Major Challenges Additive Manufacturing Needs to Overcome

By StartUp City | Monday, September 30, 2019

With governments striving hard to create a plastic-free environment, the Additive Manufacturing industry faces a significant setback as plastic filament remains the most popular raw material used in this industry.

FREMONT, CA: 3D Printing has become one of the fastest-growing domains in the Manufacturing Industry today, increasing nearly fourfold in size over the last four years. Given its freedom of design, ease of prototyping, customization, and streamlined logistics, the global 3D printing market is expected to cross USD 21 billion by 2020, while sales related to 3D Printing in itself is likely to grow at 12.5 per cent, nearly double the growth rate a few years ago. However, the process is not as smooth sailing as it looks.

Here are a few challenges faced by the Additive Manufacturing industry.

Lack of Standardization

The lack of universal standards among goods produced through 3D Printing makes it challenging to achieve a standardized level of finish. While creating individual items using 3D Printing may seem inexpensive, the quality of the product tends to take a hit. According to research analysts, manufacturers will tend to stay clear of the technology until they receive some guarantee in maintaining uniformity of quality.

Environmental Factors

With governments striving hard to create a plastic-free environment, the Additive Manufacturing industry faces a significant setback as plastic filament remains the most popular raw material used for 3D Printing. Although the plastic used is of high quality and is cost-effective, its byproduct ends up in landfills. Reusing this byproduct is the only way to tackle the situation. It will also help the companies to cut down the cost of production.

The advancements in technology have led to 3D printers making their way into homes and office environments. Although these devices are easily accessible for rapid prototyping and small scale manufacturing, they can prove to be health hazards. The nano-sized particles released by these printers are potentially harmful and should preferably be operated in places with adequate ventilation.

High Production Costs

3D printers do not come cheap and require significant investments to keep them running. Although plastic filament is a cheap raw material, metal printers used by more prominent manufactures need more expensive raw materials. Also, not all the raw material that goes into the printer ends up in the end product. There is a considerable amount of waste material that comes out, expensive waste, that needs to be reused. While reusing may look like an added incentive now, it may not be the same in the future when more manufacturers enter the market, and the raw materials become cheaper.

Feasibility

The big question that looms over 3D Printing is whether it is capable of replacing the conventional methods of Printing. The feasibility factor plays a significant role here, and additive manufacturing is still lagging on this front. 3D Printing continues to remain a time-consuming process, and multiple factors are affecting the speed of production. The printing time varies for each object depending on the number of layers to be printed, and even the latest metal printers can only print very little in an hour.

Moreover, there is a significant difference in the 'buy-to-fly ratio' (amount of raw material used against the amount of raw material that ends up in the final product) for 3D Printing and conventional methods. Given that additive manufacturing is still a work in progress, the scope for managing waste materials is also quite limited.

Quantity over Quality

The problem with additive manufacturing remains its inability to produce large volumes of high-quality goods. When you lay down lots of raw material, you get a final product with a coarse finish. To get the desired level of finish, manufacturers will have to rely on conventional methods once again. Either way, the manufacturer is left with no option but to chose between the quality and quantity of products.

Intellectual Property

Since design is a vital factor in 3D Printing, it raises along with a series of intellectual property rights dilemma. Anyone with a plan can print a product, regardless of how they may have come across the design. This leaves designers in a tricky situation as anyone can pirate unprotected ideas. Public security also becomes a concern given the technology falling into the wrong hands. For instance, designs for gun assemblies becoming public is a significant security concern. Who shall be held accountable for possible mishaps due to the misuse of technology remains a question?

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