by Dan Fernback, Vice President & Co-Founder, Juggerbot 3D
3D printing is a fast-growing manufacturing technology with the potential to disrupt the way engineers design, manufacturers produce, and businesses function. There are already 3D printers in laboratories, on shop floors, and even in households. Just how big of an impact will this technology have on manufacturing in the future, though? How can we extract the truth from the hype or separate the fact from fiction? Let’s start by debunking some common myths about 3D printing.
Myth #1: 3D Printing can make anything.
While 3D printing offers unique design freedom and agility, 3D printing should not be used to make “everything”. Constraints in the process and performance of 3D printed parts needs to be carefully considered, especially for industrial applications. For instance, most 3D printed parts demonstrate anisotropic properties. The weakest point of the 3D printed part will generally be in the Z direction, which is dictated by the strength of the bond between each layer. The strength of the XY direction is going to be higher, benefitting from the continuous stream of material making each layer (Fig.1).
Myth #2: All 3D printers are the same.
The truth is, 3D printers differ based on the type of material being processed (ie. powder vs filament, commodity vs performance). There are seven different types of 3D printing techniques recognized today, and many contain multiple sub-techniques (Fig. 2). We can also draw distinction between printers based on their purpose. Desktop 3D printers are generally lower cost options used in less-demanding environments. Industrial 3D printers are built to endure pressing production requirements and can process higher performing materials. (Fig. 3)
Myth #3: 3D Printing is for smaller parts.
Many people seem to think that 3D printing can’t make big parts, when, the truth is, many 3D printers have been introduced to the market – especially in the past five years, that can produce large parts, or even make batch order quantities of many parts at the same time. In fact, the University of Maine is credited with owning the largest 3D printer in the world, having travel distances of 100 feet long, by 20 feet wide, and ten feet tall, which was used to successfully print a twenty-five-foot boat in just 70 hours (Fig. 4)! Along with the onset of large-scale printers in the recent past, several medium format machines have also been offered to better suit a wider range of manufacturers, like JuggerBot 3D’s Tradesman Series™ (Fig. 5).
Myth #4: 3D printing is limited to prototyping.
While it is a great tool for teams to rapidly produce early models of their designs, prototyping is just the tip of the iceberg for 3D printing. In fact, many companies have already started using 3D printing to make production aids, tooling, and end-use parts (Fig. 6)!
Growing with 3D Printing.
There has never been a better time for manufacturers to take advantage of 3D printing. More materials and capabilities are available then ever before, and pricing exists for companies of all sizes. The process of investigating and evaluating 3D printing solutions is daunting for many manufacturers, but there are plenty of resources to help guide the way.
Side Note: NWIRC, Juggerbot 3D, and JBM Technologies recently partnered to present the webinar, “A Manufacturing Leader’s Guide to 3D Printing”. If you missed it, you can view the webinar recording below.
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