone TUNDRA®. See our Top Tips for Drone Manufacturing Ebook to help you get started.
Another early adopter of 3D printing was the aerospace industry. For its earliest forms for product development and prototyping, in collaboration with academic and research institutes, to push the boundaries of AM technology for manufacturing applications. Due to the critical nature of airplane development, R&D is demanding and uphill, with standards being critical and putting 3D printing technologies to the test. Fortunately, process and material development have been advancing in the aerospace industry, with some non-critical components already flying on airplanes.
High-profile users of AM include GE / Morris Technologies, Airbus / EADS, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, and Boeing. With these companies taking a realistic approach to what they are doing now with 3D printing technologies, and most of it is R&D, they understand the potential of 3D printing processes and materials. Learn more about 3D printing: A real game-changer for aeronautics.
The biggest drive for the luxury industry’s use of additive manufacturing is the ability to bring to their clientele a feel of exclusivity and luxury that only customization can provide without it being cost prohibitive. As a newbie in the 3D printing industry, the possibilities are endless; top luxury brands can create accessories, eyewear, footwear, molding, and internal structures for handbags and furniture. Additive manufacturing has a lot to offer this sector, and 3D printing accelerates the design process and time to market and enables on-demand production with high-quality materials and finishes. You can be sure to see top luxury brands begin to use AM for prototyping, small series, and mass production.
The robotics industry has found many applications for 3D printing, which offers the opportunity to produce unique parts while still conforming to the tight tolerances and perfect finishes that are expected and needed. From educational robotics to assembly line tooling and robotic arms, AM is proving to be a game changer for this industry. Since robotics projects involve hundreds or thousands of parts working together perfectly, 3D printing provides the cost-effective and on-demand manufacturing necessary for the robotics industry. For example, you can take your robotic grippers to the next level with 3D printing.
Discover how Generation Robots use 3D printing to produce Poppy, a Humanoid robot with 33 diverse components on-demand.
With short lead times and quick iterations, you can have your electronic casings manufactured on demand with 3D printing. Additive manufacturing is transforming the electronics industry. Innovate and rapidly produce prototypes for your electronic parts, and learn from the example of Koovea.
Now that you are familiar with all the 3D printing processes and the benefits of additive manufacturing technology, you are better prepared to determine if additive manufacturing technology is right for your project or business.
Check out how to choose between 3D printing processes to start your 3D printing journey.
With our online 3D printing services, you can find many technologies and materials mentioned above to start your 3D printing project today.
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