Believe it or not, 3D printing has been around for the last 30 years. But with its increasing popularity spreading rapidly to the consumer market and HP’s forthcoming emergence in the UK market, it’s becoming a hot topic. Have you ever considered how investing in this revolutionary technology could benefit your short run manufacturing?
Let’s start with the technical bit, how does it work?
3D printers work using an additive process, in which an object is shaped by forming layers of material. Each layer is seen as a very thin horizontal cross-section of the object. To create an object, it first needs to be virtually designed, either using a 3D modelling application, or, if copying an existing object, with a 3D scanner. A 3D scanner can make a 3D digital copy of an object.
A 3D model needs to be prepared before it is ready to be printed – this is known as slicing. Slicing divides the model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers, either from within the 3D modelling software application, or from a certain slicing tool for a specific 3D printer. Once the 3D model is sliced, it is ready to go to print. This can be done via USB, SD or wifi, depending on the brand and type of printer. The 3D printer then reads every slice (2D image) and creates a three dimensional object.
So now you know how it works, why would you invest in this technology?
The business benefits of incorporating 3D printing into your everyday operations are vast.
1. Product development
As 3D printers are becoming more affordable, investing in one would enable you to start creating your own prototypes, testing out numerous variations of a product design, as a cost-effective alternative to outsourcing your product development.
2. Product personalisation
If your business often receives requests from clients to customise their products to meet their needs, you will know how difficult and expensive it can be to order a part to a precise specification from a third party supplier. Owning your own 3D printer and software empowers you to customise items, increasing customer satisfaction.
3. Providing 3D printing services
As more businesses invest in 3D printers, the market is significantly growing. If it fits with your business plan, you could consider expanding to offer 3D printing services, such as photos, duplicating objects, etc.
4. Cost Savings
Not only does having a 3D printer in-house mean you’ll save costs on product development, you can also avoid minimum order quantities from manufacturers, which often require you to order more than you actually need/ use.
5. Time Savings
3D printers have the functionality to manufacture objects in hours. This is a huge advantage compared to traditional manufacturing methods, which can take days or even weeks to produce from prototype to end product. This could lead to utilising an ‘on demand’ manufacturing model, saving further costs on warehouse/ storage overheads.
Time will also be saved on generating and placing orders, approving proofs and other related processes.
6. Avoid mass production
As previously mentioned, owning your own 3D printer allows you to produce low volume batches as opposed to the minimum order quantity demands of third party manufacturers. It also means you can produce as many prototypes as you like without having to repeatedly order factory made models.
7. Creating complex components
3D printing provides endless flexibility when it comes to creating complicated shapes and structures. Unlike traditional manufacturing, which relies on moulding or machining certain set shapes, it gives you the ability to design the optimum strength-to-weight object.
8. Greener manufacturing
Not only does owning your own 3D printer mitigate the need for transportation, it also reduces the volume of raw materials being used, hence creating less waste. Manufacturing metals and plastics often results in a lot of surplus material. Reducing waste is not only a cost saving benefit but also makes 3D printing typically more eco-friendly. Showing your organisation takes responsibility for its impact on the environment impresses your customers.
According to the Economist, “a finished 3D printed product can be up to 60% lighter compared to a machined part, but still as sturdy.”
What impact will 3D printing have in the future?
It is predicted that as the technology continues to evolve, 3D printing will have a massive impact on industry. With end users being able to produce more of their own manufacturing, there will be less need to trade with other organisations.
With the ability to print using different materials in multiple colours, 3D printing is continuously improving and products being created will become much more functional.
And this future concept may be closer to reality than you think. Meet the mighty HP Voxel – ready to revolutionise 3D printing and change the way your business operates…
“We’re really excited about HP’s entrance into the 3D printer market and can’t wait to see how the HP solutions will transform 3D printing and its use across a wide variety of “short run manufacturing” use cases” Howard Hall, Group Managing Director, DTP Group
But what is a voxel?
In 3D printing, a voxel represents a value on a regular grid in a three-dimensional space; like a pixel with volume. Each voxel contains volumetric information that will essentially bring a product to life with the desired properties.
HP’s unique Open Platform approach is consistently developing 3D printing, by introducing new materials, improving performance and creating new possibilities for industry specific parts. Reinvent how you prototype and produce functional parts 10 times faster at half the cost, with the new HP Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions.