3D printing is increasingly becoming a viable, or even indispensable, production technology for still more companies. And its impact goes far beyond the production setup itself, also influencing business models and how we develop products in the first place.
Low volume production runs are one of the most obvious business cases for 3DP production today, but companies are already taking advantage of advantages far beyond that. In the aerospace industry, for example, GE is using metal 3D printers to produce a redesigned fuel injection system for jet engines. The technology made it possible to reduce more than 20 parts to just 1, resulting in a much more efficient unit.
A world of new opportunities
Mass adaption of 3DP production may not be right around the corner. But the technology has reached a level of maturity that makes it interesting for product developers: “The use of 3D printing for actual production can open an entire world of new opportunities”, explains Martin Pråme, Managing Partner in Attention. “For example, engineers can rely on much more complex constructions to create stronger, lighter or more efficient structures that simply can’t be manufactured with traditional methods”.
Martin Pråme believes we’ll see a lot more companies starting to consider the potentials of 3DP production. Here are some of the perspectives he suggests looking into:
More efficient manufacturing
For starters, 3DP production has the potential to make manufacturing much more efficient. Setting up production without the need to produce special tools and molds is both faster and a lot cheaper, while the additive process of 3D printing inherently helps reduce waste of materials from e.g. drilling. Furthermore, 3D printing allows for more complex constructions, potentially reducing the number of subsequent steps in, for example, assemblying.
Easier and cheaper mass customization
Being able to offer your customers individual customization is a great way to add value to your product. It’s usually also expensive and adds production steps and time. 3DP production allows for much more cost and time efficient customization, making it a more attractive and viable business strategy.
Less inventory, longer product life
The potential benefits of 3DP production are not limited to the product itself. Sending a new product to the market often also means producing a large number of spare parts that needs to be kept on stock and distributed, potentially over many years.
With 3D printing, the same spare parts can be produced on demand when – and where – they’re needed. And many products will have a longer life cycle, because spare parts are still available.
A new era for product innovation
Initially, the focus of product development will likely be on redesigning existing products to reap specific advantages of 3DP production. But eventually, companies will be compelled to rethink many of their products entirely, exploring new construction principles and design concepts that make way for product innovations we can only begin to imagine today.
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