3D printing has already changed the production scope of many industries; notably, this article explores how five early adopters of supply chain digitalisation have improved their business models.
Industrial 3D printing requires industrial level 3D printers to produce prototypes, end-use parts, architectural components and much more. The value of incorporating 3D printing or additive manufacturing into supply chains can achieve rapid prototyping, serial digital production and innovative product geometries, which achieve lower costs and faster return rates.
3D Printing in the Aerospace and Defence Industry
The Aerospace and Defence (A&D) industry were one of the earliest adopters of 3D printing, with a current 16.8% hold in the additive manufacturing market. One of the main benefits of industrial 3D printing is that prototypes can be developed much faster, A&D 3D printing is so finely tuned that 3D printed-parts are functionally used in modern aircrafts.
As the manufacturing of planes is expensive, optimising cost-effective production is a significant aim for the A&D industry. With commercial 3D printing, complex aeroplane parts can be created in small batches avoiding the need to invest in expensive tooling equipment.
3D printers also create lighter parts than conventionally made parts overall reducing the weight of an aircraft, resulting in fuel savings, reduced carbon emissions and faster plane travel with optimised engine performance.
3D Printing in the Automotive Parts Industry
The Automotive parts industry is the largest growing user of additive manufacturing, slowly changing the entire supply chain of traditional automotive designs. To highlight this growth, profits related to additive manufacturing in the Automotive industry are set to reach $5.8 billion in 2025.
Like the A&D industry creating lightweight and durable vehicle parts is one of the biggest benefits from 3D printing, allowing complex geometries to be quickly produced. Although unlike A&D, prototyping is the main application of 3D printing in the automotive industry. Allowing for a quick and cost-effective examination of parts before they are manufactured on a large-scale, dramatically accelerating the traditional product development processes.
In addition, additive manufacturing produces excellent design flexibility, as changes and modifications can be altered in a fast turnaround. Which also makes customisable vehicles easier to create, as the technology can quickly produce personalised parts in both the interior and exterior parts of the vehicle.
3D Printing in the Consumer Goods Industry
Key players in the Consumer Goods industry are increasingly using 3D printing in their manufacturing and product development, in order to remain competitive and keep up with current consumer demands and industry trends.
In recent times, 3D printers have become more affordable due to their wide-spread demand, allowing small-scale designers and engineers to break into the competitive market by creating products that are of equal quality to the mass-produced products. Hence, creating equal opportunities within the industry and avoids the risk of one company holding an exploitative monopoly.
Again, 3D printers have enhanced the manufacturing of prototypes in the consumer goods industry. Not only allowing products to hit the shelves quicker but enabling products to be cheaper to produce, as manufacturing is in small batches which are tailored to the custom demands of consumers.
3D Printing in the Medical & Dental Industry
The Medical and Dental industry is also one of the fastest-growing adopters of additive manufacturing, 97% of medical professionals agree 3D printing will continue to increase within the sector, from medical devices, prosthetics and even bioprinting.
As commercial 3D printing allows for quicker and more cost-effective product processes, the ability to provide personalised patient care is the most significant benefit for the medical industry, enhancing the solutions of patient care. For example, medical devices such as prosthetics and implants can be produced faster and more affordable than conventional manufacturing methods, improving the health of individuals quicker and at a lower price.
As well, prototyping and manufacturing of new medical products are optimised, producing products onto the market faster, providing wide-spread and afford medical solutions to people who are in pain or who are suffering.
3D Printing in the Industrial Goods Industry
From the production of machinery components, tooling and equipment used in the manufacture of other goods, designers and engineers in the industrial goods sector have increasingly incorporated 3D production printing to maintain innovation, operational agility and keep costs down.
As 3D printing requires no tooling, manufactures can produce rapid prototyping, reducing the time needed to create individual parts and costs can be cut by shorter labour times. Designs with complex geometries which are impossible to produce by human labour can be easily manufactured with 3D printers with simple on-demand production.
Where to Source 3D Printers
The potential of 3D printing is still in its infancy; in the coming years, almost all industries and companies will use the technology to enhance their manufacturing and supply chains. The best industrial 3D printer depends entirely on what industry and what products you produce. For example, mass-produced products are best suited to FDM 3D printers, and small-scale designers would best suit a resin SLA printer.