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Think about manufacturing without tooling, assembly lines or supply chains. However, this is exactly what is happening as 3D printing reaches individuals, small businesses and corporate departments.Today you can make parts, appliances and tools in a wide variety of materials right from your home or workplace. Using a computer, simply create, modify or download a digital 3D model of an object. Click “print,” just as you would for a document, and watch your physical 3D object take shape. No longer the stuff of science fiction, 3D printing is a new reality.Today’s consumers clamor for customized products and services and for speed of delivery. Yet customization and immediacy — right here, right now — are not economical with traditional manufacturing processes, which are optimized for large volumes of consistent output in a factory far away. 3D printing changes the calculus of manufacturing by optimizing for batches of one. 3D printers are being used to economically create custom, improved and sometimes even impossible-to-manufacture productsThe Economist calls 3D printing the third Industrial Revolution, following mechanization in the 19th century and assembly-line mass production in the 20th century.a disruptive technology continues to evolve to the point where it can serve the needs of the higher-end market at a lower cost, at which point it takes over the dominant players.Another disruptive element of 3D printing is the fact that a single machine can create vastly different products. Compare this to traditional manufacturing methods, where the production line must be customized and tailored if the product line is changed, requiring expensive investment in tooling and long factory down-time. It is not hard to imagine a future factory that can manufacture tea cups, automotive components and bespoke medical products all in the same facility via rows of 3D printers.The industry is in its infancy and the technology rarely supports volumes larger than 1,000 units. However, as the technology evolves, volumes will increase. In the meantime, for low volumes, 3D printing already provides significant value.Development cost and time can be cut by eliminating the need for tooling used in traditional manufacturing.There is also reduced waste compared to some traditional manufacturing processes, which can leave up to 90 percent of the raw material on the factory floor


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