December 31, 2012

The Achilles’ Heel of 3D Printing

photo1032.jpeg An excellente article from Innovation Investment Journal explaining the short comings of 3D printing today and what it will take for 3D printing to actually replace manufacturing technology.

quotemarksright.jpgThe cost of creating things using a 3D printer ‘goes down with complexity’: the more complex the item being printed, the less it costs to print it.

Usually, the more complicated something is (i.e., the more parts and sub-parts it is made from and the more complex the resulting assembly process happens to be) the more it costs to make.

But, bizarrely enough, 3D printing doesn’t tend to ‘struggle’ in any cost-incurring way based upon how intricate the design of the item being manufactured happens to be: a 3D printer prints a complex 3D shape just as easily as it prints a simple one.

... If you were wondering which unflattering terms manufacturing industry insiders use to characterise the shortcomings of 3D printing when compared to other forms of industrial production, you might want to check these out:

-- agonizingly slow operation

-- niche applications only

-- extremely low throughput per station

-- hard to scale

-- mostly small items only

-- unsuited to volume production

-- still in its earliest stages of development

-- mostly plastic-only products l

-- imited range of fabrication materials

-- ...

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Read full article.