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3D printing can help reduce product costs

3D printing, i.e. additive manufacturing, offers an entirely new kind of freedom in production. If the strengths of this technology are identified and utilized, it is possible to design improved products that may even be cheaper to manufacture.

Humans have been making items using practically the same method since the Stone Age: by taking a lump of material and removing material from it until the desired outcome is reached. As a manufacturing technology, 3D printing reverses this age-old method by adding material only where it is needed.

3D printing provides plenty of added value

Additive manufacturing (AM) offers the kind of freedom in production that one could only dream of before. This technology enables the design of structures, components and assemblies that are simply not possible with other existing manufacturing methods. It is possible to optimize features and properties instead of having to design them within the limits of the manufacturing method.

Although it is a revolutionary technology, it is good to bear in mind, however, that AM is just one among other manufacturing methods. It is not possible or worthwhile to print everything. 3D printing of metals is, for the moment, fairly expensive if the product is printed using the existing design. Redesigning the product may, however, make 3D printing a competitive – or even cheaper – option in terms of production costs.

If you are thinking about using 3D printing for manufacturing, it is vital to determine whether it is a feasible option. What added value can 3D printing provide to the product? Does it allow for a different design, one that is not possible with other methods?

Improved product characteristics through new materials

AM offers added value, for example, in terms of materials. You can use materials that would be too costly if other manufacturing methods were used. Through different materials, it is also possible to improve the product characteristics.

3D printing can be used to reduce the weight of components; this, in turn, may improve the product and reduce printing costs, especially when printing metals. AM also makes it easier to merge parts or components and thus reduce their number and add functionalities.

The reduction in the number of parts has a positive impact on the product’s logistics chain and possibly also on the services business, since there are fewer spare parts and a shorter supply chain for the final product. In the future, it will be possible to print spare parts quickly and cost-effectively as needed, for example, in 3D-printing centers located around the world. This will enable companies to reduce their investments in spare parts storages.

Product costs down, competitiveness up

3D printing is evolving at an astonishing rate, and it is undoubtedly the technology of the future. Its benefits can also be seen in the 3D printing projects implemented by Etteplan: as much as 40% of them have led to an innovation for which our customer has applied for a patent or design protection.

In addition to the development of improved products and innovations of the future, 3D printing makes it possible to lower the costs of existing products and, as a result, to improve competitiveness. Product redesign can potentially offer substantial added value, and its potential just keeps growing as the technology constantly evolves.

Etteplan offers its customers a cost-reduction service that also take 3D printing into account as a manufacturing option.

Our service includes an analysis of the customer’s product and its cost structure. This allows us to identify the parts and assemblies that could be manufactured differently or using another manufacturing method so that the end result is more functional and/or cost-effective. On the basis of the analysis, we draw up a report for our customer so that their product development management can make informed decisions to improve their product’s competitiveness.