Additive manufacturing VS Traditional Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing VS Traditional Manufacturing: cost and advantages of 3D printing technology

What are the benefits of 3D printing compared to traditional manufacturing?

Innovation is the basis for every new idea in the market. In the process of product development, every business needs to understand the necessities of a new design and what are the boundaries that should be set when proceeding with the evaluation. Once the concept is ready, the next step is the assessment of the manufacturing options on the market, to find the best supplier for the new products. But how to decide what is the best technology to manufacture your parts? What are the processing technologies for high performance polymers and composites?

Before we look at some different traditional manufacturing technologies, let's list the differences between traditional manufacturing and 3D printing. Here is a table showing the main differences between the technology families.

What makes 3D printing superior to traditional manufacturing?

3D Printing is the manufacturing method that is ideal for the quick production of parts when one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • Production of small batches;
  • Short lead time;
  • Remote locations;
  • Complex shapes or customized designs required: costs increase with complexity with traditional manufacturing;
  • Reduction of stock parts, digital warehouse.

3D printing is the production technology for innovative companies: it helps to reduce the time to market by accelerating the prototyping phase, therefore it reduces the costs connected to the product development phase.

Our team of engineers here at Roboze will help you to evaluate the best options for your application according to your specific needs.

How to Select a Manufacturing Process for Your Product?

The choice on the production technology to implement for a product design, must consider several factors:

  • Number of parts to manufacture
  • Production speed and lead time
  • Mechanical requirements and performance of the material and material family
  • Surface finish needed
  • Tolerances required
  • Complexity of the shapes
  • Customized shapes
  • Cost (labor cost and waste material)

What is traditional manufacturing?

Standard manufacturing, often called traditional manufacturing, usually refers to subtractive technologies that remove material from a billet, or block, in order to obtain the net shape.

Types of traditional manufacturing process: machining, molding, forming, joining

There are four main families of traditional manufacturing technologies for processing polymers and composites:

  • machining: the most common production method for metals, and it is also common for low to mid-volumes of plastics. It provides the desired shape with very good accuracy and precision but tends to waste material in the generation of removed chips. mong the most common machining processes there are:
    • turning
    • drilling
    • milling
    • laser cutting

Recently, with the advent of 5-axis CNC machining, the efficiency of this subtractive technology has considerably improved. Despite this, the investment costs for a 5-axis CNC machine are very high, therefore most of the companies are equipped with 3-axis CNC machines or manual drills and mills.

  • molding: very common technique in the production of thermoplastic polymer parts. It is extremely useful for the mass production of components, but it requires the utilization of a designed mold. Among the principal molding technologies for the mass production of plastics, there are injection, compression, and rotational molding. Generally, about 80% of the durable plastic items we find every day are manufactured by plastic injection molding.
  • forming: technology that presses thermoplastic sheets on custom dies. Only thin-walled and hollow-bodied parts can be manufactured with this technology, making it the technology of choice for prototypes and parts in the packaging industry. The most common forming technology for polymers is thermoforming. The creation of the final part is done through stretching a heated thermoplastic sheet over the surface of a die while vacuum pressure pulls the sheet down and into its final shape.
  • joining: permits complex shapes to be constructed from simpler components. Although their cost is rather low, the joining procedure often implies the manual work of an operator, making them ideal for a low to mid-quantity of parts.

Each manufacturing process has advantages and disadvantages. When companies need to produce their parts, they commonly rely on traditional manufacturing methods. Within the past few decades, additive manufacturing, widely known as 3D printing, adds to the list of the possible production technologies, putting new advantages on the table.

What is additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, is the manufacturing technology that adds material, layer by layer, to form the net shape. There are many different technologies inside the Additive Manufacturing family, one of them is FFF.

FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) is the most common additive manufacturing technology, also known as fused deposition modeling.

FFF is the 3D printing technology that extrudes continuous filament of thermoplastic materials or composites in order to form an object, layer by layer. Fused deposition modeling can be used with a wide range of standard thermoplastics, such as ABS, PLA, and many other filaments.

Roboze is the leader in the FFF technology for high performance polymers and composites (check FFF of PAEK polymers)

To print thermoplastic filaments, it is necessary to have an extrusion temperature above the melting point (Tm) of the material and an environment temperature between the glass transition temperature (Tg) and the melting point.

Advantages of FFF:

  • Short lead time;
  • Ideal for rapid and functional prototypes;
  • Low material waste (only raft and support structures);
  • Mass customization;
  • Possibility to reduce the number of parts that form an assembly, creating integrated assemblies thanks to design freedom;
  • Digital warehouse enabled;
  • Localized production;
  • High part strength;
  • Toolpath generation requires minimal efforts resulting in low labor costs;
  • Shorten supply chain;
  • Eliminate storage and transportation costs;
  • Possibility to orient the fibers according to the extrusion direction, in the case of composites.

Disadvantages of FFF:

  • Not advantageous for mass production but convenient for small batches;
  • Fine class tolerances not reachable without compensation iterations;
  • Supports to be removed for highly chemical resistant materials: support structures affect the interface with the part, waste of material, and they take post-processing time;
  • Not all the thermoplastics are printable: only recently high-performance polymers and composites are possible.

Can 3D printing be combined with traditional manufacturing?

Subject to the type of materials, 3D printed parts can be combined with traditional technologies to achieve very smooth surfaces, to meet very low tolerances, or to assemble multiple large parts. High quality finishes can be obtained through mechanical and chemical polishing processes. Welding is a very good option for joining two or more parts.

Please reach out to our team at Roboze in order to evaluate if 3D printing is the solution to your manufacturing problems.

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Alessia Toscano

Application Engineer & Customer Success