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9 Myths About 3D Printing Debunked!

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3D printing has come a long way since it was first developed, yet it still has quite a ways to go. It will likely be years before 3D printers are so economically priced that they are found in almost every household. Still, this tech-forward printing method offers an alternative to traditional product design and development for manufacturing and industrial applications, from prototyping to actual product printing.

Unfortunately, like most trending technologies, there are also several myths surrounding this technology, how it works, and what it can be used for. It’s not a complicated topic, but much information is covered. Fortunately, we’ve taken the time to do your hard work. This guide will fill you in on all the misinformation flying around and turn those myths into facts to understand what 3D printing offers in the manufacturing arena and beyond.

Myth: 3D printing is too expensive for more than a limited run

The cost of 3D printing isn’t as high as some people think. Not only that, but it may end up being a cost-effective solution that you use for specific projects. If you need to make complex features and angles without conventional manufacturing or tooling, or if you’re creating something that would otherwise need to be machined extensively, you’ll find that it offers a better (read: more affordable) solution in most cases.

So which process is best? How much time and materials does the product require? How much inventory will you need to keep on hand? These factors will also determine whether this is a cost-effective option, but in many cases, 3D printing can be used for much more than limited runs or small batches. It may not yet be ready for large-scale mass production, but progress is ongoing.

Myth: You can print anything with a 3D printer

While you can print many unique things with a 3D printer, you cannot print anything and everything. Just because it can be printed in 3D also doesn’t mean it should. Some things should be made conventionally or through other production means outside 3D printing. This printing method uses what is known as an additive process. The end product is built (printed) layer by layer during printing.

Some things aren’t possible, and some ideas aren’t economical. You’ll always want to study the use case for 3D printing and rely on the assistance of trained experts to help with your projects and even to help you decide if this is the right path for your production needs.

Abstract 3D printed object made out of grey PLA plastic. 3D printing allows for more unique shapes than injection molding.
3D printing can allow for individual freedoms in geometry and structure, including web or lattice structures that save material cost and weight.

Myth: All 3D printing is plastic

Here’s another big misconception. While the earliest forms of this type of printing were primarily made in plastic and composites, several materials today can be used for 3D printing. You will find more than 200, all told, and that number is growing with each innovative step forward in the 3D printing process.

Metals like titanium, stainless steel, and refractory metals can be used for 3D printing with the right equipment. Because plastic was the initial medium, it was typically the limit of concepts. Today, many other materials are used, and some parts are even capable of being printed with fiberglass, sensors, electronics, and other features.

Food has even been 3D printed, and some everyday products that people know can be printed using this process. Nylon, TPU, and polyurethane are commonly found in automotive printing, and flame-retardant nylons are often used in aerospace. The bottom line? This type of printing can be done with several different materials today.

Various metal objects made with a type of 3D printing called powder bed fusion, including a ring, part of an engine, and a lattice structure.
Prototypes, custom equipment, and niche components are all reasons to use metal 3D printing.

Myth: All 3D printers work the same way

There are a total of eight different printing technologies available for 3D printing. These include:

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): This method operates much like a glue gun to save the technical explanation. The extruder sends thermoplastic filaments through the heated nozzle, which traces the profile of the part on both the x and y-axis.
  • Binder Jetting: This usually involves spreading powdered raw material across a plate. Then, a head passes over the raw material and deposits a binding agent. After a layer is complete, more raw materials are placed, and the process will be repeated for every subsequent layer.
  • Material Jetting or Multi-Jet-Printing: You might know how this method works if you’ve seen a high-speed printhead in action. The printers deposit a liquid plastic resin instead of ink (as you’d see on a traditional printer), and then the machine cures the liquid deposits into a solid state.
  • Selective Laser Sintering: Also known as powder bed fusion, this method uses a laser to fuse the different layers of powder or material. This is most commonly used with powdered forms of nylon.
  • Direct Metal Laser Melting: This is similar to SLS, but it involves a much more powerful 1,000-watt laser to fuse the metal to create a result similar to welding.
  • Directed Energy Deposition: With this method, a high-power energy source will be directed at the melt pool, then the feedstock is placed in the pool, and the wires or particles fuse, creating the finished object.
  • Stereolithography/Vat Polymerization: A build plate will be submerged in a vat of liquid resin. This resin is then cured with a laser. The submerging will happen as a repeated process until the build or print job has been completed.
  • Laminated Object Modeling: In this method of 3D printing, sheets of paper or thin metal are cut to the shape of the part. Then, the cutouts are laminated to each other, building up the layers and creating the finished product.

As you can see, there are several different options for 3D printing today. When you choose to work with the experts, you will be able to trust that your projects are taken care of accordingly and that you get the right printing solutions, no matter which method(s) it is decided you will use.

Myth: 3D printers will automatically copy and print parts

While these printers are rather impressive, they aren’t quite that simple. There are several steps and hidden processes in the 3D printing arena. In 2D printing, for example, you can scan and print a document, creating as many copies as you’d like that are a near-exact match (a copy is never an exact match). There are 3D scanners that will allow you to scan complex or unique objects and create a visual representation that will help you get to a final printed product design.

3D printers are typically used for reverse engineering projects, such as figuring out how to recreate a design from a two-dimensional drawing or another source. 3D scanning tools are also found in the healthcare arena, where they can be used to advance medical science and help doctors learn more about the body and how it works.

Myth: 3D printing is faster than other manufacturing methods

This is only partly true. 3D printing can be a more rapid choice for prototyping, but you’re only creating one or two copies of the product in that instance. Thus, it can be done relatively simply on a smaller scale. However, a fully 3D-printed production can take a lot of time and effort on a large scale. Therefore, companies will have to compare this with other technologies like injection molding to determine the best course of action for larger jobs.

Fortunately, when you partner with the right engineers, you’ll get all the assistance you need in figuring out the right solution, including choosing the method that fits your timeline and goals. In the past, 3D printers were difficult to operate. They are becoming much quicker and more efficient than in the past, but traditional manufacturing might offer a faster, more efficient way to go for some objects.

Green plastic lizard toy being 3D printed with PLA plastic.
3D printing is often used to tweak and finalize designs rapidly. Once product development is done, injection molding is best for things with simple geometry.

Myth: 3D printers will replace traditional high-volume manufacturing

While 3D printing has come a long way in a short time, the time and cost still aren’t where they should be if it is going to be used on a larger scale. Currently, it’s still too expensive and slow to measure up to casting, injection molding, and other manufacturing processes. While some 3D printing proponents push for the high-volume transition, this won’t be the case. It will probably serve as a supplement to current manufacturing rather than a replacement.

This isn’t to say that 3D printers aren’t a compelling choice for manufacturing design and production. These printers can create faster, cheaper parts on low-volume orders, making them an excellent upgrade for several within the product design and development arena. Scaled production has been optimized for several years now. We’re not bringing anything new to the table that’s driving the competition out. That’s why this is called an additive resource — you can use it to supplement the rest of your production efforts.

While they aren’t necessarily “taking over the world,” 3D printers have become common in low-volume and custom-made production efforts. Even with the best digital renderings and tools, some things will still need to be produced using other methods or more conventional manufacturing processes.

3D Printing Studio in Prague, Czech Republic, for relatively high-volume manufacturing.
Printing studios like this one in Prague blend 3D printing and mass production. For research and commercial use, on-demand printing is growing.

Myth: 3D printing is new

Although there have been several advances in 3D technology lately, there isn’t anything “new” about this printing method. It was back in 1983 when Chuck Hull started work on creating layered plastic parts. The prototype of the first 3D printer was created in his basement, and today it is at home at the Smithsonian. His wife still has the first 3D-printed part he made on the machine.

You might even be surprised to learn that metal printing on 3D machines has been done for over 20 years. As with many things, the technology was slow to adapt, but it made big waves when it did. There will always be a need for conventional production and manufacturing efforts. Still, this type of printing can offer a more cost-effective and successful replacement for more straightforward tasks or those with high-efficiency requirements. The benefit of this process, of course, is allowing companies to spend money out of the operations fund instead of the capital of the business. Compared to stacked tooling cycles, this ensures you can quickly adapt to product changes and more.

The Benefits of 3D Printing Are No Myth

We’ve covered a lot of information thus far, and it might feel like you’re struggling to keep up with all the news. Don’t worry because there will always be people there to help you along the way. In addition to this information, working with a dedicated 3D printing provider can make a huge difference in how you view and experience this process. Choosing the 3D printing route provides a range of advantages and perks:

  • Ease of access: 3D printing is accessible to just about anyone, and that accessibility increases with each passing day.
  • Cost-effectiveness: The fact that this is a single-step process means that it offers a more cost-effective solution for low-volume runs or limited productions. And when you outsource, you can save equipment costs for your business. You probably don’t need a full-time in-house machine, after all.
  • Flexible design: Unlike many traditional production methods, the design options for 3D printing are much more flexible and customizable. This type of printing can recreate or create shapes and angles that aren’t made by many other tools (if any).
  • Rapid prototyping access: Since it’s a quick process, this is the route many companies take to ensure that they get off the ground with a rapid prototyping experience and can move on to development and actual production to hit the market.
  • Print-on-demand service: Having a relationship with a 3D printing professional will give you on-demand printing access for any jobs you may need.
  • Lightweight yet durable parts: Plastic and metal materials used for 3D printing are relatively durable when considering where they came from. For example, lightweight parts in aerospace and automotive applications can significantly affect fuel efficiency and other factors. 3D printing allows tailored details to be created with heat-resistant or higher tensile strength materials.
  • Quick design and production: 3D printing can happen in hours or days instead of days, weeks, or even months. Even the design process is faster, thanks to advanced software integrations.
  • Reduced waste: Because objects can be printed on demand and in a specific shape, the production doesn’t produce any waste materials or very little if there are some. Unlike casting and other methods where parts are cut from materials that can’t be recycled, this method saves on resources and helps reduce material costs.
  • Environmentally friendly: This technology helps reduce the wasted material used in production, which is helpful for the environment. These parts are generally lightweight and help save energy, fuel, and more.
  • Advanced healthcare perks: 3D printing is revolutionizing the world of healthcare, as with other industries, helping save lives by printing various organs and body parts, medical equipment, and more.
Professional commercial-grade printers use better components and offer higher standards than consumer printers.
Companies like Jaycon use well-calibrated top-quality 3D printers to ensure the highest quality prototypes and fewer manufacturing hiccups.

Choose Your Partner Wisely

When it comes to finding the right partner to assist with your 3D printing needs, it’s all about finding the one that fits what you have in mind. You want to be looking for someone who can significantly deliver based on your needs and budget since 3D print jobs can scale from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. We encourage a hard look at what you want to be printed and some research on that specific product or need to help you collect the facts.

Of course, you’ll also want to consider accuracy, print speed, project duration, and print quality because that will make the difference. Anyone can offer 3D printing, but not everyone can deliver the level of quality you need. Check out their brand reputation, the methods of printing they offer, what volumes they work with, and other details to ensure that they can do the work you need.

3D printing is much more extensive than many expect and can do much more than you realize. Before settling for the misinformation preventing you from maximizing the power of 3D-printed technologies, consider everything you’ve learned here. At Jaycon , our team of engineers will help you create the perfect 3D printed solutions, and we can even help you decide if 3D printing is the right choice for your production needs. Contact us to take advantage of our design and production solutions, from concept to creation.

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