Demonstrating lighting speed 3D printing will inevitably get a lot of Youtube hits, but where does speed really matter? If you are able to make Eiffel tower miniatures at super fast rates, how would the entire logistics, inventory, distribution etc. compare to how a Chinese factory is already doing it?
I use this as demo example to demonstrate the clear challenge most companies in the 3D/AM space have, which is being able to come up with creative and truly business driven applications for their technology. If the applications were known, the demo parts would reflect that knowledge.
On its own, speed won’t magically make things fly. Even in this case, there are plenty of other issues to deal with, which the companies don’t really talk about: cleaning parts, snapping off supports, curing them, packaging them etc. So if the 3D printing process is just one tenth of the time when compared to the rest of the operations for a particular part, how fast is that really? The question then becomes: where does speed really matter? Furthermore, how does one justify the costs for a machine upgrade or expensive materials, if speed itself is not what is required?
Prototyping is still the main use of 3D printing and this used to be the prominent workflow: spend your day using CAD, prepare your prints for the night and come to work with ready parts waiting for you. Did the speed of the printer really matter while you were counting sheep? Not really. But what if you are able to adjust your designs in a few minutes vs. spending an entire day behind your CAD and you have hardware that can crank out those parts on the fly? Now we are getting somewhere. If you are really able to match the speed of your printer and the design cycles of your parts, it starts to make a lot of sense that speed would matter. The faster you print, the more material you also consume, which fuels the economy and everybody wins.
Just to summarize. Being able to crank out prototypes at lighting speed is where fast 3D printing definitely has a niche. I am also a firm believer that a tide lifts all the boats and by collectively solving problems for the growth of the industry, it will benefit everybody. If you are interested in where speed really matters when it comes to the Additive Manufacturing business, driving end use applications, email me and let’s talk 3D!