3D printing is a versatile manufacturing process; however, many uses of 3D printing are still shrouded in mystery. The lightweight, low cost, and rapid prototyping/manufacturing aspects of 3D printing will soon replace subtractive manufacturing methods such as CNC machining.
This article details the 7 most practical uses for 3D printing and a few that may change the world. Who knows, after reading this you may get some ideas for your own project.
1.Low Cost/Rapid Prototyping
3D printing allows for the rapid prototyping of parts in just a few hours whereas traditional methods may take several weeks. A part is designed in CAD software, printed, and held in hand in just a few hours. If necessary revisions can be made and a new prototype printed with minimal time lost.
With 3D printing also comes significantly lower prototyping costs when compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing methods. 3D printing uses less material and is capable of creating complex geometry that CNC machines can not.
2.Short Run Production
Not ready to sink thousands of dollars into a full-blown production run or only need 10 to 100 parts? 3D printing is a great way to produce a number of parts in short order. Parts are also produced at low cost when compared to traditional methods.
Can’t find the parts you need? Just print them. Designing replacement parts or scanning old parts and 3D printing replacements is a great way to get the parts you need now or can’t find anywhere else.
Unique parts can be designed or scanned and then printed in a number of strong and durable materials to fulfill a variety of applications. Take a look at all of the functional materials offered by Tri Vector Printing on our services page.
4.High Strength to Weight Ratio End Use Parts
3D printing methods lend themselves well to topology optimizing and light weighting parts while still maintaining the intended strength. Check out the GE engine bracket GrabCAD challenge winners for a prime example.
This is made possible by the nature of 3D printing itself. Printers can produce parts that are hollow with infill or have complex geometry that reduces material in key areas where it is not needed. This makes it possible to reproduce strong organic shapes that create a lightweight part while retaining the desired strength and safety factor.
3D printing is a great way to make custom educational models that show the structure of molecules, assemblies to demonstrate the fit or movement of parts, and models of the human body. The sky is the limit.
3D printing has allowed for the manufacture of affordable and custom prosthetic limbs almost overnight for patients who can’t afford the traditional prosthetic device.
The remaining limb is often scanned and a socket can be printed to fit the patient exactly. This method not only speeds up the prosthetic build time but also alleviates the cost of custom prosthetics for patients whose insurance may not cover prosthetics.
Additionally, 3D printed prosthetics are easily replaced if damaged or outgrown. This is especially important for children who may need several prosthetics throughout their life as they grow.
7.Jigs, Fixtures, and Tooling
3D printing allows for the rapid and cost-effective manufacture of custom jigs, fixtures, and tooling. Compared to traditional manufacturing methods 3D printing is especially useful for jigs, fixtures, and tooling that may be used only a few times before it is obsolete.
3D Printing also provides a freedom of design that is far superior to traditional methods which allows the designer to use less material while still maintain the utility and complex geometry of the jig or fixture.