3D printing is part of the digitization of the manufacturing process from the initial design and production to spare parts. 3D printing is making the transition from prototypes to finished goods by going beyond the limited functionality of a single item to meeting more demanding manufacturing requirements.

Manufacturers need to rethink the design principles, shapes and forms that worked with subtractive manufacturing, but are entirely dissimilar to additive 3D printing. To benefit from 3D printing in production manufacturing, companies should rethink design methods and principles, and foster new standards for 3D printing as well as the skill sets to use them.

Leading the implementation of 3D printing is low-volume, high-cost parts that are difficult to produce. 3D printing is best where the volume is low or where change is frequent—situations where subtractive manufacturing is least effective.

When selecting an industrial 3D printer, match the type of technology with your production requirements. When searching for a printer, look for features, such as resolution, size and manufacturing method. What will you be printing? Will it be prototypes or production pieces? Some printers print with durable plastic, while some can print metal parts.

When looking for production 3D printers, there are many technologies to choose from, such as FDM (fused deposition modeling), MJP (multi-jet printing), PolyJet, DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) and others. You’ll want a printer with a technology that can print quickly, have resolutions of at least 0.1 mm or smaller, and a large print size of about 10 x 10 x 10 inches.

The author goes on to review some of the top selling 3D printers, including:

  • Stratasys Dimension 1200es
  • EOS Eosint M 280
  • ExOne S-Print
  • Objet Eden260V
  • Solidscape Max2
  • ProJet 3500 HD Max

>>Read more by Len Calderone, Manufacturing Tomorrow, 10/27/16

Using 3D Printers in Manufacturing