Backstory: The many possibilities of 3D printing

Friday July 15, 2016
Written by John Brown, Javelin Technologies
Jul. 15, 2016 - In just a few years, 3D printing has moved from a “nice-to-have” to “must-have” technology. It’s well known by manufacturers who have purchased a printer or used a service to make non-functional prototypes; they have enjoyed seeing their designs come to life quickly and at low cost, while decreasing their time to market.

Prototyping is a common starting place, but it’s time to think bigger. It’s time for Canadian manufacturers to see additive manufacturing as more than mysterious magic that happens when you hit the Print button. It’s time to design and incorporate an entirely new process that allows for a new way of making things.

It’s a big leap. As a group, Canadian manufacturers are not known for jumping into parts unknown with two eager feet. Many seek out government funding for R&D, but are less likely to make innovation a priority without that incentive. Yet that’s where an investment in 3D printing tends to sit. Manufacturers who bring a quarter-million-dollar printer into their shop must be comfortable with not yet understanding the full extent of how it will be used in the future. They need to know its potential for transforming the way the company will do business.

As print material selection and properties have advanced, and because creative people have been willing to experiment, companies are now making usable parts that stand up to real world conditions. And imagine producing machine parts, customized in any way? Not only are they fast to produce, at a reduced cost, but they can be easily switched out later. Why wait months for an injection molded tool that might not fit or work as it should when it arrives?

The hype around 3D printing is undeniable. To understand the applications and ROI in your business, you have to change the way you think about every step of production. Don’t wait — do some research, talk to some experts, and come up with your own transformational ideas for improving your operations.

John Brown co-leads the team of 3D printing specialists at Javelin Technologies, known across Canada as a partner in 3D technology, including SolidWorks 3D CAD software and additive manufacturing. Since beginning at Javelin as an applications engineer, Brown has been on the front lines for major company successes, including the game-changing launch of Stratasys 3D printing products and services.

This column was originally published in the June 2016 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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