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How 3D Printing Is Changing Product Development



Can modern manufacturing be done without the factory? Without tooling, manufacturing lines, supply chains and machine tools?

The emerging prominence of 3D printing is challenging what we know as manufacturing. 3D printing is reshaping product development and manufacturing, turning individuals, small businesses and corporations into makers.

It's the period of the do-it-yourself manufacturer. 3D printing is leveling the playing field so that essentially anyone with access to a computer, a 3D printer and the know-how can create new products and designs. The future of 3D printing is bright.

Though 3D printing has been around for decades, the evolution of technology has brought 3D printing to consumer-friendly prices and the Internet has made 3D printing materials widely available to just about anyone with a connection. 3D printing is bringing manufacturing to the non-manufacturers, much like how PCs brought computing to the non-programmers.

So where will we see 3D printing change the way we're manufacturing? Here's a few ideas:

Aerospace and Defense

Though 3D printing has been around in the A&D industry for awhile (companies use it for rapid prototyping), producing parts on-demand, as well as lighter, faster machines will revolutionize the industry. For the military, this might mean the ability to print replacement parts right on the battlefield. The supply chain will be significantly faster and more powerful in that respect. There's still a long way to go, but there's been progress.

Mass Customization

Have you ever tried on an article of clothing or footwear and wished that it was a little bigger or smaller? That it could fit you literally like a glove? This is possible with the power of 3D printing. Shoes can be customized specifically for the wearer. Instead of creating a product that customers might like, companies can manufacture products that customers order specifically with their taste in mind.


Thus far, 3D printing has had the most success in healthcare with prosthetics, dental work and hiring aids. But now medical professionals are attempting to print blood vessels, skin and even stem cells. Medical devices and human tissues are being 3D printed as well. These prints can be customized exactly for the patient and printed quite inexpensively. 3D printing is set to be a game changer in the field.

New Products

3D printing is about thinking about new ways to do old things, but also about figuring out what we can do now that we couldn't do before. Creating brand new products and approaches is a part of the 3D printing culture. Doing what we thought was impossible is going to change manufacturing as we know it. Who knows what is possible!

Tags: Engineering

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