Like every other process and device both, the 3D printers and the process of 3D printing come with their own fair share of merits and demerits. Both of the merits and demerits are going to be discussed below:
Merits and Demerits of 3D Printing
Let’s talk about the merits and demerits of 3D printing in detail along with uses and examples.
Merits of 3D Printing
Flexibility in designing: There is no doubt that 3D printing offers the capability of designing and printing more complex designs than traditional manufacturing processes. With the use of 3D printing, the design restrictions that apply to more traditional processes can no longer be applied.
Faster Prototyping: A 3D printer is capable of manufacturing parts within hours, which means that the prototyping process can be sped up significantly. By doing this, each stage of the process can be completed more quickly. Comparatively to machining prototypes, 3D printing is both cost-effective and faster at creating parts as it allows the part to be constructed within hours, allowing designers to perform changes to the design at a much more efficient rate as compared to machining prototypes.
On-demand printing: One of the advantages of print-on-demand manufacturing is the fact that it does not take up a lot of space to keep inventory in stock, as opposed to traditional manufacturing methods. As a result, space is saved and costs are reduced since bulk printing isn’t necessary unless it is necessary.
It is very convenient to have all the 3D design files stored in a virtual library, so that you can find and print them when you need them since each 3D model is converted to either a CAD or STL file, depending on the application. It is possible to edit individual files of a design at very low costs by editing the files individually instead of wasting inventory and investing in tools that are out of date and are not needed.
Lighter weighing parts and Stronger parts: There are a lot of materials that are used in 3D printing, including plastic, but some metals can also be used in order to print 3D objects. In spite of this, plastics are easier to work with than their metal counterparts due to their lighter weight. Especially in industries such as the automotive and aerospace sectors, where lightweight is a concern and can be used to reach greater levels of fuel efficiency, this is particularly important.
It is also possible to manufacture parts using tailored materials in order to ensure that they provide specific characteristics such as heat resistance, high strength, and water resistance.
Quick design and quicker production: It is possible to print a part using 3D printing within hours, depending on the complexity of the design, which is much faster than printing a part using molds or machines. By using 3D printing, time can be saved in both the manufacturing as well as the design process. Not only can STL or CAD files be created ready to be printed, but it also speeds up the design process by providing ready-to-print STL or CAD files.
The lowest amount of wastage: As an alternative to other methods where large pieces of non-recyclable materials are cut from large pieces of non-recyclable scrap, the process of making parts uses only the raw materials needed to make the part as it is, with no or little waste involved. As a result of the process, we are not only saving resources, but we are also lowering the costs related to the materials.
Budget Friendly: By eliminating multiple steps from the manufacturing process, 3D printing is a much faster and more cost-effective alternative to the use of different machines in the production process. In addition to being able to set up and release three-dimensional printers for work, operators do not have to stay around this machine all the time.
Very easy to access: As more local service providers provide outsourcing services for manufacturing operations, 3D printers are becoming more widely available. In comparison to the more traditional manufacturing processes that are produced abroad, such as in countries like China, it saves time and does not require heavy transport costs.
Very eco-friendly process: As this technology reduces material wastage, this process has the inherent feature of being environmentally friendly, as it reduces the amount of waste produced. In addition to the environmental benefits, there are also benefits associated with using lightweight 3D-printed parts that enhance fuel efficiency, which is an additional benefit that has been taken into consideration.
Can be used in progressive healthcare: In the medical sector, 3D printing plays an important role in saving lives by printing organs such as livers, kidneys, and hearts for patients to help them cope with their diseases. It is expected that some of the biggest advances in the use of this technology will come from the healthcare sector, where further advances and uses are being developed.
Demerits of 3D printing
There are limitations to 3D printing technology, just as with practically any other procedure, that should be taken into account before using this process.
Restricted Resources: There are a variety of raw materials that can be used for 3D printing, including a variety of plastics and metals, but the choice of raw materials available is not exhaustive. It is because not all metals or plastics are capable of being temperature controlled sufficiently to be able to be used for 3D printing. Moreover, there are a lot of these printable materials that cannot be recycled, as well as very few of them that can be used in food.
Provincial size of the build: Due to the small print chamber of most 3D printers, it is not possible to print large parts due to the smaller size of the chambers. In the case of anything larger, it will have to be printed in separate parts and then assembled once the production process has been completed. Large parts may need to be printed several times before manual labor can join them together, resulting in an increase in cost and time.
Post Processing of 3D printers: While it is true that large parts that are printed in 3D need some form of post-processing in order to remove the support material from the build and smooth the surface in order to achieve the finish required, most 3D printed parts do not require any post-processing. A variety of methods are used for post-processing, such as water jetting, sanding, soaking and rinsing chemicals, drying by air or heat, assembling, and so forth.
It is important to keep in mind that the amount of post-processing required depends on a number of factors, including the size and type of the 3D printed part, the intended application, and the type of 3D printing technology that was used to create it. In other words, although 3D printing allows for the fast production of parts, it can be slowed by the post-production of the parts after they have been manufactured.
Immense volumes: Unlike more conventional techniques such as injection molding, which have a variable cost, 3D printing has a static cost. As a result, large volumes may make it more economic to produce 3D prints. As much as 3D printing involves a lower initial investment than other manufacturing techniques, the cost per unit is not reduced as quickly once you scale up to produce large quantities for mass production compared to injection molding, as would be the case with injection molding.
Structural part: In 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), parts are made layer by layer as they are built up from a variety of layers. There is no doubt that these layers adhere to each other, but at the same time, they are also capable of delaminating when certain stresses or orientations apply. It is more of a problem with items that are produced using fused deposition modeling (FDM) when compared to polyjet or multijet parts, which can also be more brittle.
It may be better to use injection molding in certain cases since it produces homogeneous components that are not likely to separate.
Lesser manufacturing job opportunities: In addition to the potential reduction in human labor due to the automated nature of 3D printing, another disadvantage of 3D technology is the potential reduction in the number of people in the manufacturing process. Many third-world countries rely on low-skilled jobs to maintain their economies, so the introduction of this technology could end up putting these manufacturing jobs at risk if it replaces the need for overseas production which is necessary to maintain their economies.
Inaccurate Design: There is also a potential problem with 3D printing, which is directly related to the sort of machine or process that is used. Some printers have lower tolerances, which means that the final parts may differ from the designs that were originally intended. It is possible to fix this in the post-production process, but it is important to take into account that this will increase production costs and time even further.
Fake products issues: There is an increasing possibility that counterfeit and fake products will be created as 3D printing is becoming more popular and accessible, and it will almost be impossible for people to tell the difference between a genuine product and a fake one. It is evident that this has issues related to copyright as well as quality control issues.
Use of 3D printers for Rapid Prototyping
Basically, it is a fast and relatively inexpensive way to get things done. A prototype can be built in as little as a couple of days instead of weeks from the time you get an idea, to a 3D model, to holding it in your hands. The process of iterating is simpler and cheaper to do, and you do not need any expensive tools or moulds to do so.
The use of 3D printing can also be used, in conjunction with rapid prototyping, as a means for rapid manufacturing, as well as rapid prototyping. It is a new method of manufacturing through which companies utilize 3D printers for producing small batches of custom products in small run batches is called rapid manufacturing.
Examples of some uses of 3D printing
As a result of 3D printing’s widespread use in almost every industry imaginable, 3D printing encompasses a multitude of different technologies and materials. As a result, it is important to look at it as a cluster of different industries with as many varying uses as possible. Some of the examples are as follows:
- Product categories (eyewear, footwear, furniture, design)
- The production of industrial products (tools and prototypes, as well as functional end-use components)
- Products used by dentists such as dentures and tooth modeling
- Props for movie sets
- Reconstruction of fossils
- Prosthetic limbs for handicapped patients
- Replication of ancient artifacts
- Diy projects for many hobbyists
- Making tools to be used in the kitchen