The market in 3D printing is growing day by day with new startups each month. This industry holds the potential to capture the major market in the coming future in the automobile, aerospace, jewelry, architecture, medical, foundry, the electronic industry as well as in the market of production of household items.
But there are certain limitations to the great success, faced by the 3D printing industry today, the barriers which should be broken by the industry in the near future to build their empire strong and competitive. So let us take a leap from the world of words to the real world and see what are the challenges faced by the 3D printing industry today which must be overcome.
Scale and Size
In 3D printing, only one item is produced at a time. To print multiple objects at a time you will need multiple machines working simultaneously like a DNC machine. The cost of a single 3D printing machine is much higher than a CNC machine working on the same material. All this means due to the restriction of high initial cost only one object can be produced at a time. Multiple items cannot be simultaneously produced on a 3D printer, this is not the only limitation with respect to scale and size. Another limitation is the size of the product or the object being printed.
If the polymer is produced, the majority of 3D printers which are present today can only print items measuring up to 1 cubic yard and only 1 cubic foot if the metal is used as the printing material.
3D Printed Objects May Require Heavy Duty Post Processing
If anyone has seen 3D printing live, will know that the finishing quality of the printed objects is not that good. These products cannot be used directly by the consumer without processing done on it. Also, the problem isn’t only the lack of surface finish or polish, it is more about the dimensional accuracy produced by these 3D printing methods.
3D Printing Belies Economies of Scale
The most advantageous benefit of 3D printing, the sword of this king is the fact that this process allows maximum customisation potential. Unfortunately, this same fact carries one of the more potent disadvantages of 3D printing. That is the absence of economies of scale.
In simple language economies of scale is the cost advantage gained by the manufacturers when they increase the size and scale of the manufacturing system. This means to improve the profit margins, a manufacturer can mass produce them. So, decreasing the cost per item he has to put in and increasing the profit.
Large Scale Adoption Will Result In Significant Job Loss
Let us take for example, in a factory two type of scrap material exit the belt. A worker separates the two and places them in two different containers. If now the company engineer automates this system by placing some kind of separating machine at the exit, then the owner can remove this worker, resulting in the loss 0f job by the poor worker. So an innovation in the present technology or the process ends up taking away jobs amongst the masses.
This has happened throughout the human history. It happened when industries automated their processes, the same happened during the Industrial Revolution, during the Digital Revolution, and surely will happen in the future too. The machine operators will lose their jobs with the development and availability of 3D printers.
3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, which means building in additive fashion i.e. layer by layer addition of material from the ground up. While the technology is a major process breakthrough, there is a very limited number of materials today which allows 3D printing.
Some materials in which 3D printing is done are – ABS plastic, polyamide, epoxy resins, steel, wax, titanium and some more. The list seems interesting but very limited.
How small can you go in 3D printing? If you’re using a typical desktop 3D printer (or an industrial Stratasys FDM printer), the nozzle is about 0.35 mm in diameter. This means the sharpest outside corner that can reproduce is also .35mm in diameter, we cannot produce dimension less than this. On other precise systems, you could reasonably expect this figure to be around 0.116 to 0.175 mm in diameter.
Cost of Buying and Setting up A 3D Printer Is Very High
The cost factor is the biggest disadvantage of 3D printing. Yes, it is true that over its whole life a 3D printer pays for itself more than once, but the initial cost still remains something which needs to be put in once, at a time. Since the initial cost is such a high, the risk of setting a costly business comes free of cost.
For example, the top end 3D printing devices can cost between $300,000 and $2 million. Even the consumable items can end up costing a very high price ranging from $100 to $200 for every pound of material consumed.