3D printing allows customization, design freedom, easier assembly, and for the small manufacturer, it allows for low-cost, low volume production.
For a small manufacturer, the most expensive and labor intensive part of product development is the production of the tooling. 3D printing eliminates these costs, as it removes the need for tool production, which also cuts lead times and labor.
The advantage of 3D printing molds over the standard steel or aluminum molds is the lead time and cost. It takes many weeks to build typical tooling molds. Mistakes in the mold design do not show until after machining.
Len Calderone, in Manufacturing Tomorrow, suggests “if a manufacturer produces less than 1,000 pieces, 3D manufacturing will optimize production. In manufacturing, the more that you produce, the lower the cost becomes. This is especially true when manufacturing plastic items. Injection molding is very expensive when the production is low. This is where 3D printing becomes feasible, as the production rate increases up to 20 times and the cost is lower. A company can purchase around twenty 3D printers for the cost of one injection molding system. Not only can the company raise its production rate, but it will use labor more efficiently.”
>Read more from Manufacturing Tomorrow, 4/28/16