Guest post from Paul Munos at Uppler.com
Manufacturing costs can be reduced thanks to innovative technologies. 3D printing is one such technology that looks to steal the show and provide new possibilities to many industries. There are already several companies using the technology including Boeing, General Electric, Ford and Hasbro and whilst the technology has not reached its full potential, there are still some pretty amazing ways it is being used.
What is 3D printing about?
In its basic form, 3D printing creates a 3-dimensional object using an additive layering technique to form the shape. This differs from traditional subtractive manufacturing where a solid lump of material is whittled down for the final shape. Many different materials can be used in 3D printing and such things as airplane parts and hip replacements can be produced. Aside from the materials available, another benefit is the lack of physical tools required – You literally need the raw material and a 3D printer and you are good to go!
How is it currently used?
The main use of 3D printing today is still in the creation of prototypes as it has been since its first inception in 1983. The 3D printer greatly accelerated the prototype creation process and allowed businesses to speed up their overall production process from the initial stage of developing a prototype right through to creating the end product. Designers can literally imagine a prototype and within minutes have an actual model printed with which they can study and gauge the practicality of. This improved process gives businesses a huge saving in time and money. Now, 3D printing is also extending to the medical field. Forbes shared the story of Kaïba, a baby with severe breathing issues who has been saved by 2 doctors who created a 3D-printed lung splint device.
How have different companies benefited from 3D printing?
Several large businesses are reaping the benefits of 3D printing and using it for far more than just prototype creation. If these major players continue to push the technology then its development and implementation should progress at a rapid pace.
The major airplane manufacturer has used 3D printing technology for many years and has benefited by creating various plane parts for its range of vehicles. To date, the company has produced over 20,000 parts using 3D printing which range from small parts like hinges, right up to full-scale cabins! Not only do Boeing extensively use the technology, they also push the use of it and research in several universities.
GE has made huge investments in 3D printing and acquired a dedicated 3D printing company called Morris Technologies which it has integrated into its own business plan and pushed money into the 3D printing industry. Currently, GE’s aviation branch is creating Jet plane fuel novels in large amounts which are superior to their traditional assembly line counterparts in every way.
Ford has been using the technology in some form since the 1980’s. They make use of 3D printing for various vehicle parts such as engine covers for their Mustang range. It is reported that the use of 3D printing saves them a huge amount of money in production costs but the numbers has not been revealed. They even created the Ford 3D Store which allows Ford fans to create their printable 3D Ford models. The models are 1/32nd scale in plastic materials:
The toy producing giant has a huge range of children’s toys and figures that can benefit greatly from the 3D printing technology and indeed, Hasbro has invested money into it and formed a partnership with a reputable 3D printing company to look at ways to create their toys using this method.
Is the future bright for 3D printing?
While 3D printing is still mainly used in prototyping, all it takes is for more and more businesses like GE and Ford to invest in the technology and then prove to the public its huge benefits in saving money and others will follow. GE alone has outlined plans to invest large sums on money in the advancement of 3D printing and have aspirations to make it a more prudent method of manufacturing. Nevertheless, the use of 3D printing seems to have bad effects in some industries. Fashionista.com raises some risks about 3D printing in Fashion like a legal issue concerning copyrighting and the possibility to make a lot of manufacturing jobs obsolete.
The limits are endless
Several industry associates have pushed 3D printing to be the next big thing and for its worth to increase by billions in the next 5-10 years. Not only that but it is expected to account for 30% of the manufacturing industry when the technology is fully developed. There really is no limit as to how much this industry could grow if given the right means.
How can eCommerce retailers enjoy 3D printing?
One of the consequences of 3D printing is the possibility for eCommerce retailers to sell 3D-printed products online. Etsy, eBay and Walmart have already included 3D-printed solutions in their business models. For example, Walmart has a 3D printing service pilot program while eBay released an app in 2013, eBay Exact, that allows customers to buy personalized printed merchandise from different printing companies. It is enough to understand that these big companies involved in 3D-printed objects due to its huge business potential. Each eCommerce retailer or startup could imagine how to make the most of 3D printing by relying on these examples.
When you have prominent industry players like GE, Ford and Boeing pushing a technology, it inevitably gets noted and other businesses start to ask questions. Concrete success is a defining factor that pushes its development and further use.
However, we should not forget that 3D printing implies a strong investment for companies and does not offer an immediate ROI. So, you need to weigh the pros and cons of using 3D printing in your own industry.
Uppler.com is a wholesale marketplace aiming to connect brands and retailers worldwide, making their trades easier and their communication faster. We currently operate in Fashion & Accessories, Home & Decoration, Cosmetics, Electronics, Sports and Toys.You can find more blog articles about Wholesale, eCommerce, B2B Sales and Marketing on the Uppler Blog.
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