3D Printing's Benefits To A Modern Business

By Joe Whittaker, freelance writer.

Somewhat quietly, 3D printing has progressed from a fun new technological concept to a technology with the potential to significantly impact a limitless range of industries.

Indeed, it’s not hard to see how any business with manufacturing and design needs could benefit from the automated generation of products from raw material. Beyond this basic assertion though, the following are some of the specific perks a modern business might enjoy from turning to 3D printing.

Greater Sustainability

In the past, 3D printing has actually had something of a negative reputation where sustainability is concerned. This is due mostly to the fact that plastics are at the core of the primary materials commonly used in 3D printing, and the worldwide sustainability effort is focused in part on reducing plastic use (and waste). At this point, however, it’s fair to say that this negative reputation is outdated.

Speaking to 3D printing’s relationship to sustainability, IT Reseller pointed out that 3D printing can now eliminate huge swaths of energy-sapping international supply chain, more or less suggesting that the localization of production that 3D printing provides does enough good to overcome any material-related harm. On top of that, 3D printing is also using a broader range of materials these days, meaning it isn’t the boon for plastics it was once thought to be. Furthermore, the materials that are used in 3D printing are used minimally, with relatively little generation of waste.

These factors can help a business to actually boost its sustainability practice (and by extension its reputation among eco-conscious modern consumers) by using 3D printing.

Fast & Accurate Production

For any business looking to generate a prototype or mass produce an entire line of products, traditional manufacturing can take a lot of time. Outsourcing designs to external manufacturers, in particular, can cause significant delays, and in some cases can involve unpredictable timelines. With modern 3D printing, however, there can be much quicker turnaround where these same processes are concerned.

Addressing the speed with which 3D printing orders can be turned around, Fictiv cites a range of one to three days, depending on the purpose of the order. A prototype design, for instance, can now be quoted almost instantaneously, and can be produced in a single day through fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology. Meanwhile, a larger product order full of custom parts or the beginnings of a product category can be turned around in three days by way of HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) tech.

Quick Product Adjustments

This relates to the points just made about fast and accurate production, but it’s worth mentioning briefly as a separate point. With traditional manufacturing, if a prototype comes back and proves to need adjusting, or a product order is somehow corrupted, the time spent fixing the issue can be extremely problematic, and sometimes even fatal, to a business. However, given the efficiency of 3D printing described above, these same mistakes can be corrected in short time. There may still be additional costs, but devastating delays are far less likely.

Tech-Forward Perception

Regarding sustainability above, we noted that a company can see its reputation for eco-friendliness boosted through 3D printing use. This is true in a more general sense too, though. Modern businesses often strive to present a tech-forward front, so as to convince consumers that they, the businesses, are doing new and interesting things. Think of an example like Tesla’s “Smart Summon” parking feature. According to The Verge, this fear has now been used over a million times, and is poised to become smarter with time - but right now, it’s largely a gimmick. Certainly there are some practical applications, such as an individual who struggles with mobility not having to navigate parking lots as often. But the real benefit of Smart Summon, at this point, is that it’s one more technologically cool thing Tesla is doing. 

3D printing may not be quite the same thing, but a modern business can take advantage of it in a similar way. Simply by advertising that materials are produced via 3D printing, a business can gain an edge and immediately seem more modern, more interesting, and more innovative.

Beyond these concepts, individual businesses can benefit in any number of ways specific to their product lines or services. There’s really no limit to 3D printing’s utility. All of the above can apply to most modern companies with any kind of manufacturing component though, which speaks to the immense value of this technology in industry today.

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