Like any new technology, 3D printing has been wildly overhyped. While it’s true that 3D printing is a fundamentally different process than traditional manufacturing, there’s a fine line between knowing its capabilities and overstating them.
The truth is that there are some big misconceptions about this technology that keep businesses from taking full advantage of what it can do. In this blog, we’ll dispel these myths and show you the truth about how it works.
1. It’s Magic
Many people still think of 3D printers as a whiz-bang technology that is going to be in every home within a few years. This misconception comes from the fact that 3D printing is a relatively new technology, and it is easy for people to think of it as a futuristic gimmick that can print anything they can imagine.
In truth, 3D printing is a process that builds objects up layer by layer instead of cutting or molding them out of a block of material. This makes it ideal for creating complex shapes that would be impossible or very expensive to make using traditional methods.
It is also more environmentally friendly than traditional manufacturing processes because it produces far less waste. Plus, it’s possible to use recycled plastic and other materials that are biodegradable. Some people worry that making it so easy to produce plastic objects will create environmental problems, but projects like restoring coral reefs show how sustainable 3D printing can be.
2. It’s Cheap
A 3D printer won’t set you back too much monetarily – a good one will cost you around $500. However, the real expense is in the time spent trying to get your prints to work. Even the most experienced designers still struggle to produce perfect prints – the reasons vary from damp filament to an improperly wiped build surface to a tiny flaw in the design.
The good news is that these issues will probably fade over time, as more and more people invest in 3D printing. The hardware will become cheaper and easier to use, and filaments will be cheaper too – thanks to the fact that companies are starting to turn recycled plastics into high-density materials.
Businesses that rely on the technology will also see savings, as many employees are already familiar with the computer-aided design software needed to prepare models for 3D printing. Gartner research director Pete Basiliere predicts that enterprise-class 3D printers will be available for less than $2,000 by 2016.
3. It’s Easy
Some people think 3D printing is easy and a whiz-bang technology. They may have read about it on the cover of Popular Science, or seen it on YouTube, and believe that printing cars, guns, and cell phones are just around the corner.
The reality is that creating a part for 3D printing requires a significant amount of time and work even for one of the top 3d printing services. This is because the parts must be designed with CAD software. Depending on the complexity of the design, it could take months or years to complete.
There are also limitations on what can be printed with a 3D printer. For example, you cannot print certain types of weapons or explosive devices, and you can’t use a 3D printer to create patented materials. Also, there are restrictions on how strong the printed object can be. Regardless, this is still an impressive piece of technology that can be used for a variety of applications.
4. It’s Fast
3D printing is a great way to turn digital designs into physical objects, layer by layer. This is done by using a specific type of software that converts the computer model into instructions for the printer to solidify a thin slice of material at a time.
It takes longer to print complex and high-strength parts than simpler ones. This is because a higher infill density will create a stronger and more rigid part, which requires more material to build up.
Another factor that affects print times is the type of material used for the part. Plastics are usually printed at a relatively fast rate, while metals take a much longer time to print.
The ability to print a wide variety of different materials has opened the door for 3D printing in many new applications. Some of these uses are as simple as adding a decorative design to a phone case, while others are as complicated as creating replacement parts for vehicles and aircrafts.
5. It’s Easy to Use
When a business begins looking at 3D printing, it’s natural to worry that deploying the technology will be difficult. However, Basiliere says that’s usually not the case.
Most of the tools required for 3D printing are familiar and widely used, such as computer-aided design (CAD) software and 3D modeling programs. Additionally, the hardware itself is surprisingly affordable. “Many managers in manufacturing operations or research departments are allowed to make purchases within a certain price range, often limited at $10,000 or less,” he says.
Finally, the 3D printing process itself is very similar to other manufacturing methods. It requires multiple steps, including building layers of an object, cooling it to harden it and finishing the piece.
It’s also important to remember that even the most experienced professionals sometimes end up with failures. They can be caused by everything from damp filament to a not-sticky build surface to a tiny flaw in the model.
6. It’s Easy to Design
3D printing isn’t as simple as pressing print and waiting. First, a virtual design must be made that acts like a blueprint for the printer to read. This is often done with computer-aided design (CAD), a type of software that creates precise drawings and technical illustrations.
Then, the virtual model must be “sliced” into layers. This tells the printer what areas to build up and what parts to leave empty. 3D printing uses a variety of techniques to create different types of objects, including stereolithography (SLA), laser-curing photopolymerization, and laminated object modeling.
There are also several post-processing steps that need to be taken, such as sanding, heat treatment, and removing support struts. These are time-consuming and add to the overall cost of a print. Additionally, there are many factors that can affect accuracy, such as a damp filament or a not-sticky-enough build surface. This is why even the most skilled professionals have failed prints.
7. It’s Easy to Print
3D printing isn’t easy to master, especially for beginners. It requires creativity, math, and computer-aided design (CAD) skills to print a successful object. Even skilled professionals sometimes have failures from things like damp filament or a not-sticky-enough build surface.
Another myth is that 3D printers can only create plastic trinkets. While FFF technology lends itself to rapid prototyping, companies are also using it to create tools, jigs, and fixtures for a variety of purposes across industries. Some are even printing end-use parts, avoiding long manufacturing lead times and cutting costs.
It’s important to understand how the technology works to avoid misconceptions about it. Many people are under the impression that 3D printing is just a new whiz-bang technology that will soon replace all other common manufacturing methods. The truth is that it’s a powerful tool that will help you do more, faster, and more cost-effectively than ever before. So stop believing the myths and start leveraging it for your business.
8. It’s Easy to Repair
A lot of people think that 3D printing is just some kind of new whiz-bang technology. They don’t know that it’s been around for over a decade and has actually helped a lot of companies with their manufacturing processes.
Many industries are using it to create spare parts and tools for a variety of purposes. Maintenance teams in aerospace, automotive, construction and manufacturing are able to cut down their repair times considerably by using 3D printed parts to remanufacture components that are either worn out or broken.
The process of 3D printing is based on adding layers of material one at a time to create the final object. Occasionally, these layers do not bond correctly and holes or gaps appear in the finished product. The good news is that these are easy to fix. It is possible to fill in these holes with a little bit of melted filament. This will make the part stronger and more durable.
9. It’s Easy to Maintain
As with any technology that’s been a hit in the media, 3D printing is often viewed as being a new whiz-bang thing. People hear about flying cars and cell phones and think that 3D printing will allow them to make their own stuff in their garages within a couple years.
But the reality is that 3D printers need care and maintenance like any other high-tech equipment. They are prone to errors just as other machines are, but they can be corrected with regular updates and the right know-how.
Companies around the world are using 3D printing to create tools, jigs, and fixtures that reduce downtime and production disruptions, saving them money. They can also print spare parts on demand, rather than relying on a traditional supplier to deliver them. This has the potential to revolutionize the logistics and inventory management industries. And for consumers, it means faster repairs and less wait time when they have a problem with their car or home appliance.