“Faster. Better. Cheaper.”
No, this is not the introduction to a “Six Million Dollar Man” episode from the 1970s. It’s the new mantra of today’s manufacturing companies, which are using innovative methods to get their products to market faster, better and cheaper than ever before.
Who would’ve thought these words would be used to describe manufacturing?
In the old days, manufacturing took time. “Time to market” was clearly a lengthy cycle in any industry because getting a product from concept stage to being available for purchase took time. Product development often had a difficult time making it out of the engineering department, based on such variables as initial approval, testing phases, budgeting, staffing allocations, manufacturing, shipping … the list goes on and on.
But today, that’s all different. Thanks to an innovative process known as “(3D) rapid prototyping,” time to market can be greatly reduced. And the strange thing is: the technology is nothing new. It has been around for nearly three decades!
Known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing is used to fabricate models, prototypes and parts out of resin material. Using a CAD drawing, a part can be printed in a matter of hours.
Today’s high-end 3D rapid-prototype printers have improved exponentially over the last decade. There are machines with better print quality and resolution, significantly higher run speeds, more material choices, properties and shades of color, and less of a footprint. It’s possible to buy a 3D printer to sit on your desk – similar in size to a laser printer – for printing convenience at your fingertips.
So not only are 3D printers more capable, but the range and mechanical properties of 3D print materials are expanding. The result of all this is that advanced 3D printers are becoming a must-have fixture within every large product-development company, from the automotive sector to electronic goods and household appliances.