A New Mindsent in Product Design With 3D Printing

A New Mindsent in Product Design With 3D Printing

A New Mindset in Product Design With 3D Printing




3D printing and a New Mindset in Product Design bringing better products to market faster

3D printing is behind a growing new mindset fueling revolutionary product design, prototyping and manufacturing that’s enabling better products to make it to market faster than ever before.

New techniques, the ability to speedily prototype and make adjustments and the terms “3D printing” and “additive manufacturing” refer to processes that automatically build objects layer by layer from computer data. The technology is already well-used in many sectors including transportation, health care, military and education.

Uses include building concept models, functional prototypes, factory tooling (such as molds and robot-arm ends), and even finished goods (such as aircraft internal components).

Rapid Prototyping is just the beginning

The aerospace and medical industries in particular have developed advanced applications for 3D printing. 3D printing is sometimes referred to as “rapid prototyping,” but this term does not encompass all current uses for the technology. Materials used in 3D printing include resins, plastics and, in some cases, metal.

Since 3D printing’s inception, system reliability and model quality have increased, resulting in diverse applications. At the same time, prices have gone down to the point where some systems are affordable even for small businesses. In a 2011 report, Wohlers Associates predicted that worldwide annual sales of additive manufacturing systems will reach 15,000 units by 2015 — more than double the 2010 rate.

Lower-priced professional systems will drive most of this growth. In FDM technology, printer software on the user’s Windows network or workstation accepts computer-aided design (CAD) data in an STL format.

The software works like a paper printer’s driver, sending data to the 3D printer as a job and telling the print head where to lay down material. Filaments of plastic modeling material and soluble support material are heated to a semi-liquid state, forced through an extrusion tip and precisely deposited in extremely fine layers.

By the Numbers: Analysis of Time Savings with 3D Printing


Old Method

Time Savings

Industrial Design

Clay Models



Outsourced machining



2D laser cutting



Aluminum tooling



Injection molding and CNC tooling


From CAD drawing to 3D object in a matter of hours

Some 3D printers are small enough and clean enough to function as office equipment inside a department or even an individual cubicle. By comparison, large rapid prototyping systems often must be centrally located and run by a dedicated staff of experts. The very cheapest class of 3D printers comprises home-use devices now on the market for hobbyists. While fascinating for enthusiasts, these machines differ from small professional systems in that the resulting models often have poor resolution, are dimensionally inaccurate and unstable, and lack durability.

Affordability and ease of use brings 3D printing technology in-house

Trends toward affordability and ease of use are bringing professional 3D printing technology in-house for many designers and engineers. The growing expectation that a CAD drawing can become a real three-dimensional object in a matter of hours is altering how companies see the design process. It can be faster, more effective and less costly. The longer a product stays in the design cycle, the longer it takes to get to market, meaning less potential profit for the company. Time-to-market considerations were identified as the most critical daily issue facing respondents of a 2008 Product Design & Development readership poll. This group also said prototyping itself presented a time-to-market obstacle in 17 percent of product launches.

With increasing pressure to get products to market quickly, companies are compelled to make quick yet accurate decisions during the conceptual stage of design. These decisions can affect the majority of total cost factors by establishing material selection, manufacturing techniques and design longevity. 3D printing can optimize design processes for greatest greatest potential profit by speeding iterations through product testing.

Adopting 3D printing to reduce product-design costs

The acquisition cost of a professional 3D printing system can be as little as $10,000 (USD), which may surprise engineers and designers who’ve priced larger 3D production systems. Annual operating costs are generally lower too, partly because 3D printers require no dedicated facility or special expertise to run.

Leasing options can mitigate the cost barriers that may have restricted adoption of 3D printing technology in the past. Other costs to consider are printer maintenance and material costs, which vary depending on use. When evaluating 3D printing systems, consider facilities requirements; expertise needed to run the system; accuracy, durability and size of models; available materials; speed; and, of course, cost.

Your desired application will help you determine the best system for you, but keep in mind that many users report discovering diverse uses after acquiring a 3D printing system. For example, a system purchased for functional prototypes might prove useful for building manufacturing tools. 3D printing provides a highly cost-efficient means of producing numerous design iterations and gaining immediate feedback throughout the critical beginning stages of the development process.

The ability to refine form, fit and function quickly can significantly improve production costs and time to market. This can create a distinct competitive advantage for those companies who include 3D printing as an integral part of their design process. Lower costs will continue to expand the 3D printing market, especially in small to medium-sized businesses and schools.

The speed, consistency, accuracy and low cost of these printers will help companies reduce time-to-market and maintain a competitive edge.


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