How 3-D Printed Prototypes Improve the Manufacturing Design Process

3-D printing has taken the manufacturing sector by storm, creating a brand new way for designers, engineers, inventors and others to model their product concepts. 3-D printers, within an additive manufacturing process, create custom structures out of various materials by depositing layers one at a time to create a solid 3-D structure. The process is similar to the motion of an ink-jet printer. Substances like plastic, metal, ceramic, and rubber can all be used to create products that serve a variety of industries.

Two major advantages of 3-D printing are reduced price and time: which are among the most important factors when selecting a manufacturing process. Small business owners are already using 3-D printers to increase the quality of their prototyping programs, create specific parts, and make customizable items. A third major advantage is the ability to manufacture a complex shape in a continual process rather than having to join multiple pieces to achieve the shape (which would be the case with traditional manufacturing methods). The end result is a more accurate shape and a stronger product.

But not everyone has jumped on the 3-D printing bandwagon just yet. While many might think that 3-D printing has not reached widespread adoption because of the price, the real reason is quite different. While basic 3-D printers cost just over $1,000, the main barrier is a lack of technical knowledge. For the most part, engineers and architects are the main demographic integrating 3-D printing into their business practice so far, thanks to their experience in computer design and scanning processes.

To combat this mainstream hesitation, 3-D printing programs will soon be found in office supply stores such as Staples, UPS, and PostNet, according to a recent article in Businessweek. The process is extremely beneficial for those in the design and prototyping sectors because of the significant decrease in turn-around time. David Friedfeld, a small business owner in New York said that his purchase of a 3-D printer “has taken three months off our production cycle [and] allowed us to stay closer to the market.”

TCA Technologies is excited to see how this new technology will positively contribute to custom design and manufacturing services. Once a concept product has been created, we can work together to design a customized automated system to get mass production underway.