Additive manufacturing is often associated with low-volume production or prototyping. Some 3D printers are developed for the sole purpose of rapid prototyping. Still, innovations in 3D printing technology have made high-volume production both feasible and often the best solution for accelerating a new product to market. 3D printing has no tooling costs and very few design limitations. Companies can implement 3D printing solutions from innovation through production, eliminating certain drawbacks associated with traditional manufacturing.
Dentists, aerospace engineers, footwear manufacturers, and other industries utilize 3D solutions to streamline production processes, expand design possibilities, create better-performing products, and enable a more resilient supply chain.
The traditional method used to produce oral devices is time-consuming and inconvenient for patients. It is a multi-appointment process that involves creating manual, oral impressions and outsourcing them to a dental lab for fabrication. Device turnaround can take 2 to 4 weeks to complete. Dentists can accelerate the process by switching to a digital workflow that utilizes an intraoral scanner and 3D printer. Intraoral scanners eliminate the need for manual, oral impressions, and 3D printers produce oral devices more quickly than conventional processes.
Traditional footwear manufacturing is a time-consuming process that often limits designs. With high tooling costs and production limitations, initial designs, tooling, and prototyping can take months to complete and require significant investments. The final product design must fit the production method, and processes, like injection molding, can constrain the design. Products need to be developed so that tools can be built for mass production. Designers who work with injection molding must often reconfigure their product layouts to meet production criteria after the prototyping stage.
Many manufacturers’ first exposure to 3D printing was through fused deposition modeling, in which plastic filaments extrude through a nozzle during printing. Materials used in 3D printing were formerly confined to plastics and weak metal alloys that could be extruded at low temperatures. The scope of 3D-printable materials has grown considerably to include various metals, polymers, organic materials, ceramics, and even biological materials.
Traditionally, a 3D printing process supported only functional prototypes or finished products. With advancements in 3D printing technologies and materials, the same machine and 3D printing process can produce prototypes and finished products. To scale, connected 3D printers can seamlessly print the same product at a 3D printing smart factory, making it easier to get a new product onto a production line for high volume manufacturing. Here’s an overview for getting a design into high-volume production with 3D printing.
By the end of 2020, the total revenue connected to 3D printed footwear production is projected to reach $1.4 billion, an upward trend over the last few years. According to a recent footwear manufacturing industry analysis, it is expected to grow at a 19.5% CAGR to $6.5 billion by 2029. Final parts such as uppers,…
There are many considerations in choosing high volume vs. low volume manufacturing. Additive manufacturing offers a viable option for any volume. It also enables manufacturers to implement a more agile business model with less risk. Here’s how additive manufacturing is reducing the gap between high volume vs. low volume manufacturing.
3D printing is often perceived as slower and more expensive than traditional production methods. Many companies incorrectly assume it to be inaccessible because it’s different and more complex. However, improvements in 3D printing technologies and increased material performance have made additive manufacturing a viable alternative. Increased agility, reduced costs and risks, and onshoring will accelerate product design through production more effectively than traditional manufacturing methods.
The short lifespan of footwear, especially running shoes, leads to large amounts of waste. Most shoes are non-biodegradable and end up in landfills where they can take 30 to 40 years to decompose. 3D printing can increase sustainability in footwear manufacturing and the final consumer product.