Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is poised to change the world of manufacturing. While it may not replace high-speed production processes such as injection molding or metal stamping in the short term, 3D printing for production has earned a place in three specific areas of manufacturing where it increases productivity, reduces costs or helps to eliminate unplanned downtime.

Industrial 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and production.

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3D Printing for Production

1. Pain Points and Cost Drivers

Every manufacturing facility has bottlenecks or pain points that throttle throughput and plague management with frequent unplanned downtime that is time-consuming or costly to fix. Identify these pain points as potential areas where industrial 3D printing can make a substantial difference.

For example, adding guides, assembly fixtures and jigs may speed up the process. Custom line add-ons can reduce failures and keep the line running smoothly. Fixtures and calibration jigs can speed up changeovers and setups, helping to get the line running in less time.

Printed fixtures, replacement parts, and maintenance tools help keep downtime to a minimum and help to minimize the production of poor quality parts, making a compelling case in support of 3D printing for production.

2. Factory Applications

Tooling is one of the most expensive parts of most manufacturing processes, so the ability to create tools quickly and cost-effectively with 3D printing is helpful in controlling costs and improving efficiency. To make equipment last longer, parts can be treated with a shot peening technique to prevent materials from cracking and it increases the fatigue strength of new and damaged parts. Companies like Superior Shot Peening offer shot peening services as well as other metal protection services.

Calibration jigs help to ensure that equipment changeovers and setups are performed correctly, reducing the time required and eliminating a possible source of scrap or rework.

Inspection fixtures, assembly jigs, and devices used to hold work in proper alignment can be hard to machine accurately, but they can be easily created using industrial 3D printing. Whilst 3D printing will be beneficial for a lot of industrial companies, many businesses still don’t have access to one. Currently, a lot of businesses look to companies like to cut any materials for them. By using a water jet cutting machine, materials can be cut precisely and accurately for assembling various industrial machines. This method seems to work well. However, with the eventual introduction of 3D printers, this task will become much more accessible.

Industrial 3D printing allows factories and production houses to cost-effectively create custom tooling and fixtures.

3. MRO Equipment Materials

Industrial 3D printing is a major cost saver in the MRO (maintenance, repair, operations) area. Rather than stock spares of every possible part that can fail, it is much more cost effective to stock the common materials that these items are made from and then print them on demand.

Industrial 3D printing can significantly reduce the costs associated with MRO (maintenance, repair, operations).

While many people have an idea that 3D printers are only capable of printing using a few relatively soft plastics, this is not at all the case. Current industrial 3D printing equipment operates effectively using the most common materials used in manufacturing components for machinery and equipment.

For example, Delrin® (an industrial polyethylene), nylon and other engineering materials noted for their strength, wear resistance and ability to survive harsh manufacturing environments are often used in machinery. Aluminum, stainless and steel are used often because of their strength and stiffness. Parts made from these materials may be difficult or costly to manufacture using traditional methods.

Industrial 3D printers, such as those from Markforged, can replicate the strength and wear resistance of these materials using printed composites, sometimes in conjunction with inexpensive off-the-shelf items. This enables manufacturers to quickly and inexpensively create spare parts, jigs, fixtures, mounting hardware and other items that can be expensive to manufacture using traditional methods.

Markforged: The Top Choice in 3D Printing for Production

Markforged has a full line of industrial 3D printers with various capabilities and strengths. They are among the best printers and materials available for 3D printing for production.

  • The Markforged Mark Two prints high-strength products using nylon, carbon fiber, fiberglass, Kevlar, high temp resistant fiberglass, and Onyx.
  • The Markforged Mark X prints to extreme tolerances-one micron at Z resolution and 50 microns at XY Resolution, making it ideal for industrial 3D printing of robotics, automotive parts, molds, prosthetics, athletic equipment, and other industrial applications. This printer is capable of printing in carbon fiber, fiberglass, Kevlar, high strength and high temperature fiberglass, as well as plastic materials including nylon and Onyx.
  • The Markforged Metal X is a revolutionary metal 3D printer that allows you to print metal parts overnight. Using a variety of materials, the Metal X creates parts that are 10x less expensive than traditional metal additive manufacturing methods and 100x less expensive than traditional metal fabrication techniques like machining or casting.
  • Markforged Onyx, an industrial carbon fiber, is the lightest, strongest material in the world. Its strength comes from the continuous carbon strands, which greatly exceed the strength of more common plastics with embedded chopped carbon strands.

If you would like to learn more about how 3D printing for production can help you control costs, reduce downtime and run more efficiently, contact the experts at NxRev today.