3D printing is changing the future of manufacturing.

While 3D printing is only in its early stages of development, we’ve already accomplished a lot with it. Its full potential hasn’t been reached, however, and we can expect even greater things from 3D printing in the future. Even with these limitations, 3D printing is changing manufacturing globally.

To show a few examples of this, consider rapid prototyping. In the past, rapid prototyping (providing a company with a new prototype for testing) was anything but rapid: delivery and subsequent changes to the prototype took weeks or even months to complete and ship. With 3D printing, prototypes can be developed, made, and shipped in 24 hours. While not every turnaround time is that extreme, the ease of 3D printing is saving companies hundreds of hours and, eventually, millions of dollars.

Consider also the 3D printing being used by Ford. Engineers are now able to test multiple ideas at once, changing out one engine prototype for the next, comparing results side-by-side instead of waiting weeks for their new ideas to be manufactured. Ford may even make 3D printed parts a permanent part of the car: 3D printed materials are lighter in weight, and they could improve fuel efficiency.

Businesses no longer have to rely on molds for production, either. If a mold costs several thousand dollars to create, the business would have to use the mold thousands of times to make back their investment. With 3d printing services, there are no molds and no setup. A digital design is all that’s needed to bring ideas into reality.

The mention of digital designs brings up another key point: smaller inventories. Instead of storing a hundred prototypes in a warehouse, companies can now store thousands of prototypes on a computer. Once the design has been created, it’s ready for production at any time. And the key feature is that it doesn’t take up any space.

There’s also no cost to creating a complicated design. Consider the titanium skull plates used to treat head trauma victims. In the past, the titanium skull plate caused issues when exposed to dramatic temperatures, since it conducts heat. Now, 3D printing has made it possible to work heat textures into the design. It’s no more expensive to create, and the heat textures make the titanium skull plate behave like regular bone.

Last, but by no means least, is the implications 3D printing has for healthcare manufacturing. In the healthcare world, one size seldom fits all. From Invisalign to a prosthetic arm, it’s best when pieces fit just right. With 3D printing, manufacturers are able to customize a product to suit a customer perfectly. It’s good news for businesses, which can charge a little extra for the customization, and it’s great for customers, who will now receive products that uniquely meet their needs. When you consider that 98% of hearing aids are now 3D printed, it sheds light on just how much 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare manufacturing.

It’s really amazing how much 3D printing is shaping the future of the world. A hundred years ago, people didn’t have machines that could accomplish tasks like this, and production moved at its own rate. We’re about to see production move on to something bold, new, and exciting as  3D printing transforms the face of manufacturing. How exciting to live at the beginning of a new era of manufacturing capabilities! As you can see from this article, 3D printing is creating a major impact on what businesses are able to create and how quickly they’re able to create it.