3D printing is a highly advantageous process for creating prototypes and tangible products, revolutionizing the efficiency and effectiveness of production methods. This technology has significantly influenced the world’s shift towards rapid prototyping processes in mass production.
Therefore, it is crucial to explore the applications, advantages, and methods of utilizing 3D printing for mass production lines.
The Advantages of Using 3D Printing for Mass Production
When it comes to mass production, 3D printing emerges as a superior technique, offering numerous advantages. Below, we highlight the reasons that make 3D printing the preferred choice for manufacturers.
Faster Time to Market by Rapid Tooling
The manufacturing world is highly competitive, and the time taken to reach the market can be a huge deciding factor in the success of a business. This means that the chosen manufacturing process must be able to deliver a large number of products within a short period of time. An increase in production time and delivery will improve the availability of the business’s product in the market and give them an edge competition-wise.
Among the manufacturing process used in rapid prototyping, 3D printing is able to produce the necessary prototypes to check for flaws and deliver the terms of the real product. Volume 3D printing is not only in making products themselves but also in making entities that can help in other manufacturing processes. For example, manufacturers can use the process to make 3D printed injection molds, which helps mass production of injection molding.
Flexibility to Quickly Change What You Are Making
In the 3D printing production line, manufacturers can easily change whatever they are making when there is an error or a need for a change. This trait is important in batch production as it allows manufacturers to make prototypes by which they can check for flaws, analyze the functions of the parts, and do other things depending on the type of prototype they are working with. Consequently, it is easy for the designer to change things when they detect an error.
The Ability to Customize Products
Performance and aesthetics are basic requirements of any growing business. Performance is in terms of product quality, while aesthetics is to attract customers. Both performance and aesthetics depend on the customization of products. Out of the different rapid prototyping processes used recently, production 3D printing is the most suitable for customization.
Depending on orders, you can delay or increase production. You can also demand a shift in 3D printed production parts’ design if there is a demand for a new type of product. Different types of materials available for 3D printing also make customization very easy.
3D Printing Materials For Mass Production Parts
In 3D printing, materials are divided into three categories, each encompassing various materials with distinct features and properties suitable for different products. Here are some commonly used materials within each category.
Plastics are the most common materials used in the 3D printing production process. With it, it is possible to make products such as 3D-printed toys, household fixtures, desk utensils, vases, etc. Plastic materials’ popularity is due to features such as firmness, flexibility, smoothness, and color option, further improving their use in 3D-printed industrial parts. We have a list of the common types of plastic polymers you can use.
Polylactic Acid (PLA)
Polylactic acid/PLA is an eco-friendly plastic made from natural products and known for its biodegradability. It occurs in two forms: soft and hard, which shows their strength. Hard PLA is the more common type in mass production due to its hardness, strength, and durability.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
ABS material or LEGO plastic is a plastic polymer known for its strength, firmness, and flexibility. ABS has many colors making it a common 3D printing material for making tickers and toys, jewelry, and vases.
If you need a 3D printed filament and bother with choosing the materials between PLA vs ABS, check out the article on our website.
Polycarbonate/PC is a suitable plastic polymer for 3D printers with nozzle design at high temperatures. It is common in volume production as a result of its high strength, toughness, insulation properties, and heat and impact resistance. The material is suitable for making electrical and telecommunication products.
Polyamide or Nylon is a popular material because of its strength, flexibility, and how it allows a high level of detail in printed products. The material is commonly used for printing products such as fasteners, toy cars, and figures.
Resins are not as widely used as other materials in 3D printing due to their inherent limitations in terms of flexibility and strength. These materials undergo a curing process when exposed to UV light and are available in various color options. But here are the three main categories of resin materials commonly used in 3D printing:
High Detail Resin
This type of resin has a smooth surface and provides intricate details on small models. They are the perfect materials for testing designs.
These types of resin have aesthetic appeal making them suitable for making products with rendered facial details.
It is the strongest of the three and suitable for many products. It is suitable for models that must have a smooth surface and transparent appearance.
These are the second most popular 3D Printing materials. They are used through direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM). In 3D printing, metals are used in dust form. The dust is first heated to hardness in order to avoid casting. Consequently, it is possible to make direct use of the dust. Surface finishing process can then be undergone. Metals are common additive manufacturing materials due to their strength and durability, and common ones include:
- Stainless steel: For a product that comes in contact with water.
- Bronze: For vases and other fixtures.
- Gold: 3D printed rings, bracelets, and other forms of jewelry.
- Nickel: Coins.
- Aluminum: For thin 3D printed metals.
Additive Manufacturing Processes for Mass Production
Additive manufacturing is the industrial production name for 3D printing, which allows the creation of an object of varying complexity by making layers of the materials. In contrast to traditional manufacturing, they are efficient, effective, and reliable. Below are some additive manufacturing processes:
Binder Jetting process uses a powdered material and a binder that acts as an adhesive to deposit a liquid binding agent onto powder particles, layer by layer. The additive manufacturing process has many industrial applications, such as aerospace parts, medical devices, automotive components, and more.
Direct Energy Deposition
Direct energy deposition is compatible with many materials such as ceramics, metals, and polymers. The process involves melting materials and fusing them as it deposits. The mechanism is more common in repairing and rebuilding.
It is a common additive manufacturing process by which a heated nozzle extrudes the necessary materials. The bed moves vertically while the nozzle moves horizontally. Bonding agents or temperature control mechanisms can adhere to the layers formed by each other.
Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)
This is a metal additive manufacturing process. It takes advantage of either laser, heat or electron beam to melt or fuse powder materials together to form a solid three-dimensional part.
It comprises two methods. On the one hand, Laminated object manufacturing (LOM) is suitable for making products with alternate paper and adhesive having visual appeals. On the other hand, ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) can join metals such as aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium using ultrasonic welding.
It involves using a vat of liquid resin photopolymer to create an object layer by layer. Mirrors are then used to cure successive layers of resin through photopolymerization.
Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing
This additive manufacturing process builds products using arc welding power sources and manipulators. The process is formally known as arc deposition, and it majorly uses wire as a material source.
RapidDirect Custom 3D Printing Services
3D Printing a product comes with knowledge of the process, and when you are looking for the best service, you can get the best at RapidDirect. It does not matter whether it is mass production or singular prototypes.
At RapidDirect, you have access to the best custom online prototype manufacturing services at a competitive price. Our team has a wide knowledge of 3D Printing and other rapid prototyping processes. Get an instant quote by uploading the files.
Applications of 3D Printing to Mass Production
3D Printing for the masses is becoming a common term due to the advantages to businesses and consumers at large. Currently, there are many applications of the process. Below are a few you could gain insight from.
Adidas and Carbon: Mass Producing Sneakers
Adidas are using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DSL) technology to print lattice-like sole in about 20 minutes. DSL is ideal for making the lattice structure in the soles, which makes the sole comfortable, lightweight, and flexible. The structure also makes the shoe respond better to an athlete’s leg movement, thereby generating a better cushioning effect and stability.
Align Technology: Mass Production, 3D Printing, and Personalization
Align Technology has been able to combine personalization, mass production, and 3D Printing in making Invisalign made-to-measure aligners. The company uses SLA machines from 3D Systems to design the mold of the tray, which is completely tailor-made before being thermoformed.
Chanel: 3D Printing High-Tech Mascara Brushes
In 2018, Chanel, in collaboration with Erpro 3D Factory, made the Volume Révolution mascara brush. The product has been made on an industrial scale, with Erpro 3D Factory saying it has 3D printed 17 million parts since 2017 with 15 machines that work daily. Additive manufacturing was later introduced to reduce time consumption and cost, which improved the speed of production and the brush design.
Formlabs: 3D Printed COVID-19 test swabs
At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, Formlabs made use of 3D Printing to make an autoclavable and biocompatible nasal swab. With 3D printing, they were able to produce at a rate that meets the country’s needs.
Photocentric: 3D Printing Valves to Fight the Pandemic
Photocentric during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic also made use of 3D Printing in the mass production of valves compatible with breathing apparatus. They made use of three 3D resin printers, which were able to print more than 600 valves in one night and 40,000 per week. This shows the ability of 3D printers to perform in terms of urgency.
3D Printing is a rapid prototyping process known for its accuracy, ease of use, and ability to make complex products. 3D Printing uses mass production has reached the limelight with companies such as Adidas, Formlabs, and Chanel, etc., employing the process in their business to boost sales and reach a wider customer. From here, you will know the advantages of 3D Printing mass production in the modern world and how you can think like companies applying the principle in their business.
Unlike other methods, 3D Printing is more affordable for low volume production. It is also cheaper for high-volume production. Also, it does not require a start-up cost, unlike injection molding.
Yes, 3D Printing is faster than most traditional and rapid prototyping processes. For example, when compared to injection molding, there is no need to create injection molds which are important for the molding process.
Yes, 3D printing is a suitable method for making products in mass. Its use can be based on its methods or based on helping designers use another rapid prototyping process effortlessly and less costly (e.g., it is suitable for making injection molds used in injection molding). 3D Printing mass production is now common in companies such as Adidas, Chanel, etc.