3D Printing, Technology
January 29, 2016
Few foresaw the impact digital technology and the Internet would have on all of us. Is 3-D printing the next major paradigm shift?
Most CNC manufacturing companies focus on improving efficiencies, reducing cost-per-part and expanding capabilities to better serve existing and new customers. High-volume operations, particularly, strive to improve productivity and product consistency. These are all important and appropriate goals.
For these same reasons additive manufacturing (or 3-D printing) seems an unlikely complement to traditional CNC subtractive machining. After all the process is much too slow, has too many steps and requires an investment in additional equipment and raw materials.
As a result, if a CNC shop uses 3-D printers at all, it's for prototyping and R&D but little else. Many simply don't believe that additive manufacturing-based production is viable or will impact their business anytime soon. Depending on the industries they serve, they may want to rethink the situation. Here are five reasons why:
So what does this mean for CNC machine shops and other metalworking manufacturers? Simply this: It’s an opportunity to rethink how they define themselves. If a company sees itself strictly as a machine shop, it may be missing the bigger picture. The key is to look at what your customers want and how you can best fulfill that need.
As your customers look to new technologies like 3-D printing to reduce their costs and improve their products, the more willing you are to add such technology to your traditional capabilities, the more likely you are to maintain your customers and competitiveness.
CNC machining is still essential for most industries and most likely will be for decades to come. However, those that stay on top of additive manufacturing technology will be in a better position to adjust to what could be rapid changes in the way parts are made.