3D printing gets a bad rep sometimes as a process that produces products that are lower quality. While that can be true, it doesn’t mean that 3D printing has no place in the manufacturing process. In fact, there are several ways you can use 3D printing to improve your manufacturing business. We’ll cover three in this article.

Print on Demand

Today’s manufacturers are looking for ways to pivot quickly to products and services their customers suddenly demand. Traditional manufacturing methods make this pivoting process large and cumbersome, especially in a print-on-demand situation. Let’s say your customer, Bob decides he wants Widget X when he’s been buying Widget Y consistently for years. How long would it take you to produce Widget X to his specifications and possibly ramp up production to his level of demand once you do? How much would it cost? With 3D printing, you could have a faster and cheaper turn-around to this process. A bonus benefit is passing those cost savings on to your customer. An even better benefit may be that going through this process once sets you up to understand and reproduce this process for other customers leading to another revenue stream for your business.

Improve Your Prototyping Process

Digging deeper, we see that there are further applications for 3D printing in improving current prototyping processes. Normal prototyping processes can get easily bogged down by concerns of material and time cost. That’s where 3D printing can lend a hand. Since the materials are cheaper and they are usually quicker to produce, you can speed up iterations of your prototypes. These prototypes may not be as refined or as strong as those made by traditional means, but this rarely matters. It’s the end product where better quality is often needed. With 3D printing technology improving, though, that may not be an issue in the future. 

Spare Parts or Limited Run Printings

Finally, 3D printing’s lesser quality can be a boon if it is used in the right way. For instance, if you have a part that breaks on a machine you may easily be able to 3D print it as a low-cost (or even temporary) replacement. This can save time if that machine breaks during a critical moment. The part you print may even last a good amount of time if it’s a low-usage part.

In addition, you could use 3D printing in a limited-run or test printing. This allows you to save money and space on keeping inventory from traditional manufacturing processes.