Starting around 2005, as 3D printing equipment lowered enough in cost to become a viable method of production for applications such as prototyping, design testing and short runs, the industry has seen major advances in the ways that this technology can be applied.
Along with this expansion of 3D printing applications came a major shift in interest and adoption of the technology. 3D printing even enjoyed a short time in the late 2000s as a “buzzword,” leading industry experts and observers to wonder, “Will 3D printers replace manufacturing?
How Is 3D Printing Changing the Manufacturing Industry?
The answer to the question of replacing manufacturing is, in most cases, “no” — at least in the foreseeable future. But if we look instead at how 3D printing will change manufacturing, that process is well underway. Once 3D printing reached the tipping point of accessibility in the mid-2000s, it led to changes occurring in several important areas of manufacturing. These include:
Advantages of 3D Printing
From the outset, 3D printing has always offered the promise of advantages over traditional manufacturing in certain scenarios. Throughout the evolution of 3D printing, as the technology has been developed, those advantages — and more — have become reality. Let’s take a look at some of them now:
The Future of 3D Manufacturing
The above benefits have major implications for where 3D printing can take us in the future.
The mobility aspect means replacement parts can now be created on extended missions (such as military missions or space exploration), instead of needing to be supplied in advance. This has a huge impact on the potential duration of these types of projects.
In addition, the speed, low cost and versatility of 3D printing drive access and innovation, meaning more creators are able to make their visions a reality, at lower costs.
Finally, the reduced waste created by 3D printing means a more environmentally friendly process overall, which over the long run can make a big difference in sustainability.
With all of these benefits and advantages in mind, we may one day not be asking “How has 3D printing changed manufacturing?” but rather “How has 3D printing changed the world?”