Potentially, many, many years from now, 3D printing will expand to replace traditional manufacturing as we know it today. However, this is not likely to be something we see in our lives. In the near future, 3D printing could significantly modify some processes within the industry. For the past ten years or so, we have seen 3D printing technology, also called additive manufacturing, gain momentum in the industry.
In fact, it has become so commonplace that some speculate that it could replace traditional manufacturing in the not-too-distant future. While I can see many benefits from this incredible new technology, and while I agree that it will one day affect our lives, such as the way in which we as consumers purchase many common household items, I have reservations about how much the need for manufacturing processes will ultimately change traditional as we know them. Due to limitations in the mixing of printing materials and the fact that the materials available for use in printing are not always the best for a particular application, everything that can be printed should not be printed. We often seek to explain the world in the simplest terms so that the masses understand our point of view.
However, the idea of 3D printing replacing traditional manufacturing is a thorough assessment of the technology and the benefits it can bring. The complexity of modern manufacturing and understanding of the methods of mass and scale production of certain products that 3D printing may never match is lost. And it's driven by anecdotal evidence in which one technology replaced another in the past, to the point that this is supposed to be the rule. But just because transistors destroyed the vacuum tube industry, CDs replaced cassette tapes and DVRs replaced VHS, ending production of those industries' components doesn't mean that 3D printing will do the same in every industry.
Then there is the relative cost of high-volume production. Sure, if you're just making a small batch of 100 items or less, it could be cheaper and easier to 3D print. But if you're manufacturing items in the 100,000, then more traditional methods will probably give you better value for money. For example, those working in architecture, construction and industrial design companies often use 3D printing for prototyping, as do those in the fashion, food and medical industries, to a much lesser extent.
This week's selection is the massive MCGYBEER, a contributor to Articulated Dragon by Cults, and printed to scale by Metalhead Printing. Therefore, rather than considering 3D printing as a replacement for traditional manufacturing, consider it as a way to expand the field of manufacturing or improve manufacturing processes. However, there is currently no 3D printer that can successfully print complex combinations, such as plastic, with an internal metal structure. Beginning in the late eighties and early nineties, the first iterations of 3D printing (or rapid prototyping) were used to create prototypes in a relatively short period of time.
And, with 3D printing, there's no longer a need to worry about details, such as undercuts, which are potentially impossible when using more traditional methods. In fact, most applications where 3D printing is used surprise me most of the time. The rise of 3D printing has led some to speculate on the transformative effects it could have on traditional supply chains. However, some analysts have pointed out that 3D printing will not replace traditional manufacturing in its entirety; it will only improve on a few select components of the traditional supply chain.
Along with technological advances, such as advanced robotics and open source electronics, 3D printing is making its way onto the agendas of business leaders looking to streamline manufacturing and distribution processes. All you have to do is sit on your sofa, download a model and 3D print it on your desk while you have your morning coffee. It's not a particular problem if the 3D printer lives in a large warehouse, but it can be problematic to have a closet full of different types of filaments, for every 3D printing eventuality. .