3D printing is an intriguing idea and it’s clear it can be a big force for change in the manufacturing industry. In terms of what we do with Rexroth servo drives and servo motors, we’re not expecting that it’s going to make big changes for existing companies in the next few years. The technology is still far too new and the legal ramifications of protecting your products is too wide open for it to be a practical application for manufacturers nationwide.
While you can now buy a 3-D printer for home use at Amazon, the cost of shifting to 3D printing will be a hurdle for traditional manufacturing. 3D printing costs as much for the 675th item created as for the first –there is really no economic advantage of scale. It’s also far too slow for high volume production.
The long run
3D printing may be a game changer in the long run, though.
This video from PBS is a quick and comprehensive introduction to the world of 3D printing.
3D printing differs from traditional large-scale manufacturing and printing in some significant ways. The lead time disappears, the level of skill required on the factory floor is far less, the ease of iterations is an engineer’s dream, and the cost of production is roughly the same at any quantity.
These changes are enough to make this new technology important to the way we approach manufacturing — even before you consider the implications for food and health care of being able to work with new materials in completely new ways.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is currently being used widely for prototyping and for single-item production.
For right now, 3D printing is probably the way to go for prototyping, while the factory model makes sense for production. In the future, who knows?
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