This is an awesome page to get you started on what is 3D Printing, the 3D Printers, and everything 3D Printing related. If you want to get a better understanding, keep reading on as we cover the most asked questions.

The FAQ is listed in chronological order.

What is 3D Printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the exact opposite of how traditional manufacturing works. Instead of machining or “subtracting” material to form an object, 3D printing additively builds an object but only where it’s needed. A digital (CAD) file is first uploaded to a printer via 3D printing software before a solid object is 3D printed out.

Thermoplastics are the most commonly used materials, but there are also photopolymers, metals, ceramics, cutting-edge bioinks, or even edible materials like chocolate being used today.

Why should I opt for 3D Printing?
There’s a number of compelling reasons and it can be characterized by six key drivers:

Design Freedom
Optimize parts for the design purpose instead of being limited by traditional manufacturing constraints.

Embedded Functionality
Include added capabilities within a part or assembly such as the insertion of a screw. This eliminates manufacturing steps, lowers cycle time, and reduces costs.

Streamlined Supply Chains
Speed up delivery and reduce inventory costs with the on-demand capabilities of 3D printing that can deliver parts faster than traditional manufacturing.

Go mass-market with the ability to customize every design aspect, allowing for greater market differentiation.

Cost-efficient manufacturing
Eliminate one of the largest manufacturing costs – tooling requirements with 3D printing. This makes low-volume production cost-effective.

Life-cycle sustainability
3D printing yields parts that are lighter and optimized thanks to freedom of design and on-demand production. This reduces fuel usage and environmental impact.

Understanding your business priorities will help you open new doors with 3D printing and be more competitive.

Is 3D Printing just for rapid prototyping?
While 3D printing is an essential tool for accelerating the rapid prototyping process, technological advances means its applications now stretches well beyond prototyping to other facets of the product life cycle.

Explore new possibilities for product design and operational improvement with design freedom as well as low-to-mid-volume production. When used in tandem, these two capabilities let you transform decades-old supply chains and business models.

3D printed tooling gives you advantages like on-demand production, customization, digitization of designs, and unrestrained design flexibility, Eliminate costly suppliers, compress lead times, enable digital warehousing, and accelerate manufacturing floor productivity.

Sales and Retail
Retailers gain the ability to innovate by delivering highly customized on-demand products and new experiences such as “co-designed” items developed in conjunction with customers.

Aftermarket Supply
Embrace 3D printing for spare and replacement parts and replace physical warehouses. Parts can be produced on a just-in-time basis instead of keeping physical stock.

How costly is it to implement 3D Printing?
This depends on the depth of implementation and the specific type of 3D printing technology used. 3D printers range from relatively low-cost machines to large, expensive, industrial-grade printers. The difference often includes part size, variety, materials quality, accuracy, reliability, and consistency.

Compared to traditional methods like CNC machining or injection molding, 3D printing is typically much faster and at lower volumes, much less expensive. As the benefits and applications grow, the technology can be scaled appropriately.

How do 3D printing impact product development and speed to market?
3D printing accelerates the processes by reducing the time and cost associated with prototyping and refining the design. Many more 3D printed prototypes can be produced in the time needed to mold or machine them and for much less cost.

Apart from time reduction and cost, it also allows designers to get bold with ideas that were not possible with traditional means previously.

Highly realistic prototypes printed on full-color multi-material printers look like the final product, cultivating faster and better decisions to gain approval from the higher management.

What can designers do with 3D printing?
Designers can drastically shorten the design process as compared to traditional methods of hand-modeling or outsourcing to model shops.

Keep the design process entirely in-house
Designers gain full control over the design process. Creating models in-house saves the time associated with outsourcing. The timeline flexibility empowers designers to try new ideas and iterate often, resulting in better products that stand out.

Prototype faster and smarter
Outsourcing is often too expensive and time-consuming to allow iteration of more detailed prototypes, especially models that incorporate CMF (color-material-finish). The speed and streamlined workflow of 3D printing give designers the freedom to create dozens of detailed prototypes while reducing the time it needs to arrive at the optimal design.

Create beautiful, highly detailed models
With full-color, multi-material printing, designers can create prototypes that look, feel, and even function like the real thing in just a few hours. The ability to assess the color, texture, and ergonomics of a product means better feedback and faster approval from clients.

What advantages does 3D printing have for manufacturing?
3D printing negates the need to fabricate and install costly tooling to make things.

The additive nature makes it a fast, low, or mid-volume production solution that doesn’t rely on economies of scale, much like an investment in injection mold tooling does. This opens up new opportunities which were previously uneconomical with lower-volume and/or on-demand production.

It also supports distributed manufacturing where parts can be easily printed from anywhere. For instance, an airline manufacturer can print replacement spare parts at its own maintenance facility instead of having to wait for shipping from a 3rd party manufacturer.

From the tooling perspective, 3D printing is able to produce jigs, fixtures, end-of-arm tools, and other manufacturing aids in much less time and for less cost than traditional tooling. They can be easily customized for ergonomics and optimized for the operator, rather than designed for how they’re manufactured.

Replacing metal tools with strong 3D printed thermoplastic tools means they can be made lighter and easier to use, increasing task efficiency and lower cycle time.

Is 3D printing a replacement for traditional manufacturing technology?
The benefit of 3D printing lies in supplementing existing manufacturing methods like molding and machining instead of as a wholesale replacement.

For example, 3D printing is able to produce structures that aren’t possible with machining or molding. It also makes low-to-mid-volume production economically viable because there’s no need for tooling investment.

It is also much faster to get started because of its on-demand capabilities, which is why GM turned to 3D printing to retool its production line to produce ventilators in view of the COVID pandemic.

In short, 3D printing is another tool in the toolbox but is one that offers key benefits over traditional manufacturing when used strategically.

When does it make sense to use Additive Manufacturing for end-use production parts?
You can consider 5 characteristics that favor the 3D printing of end-use parts.

Parts that are difficult or impossible to machine or mold.

Huge Upfront investment
The high initial cost of creating injection molds.

New product design that may be susceptible to changes.

One-off products for custom applications.

Low to Mid-Volume Production
Economically produce from 5 to a few hundred parts.

I'm interested in adopting 3D printing. What do I do next?
The logical first step would be to become familiar with the technology, understand the impact across the product lifecycle, and identify how it can benefit your business. Following this, you should identify your business objectives and note the intersection points where 3D printing offers benefits.

– Do you want faster prototyping?
– Are you looking to reduce product development cycle time?
– Do you need to reduce manufacturing costs?

Another step is by engaging a service printing bureau as it lets you enjoy the technology benefits without the up-front costs. When your use and application of 3D printing grow, you can evaluate bringing the capability in-house.

How do I effectively implement 3D printing in my company/organization.
As with any changes, it pays to be thorough and do proper planning when it comes to 3D printing. Results may not be forthcoming if there’s no clear strategy for long-term, high-value return.

Starting small with one or two printers will allow for familiarisation with the technology and discover its applications and benefits. From there, it can be scaled up for wider implementation to enjoy the corresponding benefits.

How much training is needed for 3D printing implementation.
The level of familiarization and training really depends on the type of 3D printing technology that you choose. But technological advances mean that you do not really need significant investments in training to become operational.

The 3D printing software typically provides a simple workflow to go quickly from CAD model to printed part.

But in general, the more sophisticated the printer and its capabilities are, the more training is required for effective implementation.

Name me the pros and cons of doing service printing.
Service printing is a good first step in getting started with 3D printing.

You will gain the insights and expertise of an applications engineer who can guide you and optimize the technology for your specific application.

You also avoid the up-front expense of printer purchase, as you only need to pay for labor and consumables.

Typically, service printing companies cater to many types of 3D printing technologies and are beneficial to customers who already own 3D printers, but want something different from what they have.

Why not just do service printing exclusively instead of buying a 3D printer?
The answer to this depends on your requirements.

If you need service printing only occasionally or rely on multiple technologies, then going for service printing would make more sense.

But if you find value in the technology and it becomes part of your business model or if you want to keep production in-house, purchasing a 3D printer would make more economical sense in the long run.

How can Creatz3D help me?
We’ve been in this business in helping customers solve problems for over 20 years with our 3D printing solutions because there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

With a broad portfolio of 3D printers and solutions tailored to specific needs, we can help you make the critically important step in matching the right technology to your application. If someone tells you that one technology can address all your needs, we ask that you think twice before proceeding on.

Our sales and application engineers can determine what technology is right for your application, or whether a 3D printer or service printing is more appropriate where confidentiality is enforced across the entirety of our discussions.

As for after-sales support, our certified service engineers ensure that your 3D printers are kept well-maintained at regular intervals to minimize downtime.

If you’re not sure how 3D printing fits, or you’re interested in building a business case but don’t know where to start, we’re here for you. Wherever you are in your 3D printing journey, let us help you be ready.

Don’t see your question listed here? Contact us today and let us help you take the next step.