Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (2023)

What you should know about industrial 3D printing: advantages and disadvantages

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is one of the fastest developing manufacturing technologies in the world. It is a process of layer-by-layer material deposition to produce parts from 3D models. 3D printing has demonstrated its efficacy especially in low-volume, high-customisation industries such as aerospace, and there are many reasons for this. In this article we will explore the ways in which 3D printing can benefit all industries, improve lead times, and reduce costs. The focus will be on Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) printing, where a semi-molten filament of plastic is extruded through a nozzle, but these principles can be applied in general to all printing technologies.

The many advantages of 3D printing technology can lead to lighter parts, shorter lead times, and lower costs. This is all thanks to its main feature: a greatly enhanced design freedom, which allows the design of parts with highly customised and unusual geometries. Almost all 3D printing benefits stem from this and lead to many features such as rapid prototyping, on-demand and just-in-time manufacturing, digital warehouses, reduced part count, shorter assembly times, and easier maintenance. The design freedom and large variety of materials available for 3D printing make it a very flexible solution for industrial manufacturing.

The main limitations of Additive manufacturing are the relatively high cost of individual parts and the inability to produce large volumes. This limits the scope of 3D printing to small runs and complex parts, since for simple parts produced in large volumes, traditional manufacturing is sufficient.

3D printing and customization: how does 3D printing help in providing customization of products?

  • Simpler design process

The benefits of 3D printing start with design freedom. When it comes to the designing process of parts, there is little cost difference between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing since they both use the same CAD programs. The two factors that in the end influence the costs are how complicated the designs are and the price of the materials. Traditional manufacturing methods, such as injection moulding and CNC machining, offer no real shortcuts to faster or more complex parts, they must be made with all the limitations inherent to these technologies, such as appropriate draft angles, ensuring tool access, and designing generally uniform wall thicknesses.

3D printing, on the other hand, has few of these limitations. The design process for FFF printing is mainly focussed on the reduction of supports and ensuring that they can be easily removed, beyond that there are only a small number of other considerations. This allows a much greater design freedom and therefore the possibility to use 3D printing for countless applications, even with designs that would be impossible traditionally; a single 3D printer can be used to make many different types of parts, from gaskets for chemical plants to satellite frames, from simple pins to spoilers for racing cars, from worm gears to compliant mechanisms, the only limitation is the designer’s imagination.


  • Easy manufacturing of complex geometries

A lot of designing for traditional manufacturing is made using parametric designs and NURBS based software packages. These are appropriate for more regular shapes, such as rectangles, circles, and triangles, because every dimension and feature has been provided. This is the standard because components must fit together and are part of an assembly so more freeform design is not encouraged and is also often not practical in many CAD software packages.

On the other hand, the few design limitations of 3D printing allow the creation of incredibly complex geometries that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to make using traditional methods. 3D printing can work with meshes, which lend themselves much more to freeform and organic designs, which are inherently much more complex than regular shapes. Using AM, designers have much more freedom to change and manipulate geometries to better meet unique applications. This results in much more complex parts that have several advantages over more regular geometries including reduced mass, lower part count, and easier integration.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (1)Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (2)

  • Lead-time reduction and rapid prototyping

The first real use of 3D printing was as a method to produce prototypes, in fact an old name for AM is rapid prototyping. Thanks to the design freedom of 3D printing, modifying a prototype is easy to do and can be implement at all stages of product development. This eliminates, for example, the need to produce a new mould every time a design is modified. Therefore, experimentation becomes viable, new designs and ideas can be readily tested and approved, leading to better and more innovative designs.

When the manufacturing process of a new product occupies a considerable portion of the project time (for example, for a one-year project the manufacturing time might take five months due to mould design and production), companies are forced to produce the final design several months before the end of the project. The issue is that the final design might be sub-optimal due to time restrictions and there is little room for improvements. Rapid 3D prototyping, instead, greatly accelerates the development phase, allowing several prototypes to be manufactured in rapid succession and changing the design paradigm.

On top of that, by leveraging the wide range of materials available for 3D printing, especially high-performance polymers that can survive difficult environments such as space and can replace metals, advanced prototypes can be manufactured that are almost identical to the final product.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (3)

  • On-demand and just-in-time manufacturing

There are many 3D printing benefits to businesses but one of the main ones is a dramatic shortening of lead times, done through just-in-time (JIT) and on-demand manufacturing. Companies often use inventory systems that are specific to their needs, but none want an interruption in the supply chain that would lead to the missing of deadlines. Sometimes, though, unforeseen situations arise and so it is important to have a system in place that can compensate. Two of these systems are the aforementioned just-in-time and on-demand manufacturing. In JIT, a product (or products) is delivered directly from the supplier to the company without going through a warehouse. On-demand manufacturing involves ensuring that a customer has the right item in the right quantity and at the right time.

(Video) Advantages and Disadvantages of 3D Printing Technology

3D printing is very flexible and can provide both JIT and on-demand manufacturing of parts thanks to its speed and design freedom, either through the acquisition of printers of by leveraging services such as Roboze 3D Parts. Using a database of already printed parts, new ones can be made in a short time and whenever necessary, compensating for interruptions in the supply chain and helping to maintain a good relationship with customers.

  • Spare parts and digital warehouses with 3D printing

Spare parts are usually made using economies of scale, where more parts are manufactured than needed to stock spares for future need. The issue is that this need is often unpredictable and may or may not arise. Either way, the spares must be housed in a warehouse where they occupy space and increase inventory costs. By having an industrial 3D printer and leveraging 3D printing’s ability to manufacture on-demand and JIT, it is possible to create a digital warehouse of already printed and verified parts instead, which is a much more flexible approach. The parts are stored digitally, occupying no physical space, and can then be printed when needed instead of needing to be ordered or stocked.

Costs can be further cut by having the best industrial 3D printers spread in several sites around the world that use digital warehousing. This not only eliminates the need for storage of spares, it also greatly reduces the delivery costs, especially if the parts are stored far from the place of need. This ability to produce parts locally and on demand is part of the movement called distributed or decentralized manufacturing, a shift in manufacturing supply chains that has been taking place for a few years and of which 3D printing is a major enabler.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (4)

  • Part integration with 3D printing

3D printing’s design freedom not only allows more complex geometries to be manufactured, but it also allows the consolidation of several parts that would otherwise have to be made separately into one, considerably cutting the manufacturing time and cost. This also reduces the need for resources since fewer individual parts must be made, thus there is a reduction in material waste, such as that produced when using CNC machining.

Due to the limitations of conventional manufacturing, complex assemblies such as air-conditioning ducts for aircraft must be constructed out of several separate pipes since they follow very complex paths. By using 3D printing and high-performance thermopolymers such as PEEK (Poly Ether Ether Ketone) and ULTEM™ AM9085F (which have certifications for use on passenger aircraft), several sections can be printed together, lowering the manufacturing time and decreasing the costs.

Another example is the swinging arm and disc in swing check valves. Normally these are two separate components that are bolted together due to limitations in casting and CNC machining. Once again by employing 3D printing and a composite thermoplastic such as Carbon PEEK the two parts can be combined into one, simplifying manufacturing. As an added bonus, the lower mass of polymers makes the resulting assembly much safer to handle and easier to mount.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (5)

(Video) The Benefits of 3D Printing

  • Shorter assembly times

Integrating several parts together into one has the major advantage of greatly reducing the assembly time, if not eliminating it entirely thanks to the design freedom of AM, which allows the easy manufacturing of complex geometries. By reducing the total number of parts, the time to use is also reduced. Use of AM for assembly time reductions can be applied to both manual and automated assembly and it is particularly useful for automated assembly systems since, in general, they are better at handling simpler geometries. In other words, having a single more complex part with a few attachment points is more efficient than several smaller components each with their own attachments.

Furthermore, the printing of assembly templates such as drilling jigs helps to standardise and speed up production because, thanks to AM’s design freedom, ad-hoc jigs can be easily designed and manufactured for complex geometries. The designs can then be quickly changed, and a new jig made if variations are made to the part being drilled.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (6)

  • Simplified maintenance of assemblies

The design freedom of 3D printing can also be used with an eye to simplifying maintenance. By reducing the number of parts, not only is assembly faster and easier, but this also naturally has the same effect on disassembly. Therefore, an assembly can be re-designed by integrating several parts together but keeping a component that requires frequent replacement separate. Using techniques such as this and combining them with a digital warehouse means that maintenance can be made much faster, less costly, and simpler.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (7)

  • Flexible solutions with standard, engineering, and high-performance polymers

Standard polymers are the most used around the world and include plastics such PET, PVC, and PP. These plastics are characterised by low mechanical and thermal properties, but also a good chemical resistance and very low cost, making them particularly palatable for mass production of consumer goods such as plastic containers. With a few exceptions, most standard polymers can be 3D printed, in particular PLA, ABS, and PA are commonly used to print prototypes and replacement parts with complex geometries.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (8)

The next class of polymers is engineering plastics, which are stronger than standard plastics and can be used to manufacture vehicle components, machine parts, and find applications in construction. These polymers are sometimes blended with other materials to produce composites with new properties. 3D printing of engineering plastics can be used for a variety of applications, for example to make durable and customised tooling using FUNCTIONAL Nylon. Engineering plastics and AM can also be used in the automotive industry, where increased design freedom and materials such as PC-LEXANTM can be used for the production of interior trims, door panels, seat components, instruments panels and pillar covers.

(Video) The Future of 3D Printing for Building Construction. Is It Safe?

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (9)

High-performance plastics are differentiated from standard and engineering plastics mainly by a higher thermal resistance (higher continuous use temperature), as well as stronger mechanical characteristics and a low production quantity (due to their highly specialised use). Materials such as Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) and Polyetherimide (PEI) are able to full fill much more stringent requirements compared the other thermopolymer classes, as such they can be used in challenging industries such as aerospace, energy, and motorsport.

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3D printing benefits in production: using additive manufacturing for small batches and internal production

It is a well-known fact that small production batches have a higher cost than high-volume ones, where economies of scale start to have an effect. This can be problematic when only a limited number of parts is required, for example in the case of spare parts or a pre-series (before going into full production). Typically, the mould is the most expensive part of the process, costing upwards of 10,000 USD, therefore companies will refrain from low volume runs.

There are many 3D printing advantages and one is that the cost for a single part does not change whether a batch of 10 or 1000 is printed. Because the cost stays the same irrespective of the volume, small batches are much cheaper to print than using traditional manufacturing. On top of this, thanks to the layered nature of 3D printing, complex geometries with features such as internal cavities, lattice structures, and functionalised surfaces don’t impact the cost of the part. The break-even point can vary depending on the complexity, but in general can be said to be in the range of the hundreds of parts.

Benefits and advantages of 3D printing (11)

How can 3D printing help to internalise production?

Internalising production is something that companies often do to reduce the costs of manufacturing and transportation, as well as to reduce time. Internal production means setting up a space that is dedicated to manufacturing parts that are needed often and often expensive to acquire, hence why the production is internalised. The acquisition of an industrial 3D printer can serve the same purposes as a whole machining shop with the added benefits of greater design freedom, flexibility, and low costs for small batches. Having an in-house 3D printing facility allows the creation of a digital warehouse and JIT and on-demand manufacturing, dramatically shortening the lead times and lowering costs, up to -50% of costs and 80% of internalized production.


How does 3D printing benefit students? ›

3D printing offers a way for students to truly connect to the subject matter by physically manipulating ready-printed teaching aids or by designing tools themselves. For K-12 students especially, this hands-on aspect of 3D printing in the classroom helps improve engagement and participation.

What are the positives and negatives of 3D printing? ›

Pros: allows you to make new shapes, it's eco-friendly and it saves time. Cons: doesn't always work well for large projects, appropriate materials aren't always available and it has regulatory challenges.

How 3D printing can benefit society? ›

The technology enables production to be decentralized, as components can be produced directly and locally, cutting logistics costs and reducing carbon emissions at the same time. The manufacturing process itself also requires far fewer resources.

What is 3D useful for? ›

Today, 3D modeling is used in various industries like film, animation and gaming, interior design and architecture. They are also used in the medical industry to create interactive representations of anatomy.

Why is 3D printing important for the future? ›

This is just a start, but the technology has already been helping into these two very important fields of life. In the first case, it can print parts of medical instruments, but also customized prosthetics and implants. In the second, it now takes a lot less time to build a refuge, in situations of natural disasters.

How does 3D printing improve people's lives? ›

3D printing could make prosthetics cheaper for everyone, changing the lives of amputees worldwide. 3D printing is also being used for surgery, with replicas of hearts and organs being used to help surgeons prep. Bioprinting, 3D printing that uses “ink” made of human cells and tissue, is making massive strides.

What are the advantages of printing? ›

Advantages of digital printing
  • Full color. Various design possibilities with full color and gradation print without the limitation of colors.
  • Quick delivery. ...
  • Color matching time is reduced. ...
  • Low cost. ...
  • Simple. ...
  • Small volume production. ...
  • High added value. ...
  • Environmentally friendly.

Is 3D printing good for the environment? ›

The filaments and plastics used in 3D printing are strong and biodegradable, which reduces plastic waste. And that's not the only type of recycled material that companies (and hobbyists) can use in 3D printing.

What is the advantages of 3D environment? ›

One of the most important potential learning benefits of 3D environments is in developing an understanding of the complex systems we encounter in the world, such as the environmental ecosystem, physical and electrostatic forces, or the intricate workings of a machine.

What is 3D printing examples? ›

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D-printed objects are created from a digital file and a printer that lays down successive layers of material until the object is complete. Each layer is a thinly sliced cross-section of the actual object. It uses less material than traditional manufacturing.

Where is 3D printing used? ›

In recent years, 3D printing has developed significantly and can now perform crucial roles in many applications, with the most common applications being manufacturing, medicine, architecture, custom art and design, and can vary from fully functional to purely aesthetic applications.

What are the effects of 3D printing? ›

Some common hazards include: Breathing in harmful materials: 3D printing can release particulates and other harmful chemicals into the air. Skin contact with harmful materials: Users can get hazardous materials, such as metal powders, solvents and other chemicals, on their skin.

Is 3D printing high quality? ›

Resin 3D printers have good XY resolutions, which results in smooth and fine printing. Because of high resolution, print layer lines are barely noticeable. A high resolution results in high print quality. However, other factors can also influence affect print quality.

Is 3D printing successful? ›

3D printing has been known in the world of engineering because it saves time and money by keeping prototyping in-house. Even if an organization has a machine shop, taking time on those machines not only costs money to run but also an opportunity cost in parts that could be running.

What means 3D printing? ›

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a method of creating a three dimensional object layer-by-layer using a computer created design. 3D printing is an additive process whereby layers of material are built up to create a 3D part.

How does 3D printing work? ›

3D printing uses computer-aided design to create three-dimensional objects through a layering method. Sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing, 3D printing involves layering materials, like plastics, composites or bio-materials to create objects that range in shape, size, rigidity and color.

Is 3D printing good for the economy? ›

Summary: Research finds the technology is a boon to trade, allowing participating countries to provide higher income and more opportunities to their people.

What problems does 3D printing help solve? ›

Complexity – 3D printing provides an intricate production process simply not repeatable by humans. Specific parts in certain industries such as the aerospace sector are repeatedly showing the complexity this technique offers. Efficiency – It can reduce or even eliminate tool production costs and labour.

What is the advantage and disadvantages? ›

As nouns, the difference between disadvantage and advantage is that disadvantage is a weakness or undesirable characteristic; a con while the advantage is any condition, circumstance, opportunity, or means, particularly favorable to success, or any desired end.

What are the 5 benefits of network printer? ›

Benefits of a network printer
  • Less money wasted on redundant IT equipment. ...
  • Highly scalable. ...
  • Print from anywhere. ...
  • Flexible device installation. ...
  • Print from any device. ...
  • Scan and file share remotely. ...
  • Connect to a range of apps.
5 Nov 2018

What is printing short answer? ›

Printing is a process for mass reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus.

Is 3D printing a clean technology? ›

We can convincingly state that 3D printing technology does bring environmental benefits. Exhaust emissions can be reduced, less energy is used, repairs instead of replacements, less wastage and the possibilities to make products from more environmentally friendly materials plus the option to recycle any waste.

How can 3D printing reduce waste? ›

Traditional manufacturing uses much more raw material: cutting pieces out of larger pieces of metal or plastic and, as a result, a larger volume of waste and scraps. 3D printing builds a structure or product layer by layer, leaving no leftover waste or excess material in the process.

Can 3D printing help climate change? ›

By allowing products to be made on-demand, using only the amount of material needed, 3D printing can significantly reduce the amount of waste generated by these industries drastically. In addition, 3D-printed buildings tend to be more energy-efficient than traditional structures, reducing carbon emissions.

How 3D printing will change the world? ›

There are multiple ways 3D printing could impact our environment that range from helping injured animals in repairing fragile ecosystems. More directly, 3D printing can reduce waste material, offering more sustainable industrial manufacturing alternatives.

Why is 3D learning important? ›

Three-Dimensional Learning shifts the focus of the science classroom to environments where students use disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts with scientific practices to explore, examine, and explain how and why phenomena occur and to design solutions to problems.

Who invented 3D printing? ›

Charles Hull is the inventor of stereolithography, the first commercial rapid prototyping technology commonly known as 3D printing. The earliest applications were in research and development labs and tool rooms, but today 3D printing applications are seemingly endless.

What is 3D printing material? ›

The most common FDM 3D printing materials are ABS, PLA, and their various blends. More advanced FDM printers can also print with other specialized materials that offer properties like higher heat resistance, impact resistance, chemical resistance, and rigidity.

Is 3D printing simple? ›

With the right information, 3D printing is a very simple process. 3D printer manufacturers realize that ease of set-up is a big factor when it comes to 3D printing beginners, so most have specifically made it easy to function from start to finish. Set up can take minutes.

Why is 3D printing popular? ›

Printing a prototype is often more affordable than building one by hand, and certainly less costly than contracting a manufacturer to do it. Particularly with low quantities of production, inventors can rapidly design, print,and test a product.

Why 3D printing is so popular? ›

3D printing has become popular so quickly because it makes manufacturing accessible to more people than ever before. This is partly due to the price (the starting price for a basic 3D printer is about $300), but also the small size of the printers compared to traditional manufacturing.

What products use 3D printing? ›

Among the items made with 3D printers are shoe designs, furniture, wax castings for making jewelry, tools, tripods, gift and novelty items, and toys. The automotive and aviation industries use 3D printers to make parts. Artists can create sculptures, and architects can fabricate models of their projects.

How 3D printing improves daily life? ›

3D printing could make prosthetics cheaper for everyone, changing the lives of amputees worldwide. 3D printing is also being used for surgery, with replicas of hearts and organs being used to help surgeons prep. Bioprinting, 3D printing that uses “ink” made of human cells and tissue, is making massive strides.

Why is 3D printing good for the environment? ›

It can use recycled materials

The filaments and plastics used in 3D printing are strong and biodegradable, which reduces plastic waste. And that's not the only type of recycled material that companies (and hobbyists) can use in 3D printing.

Why is 3D printing good for the future? ›

This is just a start, but the technology has already been helping into these two very important fields of life. In the first case, it can print parts of medical instruments, but also customized prosthetics and implants. In the second, it now takes a lot less time to build a refuge, in situations of natural disasters.

What problems does 3D printing solve? ›

Complexity – 3D printing provides an intricate production process simply not repeatable by humans. Specific parts in certain industries such as the aerospace sector are repeatedly showing the complexity this technique offers. Efficiency – It can reduce or even eliminate tool production costs and labour.

Can 3D printing save lives? ›

This bioprinting thing is not only helping to print organs, it is also helping to create prosthetic limbs. The main advantages of 3D bioprinting are that it helps to face the lack of organ donors, and it also avoids risks of rejections as these organs or body parts are made using patient's cells.

Is 3D printing effective? ›

3D printing is often the fastest, most reliable method of creating a prototype. You can quickly 3D print a design, test it, and then make changes or new iterations of the prototype until it's ready for production.

What is the impact of 3D printing? ›

Improve resource efficiency -- 3D printing is a 'greener,' more energy-efficient and cost-efficient production method. It creates almost zero waste, lowers the risk of overproduction and excess inventory and reduces the carbon footprint. It takes 'Just-in-Time' manufacturing to a new level.

How 3D printers are building a better world? ›

A global 3D printing network could bring a new paradigm of on-demand manufacturing. No more armadas of planes, trains, and container ships carrying cargo around the globe. No more huge, specialized factories. And no more massive warehouses to house unused stock indefinitely.

Do you think 3D printing will change the world? ›

There are multiple ways 3D printing could impact our environment that range from helping injured animals in repairing fragile ecosystems. More directly, 3D printing can reduce waste material, offering more sustainable industrial manufacturing alternatives.

How is 3D printing affecting the environment? ›

Lower Distribution Emissions

This reduces transportation of products and parts to locations, which in turn reduces fossil emissions as less fuel is used. Additionally, with 3D-printed products being lighter (up to 50%), less energy and fuel is consumed when transporting goods.


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