Back to Basics: Benefits of Metal 3D Printing
3D printing has changed the landscape of manufacturing. 3D printing is a more agile process than other fabrication methods — allowing manufacturers to go from design to complex metal parts faster, easier, and at lower costs.
Implementing metal 3D printing correctly can greatly improve business efficiency and agility — whether through eliminating the need for detail drawings and machine programming, or drastically shortening lead times that bog down product development processes.
This blog post provides an overview of concrete business benefits and technical benefits that organizations can achieve with successful implementation of metal 3D printing technologies.
Business Benefits of Metal 3D Printing
As a nascent technology, many of metal 3D printing’s tangible business benefits were obscured by the hype surrounding the technology. As the technology has matured significantly, metal 3D printing applications have diversified, and its value for the bottom line of businesses has emerged in three clear ways:
Getting products to market faster. By shortening product development cycles with an easy 3D metal printing process, organizations can generate more revenue.
Iteration is the most important part of product development — more iterations makes the product better, but too many will cause missed deadlines and lost revenue. While a lot of work goes into each iteration, much of the time is spent on waiting. Waiting decreases the number of iterations that can be made, and the risks that can be taken.
Metal additive manufacturing is purpose built to accelerate product development. With a metal 3D printer, organizations can quickly and affordably prototype functional parts. Once a design is locked, this technology can help to produce tools, fixtures, and other parts that produce parts faster. In some cases, they can print low-volume end use parts, which eliminates manufacturing spin-up time altogether.
Reducing manufacturing costs. Manufacturing is expensive — it requires skilled labor, advanced machines, and custom tooling all working in tandem to effectively produce parts. Optimized manufacturing lines are efficient but often inflexible. In other cases, machines are stuck producing tooling and other non-revenue-generating parts, while skilled labor is often stuck triaging problems instead of making new parts.
Metal 3D printing increases flexibility in manufacturing and allows for more time spent producing revenue generating parts. Whether it’s producing tooling and fixtures, mitigating unplanned downtime, or automating simple tasks, these machines help organizations leverage resources to produce parts more affordably.
Replacing inefficient manufacturing workflows. Inefficient manufacturing workflows — like complex purchasing processes, unexpected downtime, third party manufacturers, and extended fabrication queues — create problems that extend through an entire organization. Simple logistical problems can wreak havoc.
3D printing metal parts will help organizations become more dynamic and responsive. Utilizing a metal 3D printer enables organizations to compress product timelines and reduce the labor, time and money between a CAD design and a functional part. Markforged’s 3D metal printing process is designed for ease of use — parts can be digitally stored, updated, and then printed on-demand in a seamless, intuitive workflow.
Technical Benefits of Metal 3D Printing
The technical benefits of using 3D metal printing technology expand far beyond the capability to create ultra-complex parts. They come from manufacturing challenges that metal 3D printing is better suited to tackle than conventional fabrication methods. Companies that successfully adopt additive manufacturing apply its unique advantages to the challenges that they face.
Ability to design geometrically complex parts. Why should organizations let designs be limited by traditional manufacturing constraints?
Furthermore, in metal 3D printing, complexity is free. Unlike conventional manufacturing, additive manufacturing is cost-independent from part complexity. Compared to subtractive CNC machines, it’s more adept at curved, natural shapes and intricate geometries. As a result, complex parts are cheaper, easier, and faster to produce with a metal 3D printer.
Metal 3D printers are uniquely suited to fabricate complex parts. From the ultra-complex to process-optimized, they can print everything from generatively designed structures to custom cooling channels. For these parts, 3D printed metal strength performs well in demanding applications.
Furthermore, 3D printers can make parts — with complex curves, shapes, or cavities — where conventional subtractive manufacturing processes can't remove material.
Ability to manufacture parts without tooling. Many traditionally manufactured parts require custom tooling and fixtures. These parts, while critical to the manufacturing process, occupy manufacturing bandwidth without generating revenue. For low volume production parts in particular, tooling costs can make fabrication cost-prohibitive.
No custom tooling or fixturing setups are needed to run a metal 3D printer, regardless of the parts printed. This reduces overhead costs associated with manufacturing and produces low-volume parts more quickly and affordably.
Ability to produce parts without detail drawings or CAM. Machined parts require drawings, CAM, or both — 3D printed metal parts do not. Metal 3D printing software automatically generates and executes the tool paths required to build the part. Instead of generating drawings and programming CAM, all manufacturers have to do is orient a part and select materials and basic print settings.
In addition to automatically generating toolpaths, most metal 3D printers require little to no supervision while fabricating parts. Manufacturers can go from design to part with shorter lead times and less labor.
Download our Free Guides to Metal 3D Printing
Interested in learning more about metal additive manufacturing? Download our free metal 3D printing guides for more information:
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