The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece on manufacturing and 3D printing uses. Three major companies within the US are now using 3D printing to cut back on production costs. Those companies include the Ford motor company. Ford is currently using 3D printing technology to create some car parts.
Rear axles, brake motors, and cylinder heads are some of the parts that Ford is now creating using 3D printing technology. Now that 3D printers are more affordable than ever before, this technology helps companies like Ford cut way back on production costs. How much can a company like Ford save? Further, are 3D parts actually safe?
The Technology Behind 3D
Not only is Ford saving money by cutting back on production costs, but the company is also saving when it comes to time. Presently, Ford is printing one particular cylinder head for the company's EcoBoost engines that shaves production time from 4-5 months to a mere 3 months.
This simple fact means that Ford can produce more vehicles quicker - but 3D printing is not just for major companies like Ford.
WSJ reports that Ford envisions a future where people can walk into a 3D printing center and print out parts in minutes. If this actually happens, there will be no more waiting for parts. But, how realistic is this notion? How close are we to 3D printing centers like the one that Ford envisions?
The Future Looks Bright
Analysts predict that 3D printers will cost less than $2000 by the year 2016. That's not a lot when you think about it. Right now, most enterprises can afford a 3D printer, even though this technology was originally out of price range for most companies. Companies with a major budget, like Ford, can easily afford 3D printing technology.
While exciting, 3D printing also has its downsides. The number one drawback to 3D printing facilities is unemployment. If enough of these facilities are created, many people that currently work to create parts will be jobless - not to mention the people running motor parts businesses.
But, it's a technology that can't be held back. People want 3D printers, costs are declining, and companies are seeing the major benefits of printing out cheap parts.
Other Companies Get Involved Too
Ford is not the only company using 3D printing technology to create parts. Mattel and GE are also using 3D printing technology to create parts.
When asked whether or not Mattel will eventually let consumers print out toys, company reps said that this wasn't likely due to safety concerns. The reality, really, may be that a company like Mattel doesn't want people to print out toys because that would mean a loss of revenue for the company.
3D printing isn't a new technology, but it's one that is far more accessible now than ever before. To some, this technology is frightening. To others, 3D technology is an excellent way to cut back production costs, production time, and to offer consumers a fast solution to various problems.