It’s becoming clear to see that 3D printing is fast-tracking innovation across several industries and is being used in everything from dentistry and eyewear to furniture design and automotive manufacturing. 3D printing technology has already come a long way from the days of strictly vanity applications to now being capable of producing durable end-use parts that can withstand heavy-duty applications. It’s not uncommon to find people that are surprised to learn that 3D printing is not exactly new but has actually been around since the 1980s. For the majority of its history though, 3D printers were primarily used in prototyping or hobbyist capacities, but continued innovation has made them more appealing for use in industrial applications as well.
Still, there are some companies that underestimate the value of 3D printing and fail to see the practical uses it can have on the shop floor. There is a wide variety of 3D printing technologies available on the market now and they’re not all created equally, so businesses have to be careful when selecting a printer if they want it to have any kind of significant impact on their workflows. Decision-makers may sometimes make the mistake of assuming all 3D printers have the capabilities seen in consumer-level machines, a fact that has been challenged by innovative 3D printer manufacturers like Markforged.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is a process in which a part is additively created by introducing or bonding additional material. Today’s 3D-printed objects are capable of being geometrically complex and ideal in a wide array of manufacturing applications. Today, 3D printing has the ability to have a significant impact on manufacturers – benefiting supply chains, turnaround times, workflows and more.
How can 3D printing be used in manufacturing today?
From automotive and aerospace to electronics and manufacturing, modern manufacturers are already taking advantage of the additive movement. The additive movement is transforming many other industries as well with 3D-printed functional prototypes, tools and fixtures and end-use parts.
Markforged customer, Meduna, a heat treatment plant in the Czech Republic, is using 3D printing to create required tooling in-house. Using traditional methods to produce induction hardening tooling requires a lot of skill, knowledge and experience. Prior to using Markforged 3D printers, Meduna was creating induction hardening tooling using bent copper tubing. There were limitations that came with this method though. There are constraints in creating small diameters and the manual forming process makes producing repeatable tooling challenging.
Using the Metal X 3D printer from Markforged, this customer was able to print in pure copper – the ideal material for these tools due to the material’s high thermal and electrical conductivity. 3D printing these parts versus using traditional methods requires less post-processing and produces a more precise and consistent tool.
3D printers are capable of printing more than just heat-resistant parts, they’re capable of printing extremely strong parts as well. Wartsila, a global leader in smart technologies and complete lifecycle solutions for the marine and energy markets, is using 3D printing to build custom parts and lifting tools. Usually, these lifting tools have to be made out of solid steel and are too expensive and time-consuming to manufacture and too heavy for people to easily use and transport. Also, traditionally manufacturing these parts makes it difficult to add any quick design changes. The savings in cost and weight have a significant impact when applied to hundreds of tools across the company, making it well worth the investment in 3D printing.
Explore over 100 practical ways companies around the world are using 3D printing to streamline workflows, expand their capabilities and save time and money in this free report from Markforged. Access the report here.