3D printing is one of the most revolutionary technologies to have ever hit the world of manufacturing, and what we're seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been talks of everything from houses and roads to entire vehicles being 3D printed in the future, and many companies are already using 3D printing for prototyping and manufacturing products at a mass scale. 3D printing still has a few drawbacks and limitations that need to be considered, however. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of 3D printing in manufacturing.
Pro - Mass Production at a Low Price
One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing is that you can manufacture products in mass without requiring tons of space and for much cheaper than many other methods. You can either decide to buy a 3D printer and print products yourself or outsource production to a service like Rapidpsi.com. This allows small startups to fulfill large orders and scale their business fast in a cost-effective way.
Con - Limited Material Options
There are still many limits to what you can 3D print nowadays, however, and most of it has to do with the limited choice of materials that you can use. You can do 3D manufacturing with a good number of plastics and metals, but the issue is that not all of them can be temperature controlled at a level that would allow them to be used for 3D printing. So, you will need to do a lot of research before you have a product printed to make sure that it will be possible with the material you had in mind.
Pro - Manufacturing on Demand
3D printing allows you to only manufacture items as needed. This can be very useful for companies with little capital, as they will be able to get started with little to no inventory.
Con - Intellectual Property Issues
You will have to take additional steps to protect your products from counterfeiting since parts and items can easily be replicated through 3D printing. You will need to be very careful when sharing designs with people in your organization, for example, or someone else might get their hands on it and create almost identical pieces. Make sure that IP protection plays a central role in your operation from now on.
Pro - Rapid Prototyping
Another major benefit of 3D printing is that it allows you to create prototypes faster. You can literally have a full prototype manufactured in minutes when it could take days with regular machining. And it will be much cheaper as well.
Con - Size Issues
Since 3D printing machines with large chambers are not that common yet, you will either have to stick to smaller products or have parts made separately and assembled after. If you decide to create parts, you'll have to factor in the costs and complexity that come with the creating and assembling process and see if it makes sense.
3D printing is very promising as a technology and will continue to get better with time. It still isn’t perfect, however, and you will need to learn as much about it as you can before you consider it as an option.