Additive manufacturing, known as 3D printing, has been around for decades. Most members of the additive manufacturing field claim that 3D printing is the future of manufacturing. Skeptics criticized the speed of 3D printing, doubting that the new technology would or could ever replace injection molding on a mass production scale.
3D Systems, a company that invented much of the technology behind 3D printing, has broken the speed barrier. The company's fab-grade 3D printers matched or exceeded the productivity and speed of injection molding when creating functional parts. 3D Systems created lampshades at a faster rate than the injection mold method. Over the last ten years, the speed of 3D printers has doubled every 18 months; experts project this trend to continue.
3D printing has come a long way since its creation, but there are important things to consider:
(1) Can 3D printing work for the product that you want to manufacture? The 3D printer beat the injection mold’s time on creating lamp shades, is it possible that 3D printing can bring this speed to other products? Additionally, are you trying to manufacture functional parts or a whole product?
(2) Can 3D printing keep the momentum going with continuous improvement on speed? The technology has been rapidly improving, but when does it hit its peak?
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