3D printing is a versatile manufacturing technology that has an impact on a wide range of applications and, as a result, a wide range of stakeholders. These stakeholders come from various walks of life and are at various stages of their lives. Everyone is actively influenced by 3D printing technology, from individuals, enthusiasts, hobbyists, and students to educators, engineers, employed professionals, and even organizations. So let's take a look at how 3D Printing technology can help you if you fall into any of the above categories.
Individuals are people who are not part of a larger community, such as members of an organization, colleges, or other similar institutions. They are primarily working on and using 3D printers for their personal use.
Individuals can be further classified into two sub-categories: Hobbyists and Enthusiasts
Enthusiasts are people who are enthusiastic about technology and are eager to buy, use, and learn about it. These people will not necessarily spend a lot of money on expensive machines, but they will try to learn as much as they can from their personal experience using and troubleshooting the machine. Such enthusiasts will typically purchase a DIY kit and then assemble the 3D printer, attempting to tweak the printer and adding or inventing new accessories to make the machine more user-friendly.
Benefits of 3D Printing for Enthusiasts
Household products: An enthusiast's primary goal is to learn through hands-on experience, so they will experiment with the machine by designing and printing household items. Consumer durable buttons and knobs, door and drawer knobs and handles, hooks, dining table accessories, and so on are common examples.
Repair Parts: It won’t be a stretch if it is said that enthusiasts are waiting for a part to break in the house so they can quickly repair it by 3D printing a replacement part. We have seen examples of such repair projects on online repositories like Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory, etc. They are filled with such simple replacement parts required in every home.
Personal Items: An enthusiast does not only work 3D print products for home use but he is very much inclined to print parts for himself. The 3D printer is also a tool to brag about and what better way to 3D print a unique part customized for your own needs and requirements and then showcase it to friends and family. It forms a big part of what an enthusiast does with the 3D printer.
Gifts: Lastly, an enthusiast also 3D prints custom gifts for his friends and family. This is a great benefit because a custom-made gift is always precious and a 3D printer can create such a gift super cheap. With some amount of post-processing, the parts look factory-made and always delight the receiver. So, gifting is one of the coolest benefits 3D printing can deliver to the user.
A hobbyist is an enthusiast who, in addition to working on simple home solutions, sees 3D printing as a tool for a side hustle to earn some extra cash. The commercial aspect accounts for a larger portion of his motivation to use the 3D printer while also learning and exploring options for expanding the hustle into a business.
A hobbyist works on projects similar to those undertaken by an enthusiast, but he is more inclined to create one-of-a-kind items and sell them online or through his offline network, wherever possible. The overall goal is to identify a customer need gap, design a niche product to fill that need, 3D print it, and deliver it to customers. Most of the time, such items are no longer available.
A hobbyist works on projects similar to what an enthusiast works on but he is more inclined towards creating unique items and selling them online or through his offline network, wherever he can. The whole motive is to identify a customers need gap, design a niche product to satisfy that need, 3D print the product, and deliver the same to customers. Most of the time, such items aren’t available anywhere else.
Viral Products: Hobbyists are always on the lookout for the next breakthrough product. A product with a growing trend or a product that is going viral across social media. The hobbyist replicates the same through his 3D printer and makes a quick buck. The most popular example of this was observed a few years back when the fidget spinner suddenly became ‘the’ most popular product on the planet. It was an instant hit and it went viral and everyone just had to have one. An individual can benefit from having a 3D printer with him to cash in on such trends.
The term "students" refers to schoolchildren who are introduced to 3D printing technology at a young age as part of the school curriculum. Most schools around the world are now incorporating technology into STEM/STEAM learning. The goal is to foster and encourage creativity and a problem-solving mindset.
The positive impact of this type of learning has enabled students to be more creative in that they are now willing to learn technology, innovate, and create new products.
Academic Learning: The 3D printers are now a part of the academic curriculum and so it is now widely used as a tool to teach complex concepts to students. This type of conceptual understanding through physical models is helping kids learn complicated topics with relative ease. The schools also allow students to use 3D printers in their free time encouraging them to enjoy the art of failing and learning from failures.
Academic Projects: Another interesting benefit students get from 3D printers is that they can use 3D printers for their academic projects. School curriculums are now filled with projects on 3D printing. Projects like printing assistive devices, emoji tokens, designing common household items, simple toys, etc. Such projects have proven to be beneficial in sharpening the minds of young students.
Future-Ready Skills: The introduction of 3D printers in school was done with a specific purpose. It aims to not only teach complex subjects and concepts to students but also make them ready for the skills required in the future. It is to prepare them and make them aware of future technologies. By starting at a young age, the kids will develop their skill set and be ready for life after school. Such exposure will also make them aware of the varied career options to choose from. Be it arts, maths, science, engineering, medical, or anything else, the kids will have a better idea of what they want to pursue in life. And 3D printing technology has a role (direct or indirect) to play in helping them make such decisions.
3D printing is altering the way education is delivered in the classroom. Many schools are now incorporating 3D printing into classrooms, allowing for a new type of interactive teaching and learning. This shift also allows educators themselves be active and learn new technologies and stay up to date on the latest developments.
3D printing is a manufacturing technology and most school educators never have had such exposure to manufacturing machines. So this is a new, yet welcome addition to classrooms. Educators, on some level, become curious about technology, and as a result, they become seekers of knowledge again, and as a result, they become better teachers suited to today's world. It is assisting educators in reinventing themselves.
Teaching Complex Concepts to Students: The presence of 3D printers in classrooms is leading to new possibilities. Educators are now able to create physical models of complex concepts and explain the students in a better way. A physical model helps in greater interaction and engrosses all senses thereby delivering better learning and teaching experience. The sensory activation goes a long way in remember any concept for longer durations of time. Topics, previously difficult to explain, are now easily explained by educators. Educators feel a new sense of satisfaction with the progress of their students.
This has encouraged educators to go out of their way to develop innovative models and explain hard to explain concepts and ideas. With 3D printing, educators are benefitting immensely in how they deliver education.
The technology of 3D printing is most beneficial to aspiring engineers. These college students are humanity's future, and they will be the ones who use this technology on a daily basis. The current generation of entrepreneurs are developing and fine-tuning the technology, but it will be the aspiring engineers who will lead the normalisation and complete democratisation of 3D printing. As a result, providing them with the opportunity to work on 3D printers becomes even more important.
Personal Development: Engineers benefit from 3D printing technology in their academic projects. It has been observed that 3D printers have given students a tool that they can experiment with. Even the most complex idea can now be prototyped and studied to check its feasibility. This mindset to explore new ideas is what the next generation needs to learn and 3D printing gives them the ability to try out their new ideas and test. This is leading to the building up of a strong and resilient mind to keep iterating and fine-tuning the ideas till the desired product is created. 3D printing is certainly playing a big role in the personal development of young engineers.
Academic Learning: Engineers have to regularly work on multiple projects spanning several topics. The academic calendar is filled with projects and what better way to build prototypes, models, products, parts, and simple assemblies for the project. As 3D printers now have commonplace in engineering institutes, it becomes a tool to learn and excel at academics.
Doctorate Projects: Besides the academic projects, many students want to continue studying and earn doctorates in specific areas. Here also, 3D printing can support students to make high-quality prototypes and models that can be cheaply created in 3D printers. It has a good library of materials to choose from and parts are 3D printed in a short time. All these factors now encourage students to see the doctorate as a fun learning activity rather than a technical process.
Essential Job Skills: As engineers eventually look to land jobs in relevant engineering sectors, they must have a good grasp of the latest technologies in use in their choice of the sector. Since 3D printing is now penetrating every industry, it is a major necessity to learn about the technology and use it at the workplace. So, using 3D printers while at college will benefit in learning an essential job skill in demand in the future job scenario.
Employed Professionals (500)
The technology is most beneficial to employed professionals, particularly those in the product manufacturing segment. We already know that technology is changing the way products are made, and it is only a matter of time before products in all industries follow suit.
Design Thinking: 3D printing has ushered in the era of personalized manufacturing. It enables designers and manufacturers to apply the concepts of design thinking in its true sense. Due to its capability to rapidly prototype, rapidly iterate and incorporate modifications and also manufacture in significant quantities, professionals are more open to applying the design thinking principles to develop better products that are much more closer to what the consumers want. For years, design thinking was relegated to only a handful of big manufacturers due to the associated costs and time, but 3D printing resolves all those snags and even smaller service providers can now develop better products. Employed professionals can now take the price in developing such consumer-centric products.
Product Development: For a product developer, 3D printing is a god’s gift to mankind. It is a tool that unlocks the shackles of manufacturing limitations. It gives them the freedom to think beyond design constraints and create unique products, perform exponentially better, last-long and is sustainable. For a professional, this is everything he can ever ask for.
Personal Growth: 3D printing can benefit an employed professional for his personal growth. Many a time, employees, once they get settled in a job role, hardly ever explore anything out of it. This impacts their learning ability and thus hampers their personal growth. A 3D printer is a tool that can be used and operated by any person and with some knowledge, even laymen can learn to use it. Moreover, technologies like FDM are quite cheap and do not cost much. So, experimenting and learning on such machines is fun and yet fulfilling. So, 3D printing can surely benefit the personal growth of an employed professional.
Skill Enhancement: Lastly, for an ambitious professional, 3D printing a ladder to growth. Still, many organization is in their initial stages of adopting the technology. Such organizations require dynamic professionals who are willing to learn, get skilled and handle their 3D printing operations. This is a perfect tool to enhance skills. So, getting to know this technology and learning it through directly handling a 3D printer and even joining a course can greatly help an employee. Such knowledge and experience can also lead to better job opportunities elsewhere and can truly take the individual places and can be a key to career success as well.
The technology was primarily developed to benefit manufacturers from various industries to give them a tool that can rapidly prototype and help them bring new products to market faster. We see how all industries can benefit from 3D printing.
Automotive has been one of the few early adopters of 3D printing technology. It recognized the potential of the technology and is now integrating the technology in a variety of operations. The technology delivers very significant benefits.
Prototyping: The first and most obvious advantage is that the technology can rapidly create prototypes. These can be conceptual prototypes required to introduce and communicate ideas, functional prototypes, form, and fitment testing prototypes, and others. All these can be created faster and cheaper with 3D printers and so it gives an immense benefit to the manufacturer.
Light-Weighting: One of the most important aspects impacting any automotive is the weight it carries around. The weight has a bearing on the efficiency of the entire system. The more the weight, the lower the efficiency and reliability over time. For a heavy system, the fuel consumption also increases, and thus the overall maintenance cost also rises. Many of the problems are associated with weight and so it is a given that automobiles should have a lower weight to function effectively over a long period.
3D printing brings the ability to lower the vehicle weight. By applying principles of topology optimization and light-weighting during the designing phase, the internal parts can be designed in such a way that they weigh less. The reduced weight of multiple parts will eventually make the automotive system more efficient.
Low Volume Production: 3D printing is recognized for its efficient low-volume production capability. Since the technology eliminates the tooling stage, there are no real starting costs associates with the production. So it is an ideal technology for low-volume production. Automotive companies benefit from this when they are in the initial testing phase, early launch period, new product development, etc.
Complex Designs: The 3D printing technology significantly reduces the restriction imposed on the part design by the conventional manufacturing processes. This enables automotive companies to design complex shapes that reduce the system weight, offer new design and performance capabilities, and bring out new, innovative, and futuristic designs to their products.
Bridge Manufacturing: The concept of bridge manufacturing is well-known but it has received a boost since 3D printing evolved into an end-use part manufacturing technology. Bridge manufacturing is the early product introduction stage to sustain the low production quantities before the tooling for the mass production technologies is ready and churning out parts in bulk. This helps companies to rapidly introduce a product to the market instead of waiting till the tooling stage, which takes time. Also, this phase helps the company in understanding the response their product is receiving from the customers.
Aerospace is also a sector that is obsessed with reducing the system weight. Since the vehicles are flying against gravity, the amount of fuel required is enormous. Even a small reduction in weight has a huge impact on cost savings.
Part Consolidation: One of the greatest advantages of 3D printing is part consolidation. It means that multiple parts can be combined into a single part. This reduces the number of moving parts, eliminates the need to connect or join these parts, and thus eliminates the need for screws, nuts, and bolts, it also reduces assembly time.
Less Material Usage: By part consolidation, and with proper topology optimization the material used can also be reduced. Material reduction is simply a huge cost saving as most of the materials used in aerospace systems are industrial-grade and are quite costly.
One-off Part Manufacturing: Since the aerospace industry functions on batch manufacturing and parts are often manufactured in low volumes, the 3D printing technology fits in perfectly well. Most of the time one-off parts are also required for certain missions or research and development and so 3D printing is the ideal technology that can benefit the industry in such cases.
Healthcare is also one of the earliest adopters of technology. Researchers and scientists have been working with the technology since the early developmental days of the technology. Over the years, many developments have been made and some are unique, interesting, and have huge prospects in the future.
Implants: 3D printed implants are now becoming commonplace. The traditionally manufactured implants are cast or forged, are costly and mass-manufactured and most of the patients express discomfort with them. 3D printing eliminates all these issues. Though the technology is new, doctors across the globe are using 3D printed implants to deliver better healthcare to their patients.
Prosthetics: 3D printing has truly disrupted the prosthetic industry. It is similar to the implant market but since it is mostly non-invasive, even more doctors are recommending patients to use 3D printed prosthetics. The benefits are quite obvious and so 3D printing is now the primary process to manufacture prosthetics. 3D printed prosthetics are cheaper, lightweight can be customized and personalized.
Process Simplification: The technology is now the go-to process for dental implants. This is because it has simplified the overly complex process used traditionally. The 3D printing process is as simple as visiting the dentist once for an oral scan. The scan is then converted to a highly precise digital model which is then 3D printed to create the dental model. This process simplification is leading to a global rise in the use of 3D printing for dentistry.
Defense is a crucial topic for every country and is very dynamic. It is not as simple as designing a product for mass consumers. The requirements, considerations, and constraints are quite different from the regular product. But 3D printing can assimilate their requirements into the manufacturing process as well.
On-demand manufacturing: One of the greatest advantages of 3D printing is on-demand manufacturing. This advantage is leveraged by many industries and is going to be the factor that will define manufacturing in the coming years. On-demand manufacturing is the most perfect manufacturing solution for the defense industry. It is because 3D printers are now being tested and designed to be used on battlefields. Any minute damage to equipment like the tank, field guns, aircraft, etc. can render them ineffective. Even simple parts like simple gears, nuts, bolts, etc. are crucial and can change the result on the battlefield.
Having a versatile tool like a 3D printer on the battlefield can redefine warfare as damaged equipment can be repaired and restored to service in hours, if not minutes. It reduces the long supply lines often getting affected by the enemy.
The USAF is also exploring drone manufacturing and drone repair on the battlefield and all this can be powered by the on-demand manufacturing capability of 3D printing.
Besides the above-mentioned organizations, many other organizations operating in the energy, railway and maritime, fashion, sports, etc. can leverage the technology and can benefit from all its capabilities.
Finally, the true beneficiaries of advances in 3D printing technology are consumers. No matter how many advantages companies and organizations leverage from technology, it will always be aimed at the consumer. All efforts will be directed toward pleasing the consumer and ensuring that he purchases such innovative and efficient products. As a result, the consumer is the ultimate victor.