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.

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Advanced materials used in 3D printing

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.

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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.

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Advantages of 3D printing over traditional 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.

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For companies looking for a more cost-effective and agile alternative to injection molding, 3D printing presents a unique opportunity. To create product variants, additive manufacturing can easily refine designs digitally instead of making new molds. Eliminating tooling reduces capital expenses and product turnaround time, and increases design freedom. Read on for a more in-depth breakdown of these advantages.

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3D printing is allowing companies to improve manufacturing capabilities, whether in-house or leveraging contract 3D printing services in a smart factory. Companies in many industries can see multiple benefits when they use 3D printing smart factories for high volume or low volume/high mix manufacturing. Here’s how companies can accelerate the go-to-market of new products from prototyping to high volume manufacturing.

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3D printing is a viable manufacturing method for volume and customized production in a number of industries, including footwear, aerospace engineering, and dentistry. Used for the last 35 years, 3D printing eliminates several steps from the traditional production method, significantly accelerating development without compromising product quality. 3D printing night guards and retainers offers several benefits for patients and dentists, making it increasingly the preferred method for developing dental devices.

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With flexibility and a high level of automation, 3D printing helps manufacturers accelerate new product introduction (NPI) and full-scale production. Commercialization of 3D printing systems in smart factories has also brought costs down, allowing more companies to take advantage of additive manufacturing services. When deciding how to scale up manufacturing of new or existing products, partnering with a smart factory leveraging 3D printing allows greater flexibility in manufacturing capacity, while accelerating production ramp-up and supporting a high mix-low volume suite of products.

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