Is 3D Printing on the Production Line Actually Feasible?

3D Printing on the Production Line

Implementing a realistic 3D printing strategy may seem like a distant, formidable plan for the future, but we promise, it’s easier to get started than you might think. In fact, many of the largest cost saving additive manufacturing (AM) opportunities in manufacturing are produced in low volumes when compared to the number of parts they are used to produce. This is the foundation of saving with AM, as small batch tooling is a leading driver of cost and inefficiency across many manufacturing fields.

The cost savings and productivity improvements after implementing high strength AM technology into your business can be quite significant. But how to get started? We’re not saying to go get rid of every end-use production process and start from scratch, that would certainly be a daunting task. Instead, take a look into your maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) efforts to identify areas for improvement throughout the production line.

Here are three good places to start:

  1. Eliminate any “cardboard engineering” practices
  2. Expedite steps within your existing workflows
  3. 3D print with high-strength materials

1. Eliminate any “cardboard engineering” practices

As fun as it can be to temporarily mask configuration challenges with duct tape, zip ties, plastic sheets, and the like, it is neither necessary nor efficient to do so. The line configurations that these quick fixes help calibrate are lost between changeovers, which hinders plant productivity instead of helping it. So what’s the solution? Additive manufacturing. There are many desktop and industrial 3D printers capable of 3D printing unique parts for your line changeovers, saving you time and providing a reliable solution for any unexpected challenges thrown your way.

2. Expedite steps within your existing workflows

If you can think it, you can most likely design and 3D print it with the technology available today. This is good news for manufacturing. With 3D printers becoming affordable to businesses of all sizes, now is the time to take full advantage of the capabilities. The capabilities I’m referring to specifically can drive down your tooling costs by printing end-use, production-ready parts within days or hours versus weeks or months.

Whether you have a weak spot in your machine setup, fixturing and positioning, or line optimization processes, 3D printing the tools needed to get the job done right is now easily achievable. Not only can you have strong, functional parts printed very quickly, but depending on the material used, you also no longer need to worry about rough metal damaging or marring your product on the production line. Let that sink in for a moment. Additive manufacturing is finally so advanced that what you think about you bring about, and you no longer need to worry about!

3. 3D print with high-strength materials

Just like optimizing a design for cost by testing your design with different materials, you can optimize your 3D printing strategy for cost by carefully selecting the right materials. You want to consider the right materials to get the job done, meaning it has the strength and durability to perform on the shop floor without damaging your product. You also want to compare the cost of materials. Depending on the printer and the material, your cost per part could range from $300 in material to $9.

The tech industry is booming with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. So put away your duct tape, zip ties, and other quick fixes or antiquated solutions. New tools and new perspectives are required in manufacturing today to maintain a competitive edge. 3D printing on the production line is a feasible solution to drive down costs and improve processes throughout production. Are you ready to solidify your strategy?

Discover the cost savings of high strength AM in your MRO toolkit. Read the white paper for the details you need to build your strategy for integrating high strength AM opportunities on the manufacturing floor.

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