Basic knowledge of 3D printers. What changes will it bring to the manufacturing industry?

In the manufacturing industry , 3D printers are not only improving efficiency and reducing costs, but are also changing the manufacturing process. Here, we will explain how 3D printers work, the types of printing methods, and their impact on the manufacturing industry.

Basic knowledge of 3D printers.  What changes will it bring to the manufacturing industry?

table of contents

  1. What is a 3D printer?
  2. Main modeling methods and usage of 3D printers
  3. Powder sintering additive manufacturing method (SLS method)
  4. Stereolithography method (STL method)
  5. Inkjet method
  6. Fused deposition method (FDM method)
  7. Powder adhesion method
  8. What are the benefits of introducing a 3D printer?
  9. cost reduction
  10. Improvement of quality
  11. Shortened development period
  12. Inventory management made easy
  13. Will 3D printers change manufacturing?
  14. summary

What is a 3D printer?

In recent years, 3D printers have been attracting attention in the manufacturing industry.

When creating something in this industry, trial and error using prototypes is essential. Prototypes are created to confirm the design, functionality, design, etc. In addition, prototypes are often used for events such as exhibitions and sales. 3D printers were born with expectations that they would revolutionize prototyping.

Until now, printers were used to print out figures and characters on flat surfaces such as paper, although there were differences between inkjet and laser printers. On the other hand, 3D printers create three-dimensional objects that are the same as the original while expressing three dimensions: length, width, and depth.

The modeling is done based on 3D data such as 3D CAD and 3D CG. Basically, a layering method is used to create a three-dimensional object by stacking two-dimensional cross-sectional shapes in multiple layers.

Depending on the modeling method, we can handle a variety of materials, from resin materials such as plastic and rubber to metal materials such as titanium and copper. Therefore, it can be used not only for creating prototypes and mock-ups, but also for a wide range of applications such as manufacturing molds, jigs, and final products.

Main modeling methods and usage of 3D printers

There are various techniques for creating three-dimensional objects with a 3D printer. We will explain the characteristics and usage of each technique.

Powder sintering additive manufacturing method (SLS method)

Powder sintering additive manufacturing is a method in which powder on a stage is sintered by irradiating it with a laser beam. Also called SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) method. Although the finished object retains the rough texture characteristic of powder, it has excellent durability. Therefore, it is used for prototypes and test manufacturing before mass production.

The feature of this modeling method is that it can be made using metal materials. Complex shapes can be created easily, so if surface texture is not an issue, it can also be used to manufacture final products.

Since the patent for this modeling method expired in February 2014, cheaper versions of this method are now appearing one after another.

Stereolithography method (STL method)

This method, also known as the STL (Stereo lithography) method, was devised by the Japanese and is the oldest method used in 3D printing. Three-dimensional objects are output by irradiating photocurable resin with ultraviolet light.

Since it is highly accurate and can print even minute shapes, it is used to print three-dimensional objects with complex shapes. Since the resin is liquid, there is no surface roughness associated with powder sintering additive manufacturing methods. Because it allows you to create large models, it is suitable for outputting actual-size car mockups. However, if you leave it in a place exposed to sunlight, it will harden and become more brittle. Therefore, this is a modeling method that is not suitable for long-term use.

Inkjet method

This is a printing method that applies the principles of conventional inkjet printers. Photocurable resin is sprayed from an inkjet head and laminated while being irradiated with ultraviolet light.

Like stereolithography, it uses liquid resin, so it is possible to output extremely high-precision models, and it also enables the creation of high-resolution prototypes unique to inkjet printing.

Fused deposition method (FDM method)

In the fused deposition modeling method, also known as the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) method, solid thermoplastic resin such as ABS resin is melted, the resin is squeezed out from the tip of a thin nozzle, and layers are stacked.

Since melted material is used, faults are noticeable and the surface cannot be expected to be smooth. However, since the materials are cheap, the cost performance is high. Since the patent expired in 2009, this is the mainstream method for inexpensive 3D printers for general consumers.

Powder adhesion method

A three-dimensional object is created by alternately spraying powder and adhesive and stacking layers.

Since it uses gypsum powder, it is very fragile, but you can maintain some strength by applying a hardener to finish it. You can also add color by mixing colored ink with the adhesive. This makes it ideal for creating full-color architectural models and figurines.

What are the benefits of introducing a 3D printer?

The benefits of introducing a 3D printer are not only cost cutting and man-hour reduction, but also product quality improvement and inventory management.

cost reduction

In the mass production process of the manufacturing industry, remaking molds just before mass production is a problem that must be avoided from a cost standpoint.

By introducing a 3D printer and creating a prototype that is equivalent to the final product and checking it, you can notice problems and issues that were not obvious from drawings and blueprints. This reduces the cost of remaking unnecessary molds.

Furthermore, in the manufacture of final products, the ability to reproduce even complex shapes makes it possible to reduce the number of parts and components. For example, complex products such as fuel nozzles for jet engines traditionally require assembling 20 different metal parts. Manufacturing using a 3D printer makes it possible to print this part as a single part. This not only reduces the manufacturing cost of 20 metal parts, but also reduces weight.

Improvement of quality

Determining how to assemble and disassemble parts using only drawings and specifications is extremely difficult and error-prone work. By checking the assembly and disassembly procedures using a three-dimensional object created with a 3D printer, you can identify problems that are difficult to notice. As a result, this will lead to improved product quality.

Also, one of the reasons for inconsistent quality is that parts are assembled by hand. Incorporating 3D printers into the manufacturing process will reduce human errors and errors and stabilize product quality.

Particularly when assembling products with many parts or parts, there are many jigs to assist the work. In the past , even if a design change occurred, there were many situations in which we were forced to use the old jig as it was because we were unable to recreate the jig. Using a 3D printer, you can easily modify and create jigs.

Shortened development period

Traditionally, creating a prototype required outsourcing and waiting weeks for the finished product. It is also necessary to create a mold, but the mold manufacturing process involves many steps and is extremely time-consuming. If you have a 3D printer, you can easily create prototypes even if your plans and designs have not yet been finalized. The time required to create a prototype is also significantly reduced, leading to a reduction in the overall development period.

Additionally, since you can easily improve the data and recreate the prototype, even if a defect is found in the prototype, you can recreate it with minimal additional man-hours.

Inventory management made easy

Traditionally, manufacturing sites have had to have spare parts on hand in case each part breaks down. With a 3D printer, you can create spare parts at any time from 3D data, eliminating the need for inventory management for spare parts. Even if you want to improve each part, you only need to change the 3D data, so you can make improvements when necessary without worrying about the number of parts in stock before improvement. The same goes for maintenance after a product has been sold; the introduction of 3D printers makes it possible to manage parts with data rather than physical objects. In addition to reducing storage space for parts, by sharing data between production bases around the world and printing in each country, there is no need for cross-country transportation.

Will 3D printers change manufacturing?

3D printers are used for manufacturing prototypes and molds before mass production, and are now also used for manufacturing processes and maintenance. The introduction of 3D printers is becoming a part of business strategy.

For example, when creating a mock-up of a large building such as civil engineering or architecture, it is difficult to reproduce the details in terms of cost and time. With a resin 3D printer, you can create detailed mockups quickly and inexpensively. If you give a presentation using a mockup that has been reproduced in detail, you will be able to communicate with your business partners more efficiently, which will speed up business negotiations.

Additionally, for home appliance manufacturers, etc., the costs and time spent on prototyping tend to be high, but the cost reduction and lead time shortening benefits achieved by introducing 3D printers are tremendous. Up until now, most of the prototype manufacturing using 3D printers has been to print simple shapes, but now with improved precision and a greater variety of materials that can be used, it is now possible to print objects with even complex shapes. Ta. 3D printers are changing the entire manufacturing process.


In the manufacturing industry, 3D printers are being used for a wide range of purposes, including the creation of mock-ups and prototypes, as well as the production of molds, jigs, and final products, and are currently changing the entire manufacturing process. The finish and suitable materials differ depending on the printing method, so when considering introduction, it is important to carefully examine your company’s products and costs and make a plan.


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