Every organization – no matter its industry, size, or offering – must increasingly rely on digital technology to improve efficiency and deliver improved value. Digital transformation is the process and strategy of using this technology to dramatically change how businesses operate and serve customers.
One element of digital transformation is the use of 3D printing, and it would be an understatement to say this process has revolutionized the manufacturing industry! In addition to the value inherent in producing complex parts quickly, there are several ways 3D printing significantly improves manufacturing. Let’s examine three aspects here: tooling, prototyping, and efficiency.
The introduction of 3D printing into a manufacturing environment impacts tooling in several ways:
Reduced tooling costs: Traditional manufacturing produces parts by creating a custom mold or tooling. This process can be expensive and time-consuming – especially for complex parts. Today’s 3D printers can create complex shapes without special tooling, drastically reducing or eliminating tooling costs.
Less waste: When using tooling, the process of subtractive manufacturing is common. This approach involves removing or cutting away material from a larger piece to create the object in its desired shape. With 3D printing, the object is built layer-by-layer, using the exact amount of material necessary, resulting in significantly less waste.
Customization: In traditional manufacturing, customization usually occurs through retooling existing equipment, which can be a significant investment of time and money. 3D printing often allows for the customization of products without any additional costs.
Whereas traditional manufacturing often requires weeks or months to create prototypes, 3D printing enables manufacturers to produce prototypes and test them within hours or days. Savings appear in several additional ways:
No need for tooling: As mentioned above, the design and creation of tooling is often a substantial part of the traditional prototyping process timeline and cost. Skipping this step saves time and money.
Rapid iteration of designs: 3D printing allows designers to quickly create and test a design in multiple ways, leading to more rapid identification of design flaws and reducing the overall time and cost to bring a new product to market. In addition, this quick form of prototyping enables designers to investigate and meet specific customer requirements more easily.
Material recycling: Many commonly-used 3D printing materials can be recycled and reused in subsequent prototypes.
Simplified overall prototyping process: The overall process is facilitated through the combination of faster iteration on design concepts and no longer needing customized tooling. Process simplification brings with it communication ease, reduced scheduling or resource conflicts, and fewer errors in decision-making.
In addition to the efficiency introduced through changing needs in tooling and prototyping, 3D printing provides additional opportunities for improved efficiency, including:
Supply chain streamlining: When parts and products are created using 3D printing at or near the use location, it simplifies the supply chain by reducing the need for warehousing, transportation, and inventory management.
Reduced labor costs: 3D printing requires less manual labor than traditional manufacturing methods, leading to increased efficiency and lower costs.
Reduced delivery times: With faster prototyping comes faster time-to-market. 3D printing allows manufacturers to produce parts and products on demand, eliminating the need to wait for parts to be manufactured and shipped.
3D printing has the potential to transform the manufacturing industry and is already doing so in many ways. Constantly looking for approaches to improve your process is one step to improving manufacturing efficiency.
At Thurman Co., we help businesses manage projects to significantly impact their success and growth. When you’re ready to put your project in the hands of a trusted professional organization, contact us to learn more about working together.