In an article that addresses the accessibility of 3D printing to today’s businesses as well as hobbyists and designers, Nermin Hajdarbegovic, technical editor for toptal, helps to clarify the difference technologies as well as the benefits and challenges of taking on 3D printing. Hajdarbegovic states, “3D printing is not a new technology, but recent advances in several fields have made it more accessible to hobbyists and businesses.” He also poses some important questions.
What does 3D printing accessibility mean to large and small businesses? Does access to and the use of 3D printers make all parties equal? Is the speed and success of a project in the hands of the operator or the instrument?
“3D printing is still not a mature technology,” Hajdarbegovic states, “which means there is not a lot in the way of standardization," he goes on to say, "I think we need to distinguish between two very different niches in the 3D printing, or additive manufacturing industry.”
He points to the RepRap Project as a 10-year old open-source platform used by designers and developers (RepRap stands for Replicating Rapid Prototyper) which has made 3D printing more accessible to freelancers. However, RepRap "was created as a tech-first initiative… it was all about pioneering various technologies,” he states, “and bringing them to the hobbyist market at low cost.” He says RepRap cannot be used in many industries and goes on to describe the differences between several 3D printing technologies - FFF/FDM, Granular printers, Stereolithography (SLA) - and why this matters to businesses as well as freelance developers and designers.
Although 3D printing is not a new technology, there are some key limiting factors pointed out in the article:
- Prohibitively expensive hardware
- Limited user expertise
- Price/performance, ROI
- Running costs
- Energy efficiency
The article states, “The reason why businesses aren’t lining up to buy 3D printers is simple: ROI. 3D printers still can’t come close to traditional manufacturing methods in terms of speed, cost and energy efficiency…3D printers won’t render traditional manufacturing techniques obsolete soon.”
Hajdarbegovic points out that fulfillment services are an option for rapid prototyping that may “allow small businesses to take advantage of sophisticated 3D printing infrastructure without burning capital… They put professional services within the reach of individuals, start ups, and small businesses who otherwise couldn’t afford certain printing techniques.”
The article delves into more probing questions such as, “will 3D printing change the way we do business? Will it enable rapid prototyping or even cheap small-scale manufacturing?”
Today, 3D printing is being used by some companies in the medical device development and manufacturing industry. When a seasoned, traditional medical device manufacturer utilizes the dynamic functionality of 3D printing alongside proven manufacturing processes with a robust Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Quality Management System (QMS), this can help to balance the scales of cost, speed and efficiency. Experienced contract manufacturing firms, like KMC Systems, utilize the latest advancements in high-end, precision 3D printers while applying a depth of experience in multiple disciplines to seamlessly handle unique manufacturing needs from prototype to full-scale commercial production. If you’d like to learn more about KMC Systems, download our brochure.
To read the full article “3D Printing: Should Designers And Developers Take Notice?” on toptal.com, click here.