3D Printing 2022

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Introduction of 3D Printing

3D printing is part of a process that is known as Additive Manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is the opposite of Subtractive Manufacturing, which is the process of removing material to create an object [1]. This is executed by machine tools such as lasers and cutters. In theory, additive manufacturing refers to the process of a product being created by building or moulding. In regards to 3D printing, additive manufacturing refers to the process of creating an object layer by layer. It refers to the creation of objects by “adding” material. Companies such as General Electric and Boeing use additive manufacturing as a key element of their manufacturing lines of business [2].

How Does 3D Printing Work?

3D Printing is known as the “Manufacturing Solution” of the future [3]. It provides users with tremendous flexibility to change the product they are making in a timely manner. Users are able to customize products to their requirements, which provides factory solutions to increase efficiency.

Before the creation of an object, a blueprint is needed. One can create their own product design through modelling software such as Blender, which is commonly done by corporations. However, many retail users can find other object blueprints that have already been printed through websites such as Thingiverse. It is extremely easy to get a blueprint for 3D printing almost anything, which brings up some ethical implications.

On July 10th, 2022, a Japanese politician was killed by a DIY gun that was made from common materials such as wood and metal pipes [4]. The idea of producing 3D printed weapons and guns, especially in a country like Japan where gun laws are extremely strict is disturbing. Analysts described the production of the weapon to be simple, and they said anybody with a basic understanding of the functions of a gun could easily produce it, even with minimal knowledge. This event illustrates the trade-off of 3D printing. It makes producing whatever you want extremely easy, which is a risk when the technology is in the wrong hands.

The 3D Printing Process [5]

1.) Blueprint Creation of Object

a.) Through modelling software or third-party databases

2.)Send the model to the printer

a.) The printer melts the spool string (usually plastic), then deposits the material onto the plate then instantly cools

3.)The object is printed one layer at a time until the fully formed structure is complete

The Evolution of 3D Printing


Hideo Kodama from Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in Japan discovered the creation of 3D products through layers. However, Kodama was unable to patent this technology[6].

The French general Electric Company and CILAS found a way to construct 3D printed objects. However, they abandoned this discovery because they were unable to see a use for this technology at the time.


The foundation of 3D printing technology had already been created. In the 1990s, companies began the “commercialization” of 3D printing by expanding and experimenting with the technology.

There were inventions of new processes. Microcasting and sprayed materials allowed 3D printing to be used for metals and not just plastics. The con to this technology in the 1990s was that it was costly, and adoption was limited to low-volume and high production costs.


The 2000s marked the decade where most early patents began to expire, which presented an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. 3D printing was headed on the path to becoming mainstream, which would drive down costs.

An English professor named Dr. Adrian Bowyer wanted to create the first low-cost 3D printer. In 2008, he created the “Darwin,” a 3D printer that cost less than $650. 18% of Darwin’s components were created through 3D printing.


With the expiration of the FDM patent, many more companies started to adopt 3D printing technologies to increase accessibility. The demand for 3D printing technology began to soar, which allowed 3D printing to be a common product in people’s businesses and homes.

2014 Marked the year where the 3D printing industry generated more than $1B in revenue, which showed consumers that 3D printing is here to stay and it will truly change the way people work and approach problems.

Benefits and Issues


The four major benefits discussed and will be broken down into further detail are as follows: 1.) Cost 2.) Speed 3.) Sustainability 4.) Competitive Advantage


The most obvious benefit associated with 3D printing comes in terms of cost, especially when working on small production runs and applications; 3d printing is known to be the most cost-effective manufacturing process.

On the other hand, Traditional prototyping methods like CNC machining and injection moulding require a large number of expensive machines and additionally, they have much higher labour costs as they require experienced machine operators and technicians to run them.




Secondly, speed in terms of rapid prototyping helps you manufacture parts in just hours, which speeds up the prototyping process. It also tends to save resources for making a prototype which turns out to not work out or be approved anyways. Also, if needed, the design can be modified without adversely affecting the speed of the entire manufacturing process.



Another big benefit that comes with 3D printing is its sustainability. On average, fewer parts will require outsourcing for manufacturing. This, then, down the road, equals less environmental impact because fewer things are being shipped across the globe. Additionally, there is no need to operate and maintain an energy-consuming factory. Lastly, it is also internally sustainable for an organization as it is easier to manage a few printers than many employees.

Competitive On-Demand Advantage

Lastly, we look at competitive on-demand advantage as a benefit. This benefit comes similar to Airbnb and Uber situation we recently noticed over the last few years. On-demand part production provides the opportunity for greater levels of personalization for finished or almost-finished goods. For example, clothes with personalized printed elements, or a smartphone case with a custom design. Parts can also be individualized, such as manufacturing aids with ergonomics specific to the worker.




The four major issues discussed and will be broken down into further detail are as follows: 1.) Troubleshooting 2.) Standardization 3.) Knock offs 4.) Job Reduction


A tricky issue to deal with that comes with 3D printing is when troubleshooting takes place. This can take a while if you are not educated on the system and how it functions. Some problems require experienced intervention. It is not as easy as manipulating the supply chain to get the job done, which was possible with traditional methods.



Additionally, the lack of standardization of machines, and the potential for low-quality products is also an issue. Sometimes, the inexpensive nature of 3D printing comes with the cost of produced quality. There are commonly high-end machines that are very costly to get a hold of, but at the same time, there are other produced goods that are inferior to those made by just simple traditional manufacturing.

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The simplest yet most difficult to deal with issue. With 3D printers, consumers could begin printing their own product parts at any given moment. This is made even more problematic when we see that smaller businesses could begin printing product parts and whole products, copying the intellectual property of bigger businesses. A basic example can be fake Adidas shoes or bags.

On the contrary, the notion of quality control can be inserted here as we know that a knock-off will not fully function exactly like an original item, however, it is up in the air to answer how many consumers would just be satisfied with a replica due to the amount saved in terms of monetary value.


Job Reduction

Lastly, we look at something that mostly all humans fear. A tremendous reduction in human labour is on the way, especially since most of the production is automated and done by printers instead of humans. This will then indirectly affect other jobs aside from manufacturing. For example, fewer sales associates will be needed as product details will be automatically uploaded to the web, and there is also easy customization. Additionally, fewer bookkeepers are required as fluctuations with inventory counts won’t be as common as it is easier to count the production of a machine’s output and sales which then has an impact on the accounting of an organization.

Some may perceive this as not necessarily a bad thing as the world is currently in unrest and we are witnessing supply chain problems, however, in the long run, this is not beneficial at all. Jobs and employment have been the main source for one’s income for hundreds of years, and that is what fluctuates the world and keeps a person running, but without jobs, the future of an average person living on this planet would be quite blurry.



​​Industry use of 3D Printing

Automotive Industry

The automotive industry has been quickly proceeding forward with additive manufacturing, with many well-known companies such as Audi and BMW using 3d printers in all facets of production. Currently, 3D printers are being used in everything from race car teams for specialized parts to sub-manufacturers (OEMs) for car parts and tools. 3D printing is being used to create tooling and fixtures that aid the manufacturing process. The most common parts printed by automotive manufacturers are fixtures, cradles, and prototypes, which need to be stiff, strong, and durable. [11] Engineers can prototype and create specialized tools in warehouses to solve issues that may arise on the spot. This allows for a faster and lower cost in creating and testing tools that may be useful for others working on the same model or car in a different warehouse and region. This enables innovation within the field as creativity, and new advances are encouraged through the low cost of prototyping with 3D printing. [12]

Moving forward, the goal for most in this field is to use 3D printing to print high-strength fibre-reinforced end-use parts that will be in the finished product sold to consumers. An example of this is the motorsport steering wheels that are printed individually to fit the needs of each race car driver. There is also a prediction that 3D printing will be used to print spare parts. To lower the cost and wait time on importing car parts for their clients, there are predictions that mechanical engineers will begin printing their own parts to repair or replace broken ones. This will also be a functional asset in the repair and maintenance of cars that are no longer manufactured as their parts are no longer produced as well. [13]


3D printing in the construction industry will further allow for faster and more accurate construction of buildings as well as lowering labour costs and producing less waste due to more accurate calculations and no human error. It might also enable construction to be undertaken in harsh or dangerous environments unsuitable for a human workforce, such as in space. [14]

Timeline of introduction of 3D printing in construction: 1) In 2004, a USC professor attempted to 3D print a wall 2) In 2014, a full canal house built using 3D printing was completed in Amsterdam. 3)In 2016, a 3D-printed mansion was completed in China. 4)In 2016, the Dubai Future Foundation built its Office of the Future through 3D printing, a major milestone for the technology in the commercial construction sector. The fully functioning 2,700-square foot building was built by a large 3D printer that measured 120 x 40 x 20 feet. Construction took just 17 Days. [15]

The future of 3D printing within this industry may enable construction to be undertaken in harsh or dangerous environments unsuitable for a human workforce, such as in space or dangerous workspaces. This will decrease the risk of harm to those working in the field as 3D printing can be monitored and operated from a distance. Companies in this field in the future are tackling printing concrete and using 3D printing in the regular creation of buildings and tools. 3D printing may also be used in disaster relief to build quick and cost-effective homes for those displaced. An example of this can be seen in Merritt, BC, where 3D printed concrete homes have been built for those who lost their homes in the previous year’s flooding. [16]

Medical field

Currently, 3D printing is used to create realistic modelling of the human anatomy in training for those who will be working in the medical profession. Firms have begun to use human tissue and cells as material to print skin, organs, and other body parts needed to practice medical procedures. [17] This can help alleviate the stress of doctors as they can practice and ensure procedures will be effective and leave less room for human error. 3D printing can allow for further compatibility with a particular person’s anatomy as the product will be printed specialized for their body, leaving less room for rejection. 3D printing is also being explored in the field of bioprinting, replication, and prosthetics to better specialize products to a client’s need and allow for more comfort. Following the shortage of sterile surgical instruments during the covid pandemic, hospitals have begun printing their own instruments when needed to lower costs while again saving time lost while waiting for the equipment to be delivered through the supply chain. [18] · In the future, 3D printing may Solve the organ donation shortages that we are facing. As research and development of specialized 3D printed organs continue, there is hope that the success of these organs, when transplanted, will be able to save the lives of those on the waiting list for necessary organs. 3D printing of the valves used during open heart surgery may be able to transform surgery and create shorter wait times. In the future, the common creation of custom braces for those with chronic health problems such as scoliosis that increase comfort and accessibility. [19]

Cost Estimation

Comparing the cost of traditional manufacturing methods, such as “injection moulding, machining, forming, and joining,” to that of a 3D printed solution is crucial for firms assessing the viability of opting for such a solution.[20] A 3D model is vital to an accurate assessment as well as firm-specific “labour, and overhead costs.”[21][22]

3D Printing and Traditional Manufacturing – A Comparison

Cost Effectiveness[23]

Given the high start-up cost of traditional manufacturing, mass manufacturing is an essential requirement for the feasibility of this endeavour.[24] On the contrary, since the marginal cost of a 3D printed part is consistent, customization and modifications are a breeze; therefore, 3D printing is particularly beneficial for perfecting a prototype. Similarly, with a direct relationship between the assembly of a complex and traditionally manufactured part and the price of a traditionally manufactured part, “there is no added cost for complexity” with a 3D printed part.

Cost Efficiency[25]

A cost curve analysis, an evaluation of the cost per part for a given number of parts between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing, reveals that the barrier to entry in producing a part is typically reduced using the former. However, the method providing better economies of scale depends on the number of parts being produced; this still holds true upon the consideration of “hidden costs,” which are associated with “logistics, […] warehousing, [… and] spoilage” — albeit the breakeven point, the point at which traditional manufacturing becomes less costly per part compared to 3D printing, shifts to the right and consequently results in the need for the production of more parts for the former to be more economically feasible than the latter. This is indicative of 3D printing’s efficiency with respect to reducing logistical costs. These curves make it evidently clear that the cost efficiency of 3D printed parts depends on the number of parts being produced; however, 3D printing will continue up the ante in challenging traditional manufacturing methods as the former’s efficiency is enhanced. That said, based on the examples below, 3D printing is indeed a viable alternative to traditional manufacturing.

Cost Curves: 3D Printing versus Traditional Manufacturing

Motorcycle Brake Lever[26]

Markforged outlined the cost difference in producing a carbon fibre and Onyx motorcycle brake lever. If it is 3D printed, the cost will be $55.06/part, whereas the traditional manufacturing cost is $195.95/part, with the possibility of a volume discount. On the surface, each 3D printed part saves $140.89; however, $13,499 for the printer’s “initial overhead cost” was excluded. Therefore, the breakeven point is 96 parts. In other words, 96 parts will need to be produced before 3D printing the lever becomes economically feasible.

3D printed motorcycle brake lever

Night Vision Goggles[27]

The night vision goggles of U.S. Air Force members are “affixed to the top-front of […] tactical helmets” using mounts which are susceptible to damage. Replacing a mount costs between “$100 to several hundred dollars” and requires “a few weeks or more” for shipping. The 27th Special Operations Wing explored 3D printing the replacement mounts and now produces parts “for less than $5 in […] a few hours.” In addition to the cost and time savings, the quality of these parts is not compromised.

3D printed night vision goggle mount

Bottle Moulds – A Hybrid Approach[28]

PepsiCo spent an upward of $10,000 and waited up to six weeks to produce “a metal mould” for bottles. While an entirely 3D printed solution posed durability issues, a hybrid approach where both 3D printing and traditional manufacturing work in tandem reduced the cost to approximately “$350 per mould” and “12 hours” of production time. Consequently, the “development cycle […] to generate low-volume production […] samples” has been enhanced.

3D printer used by PepsiCo to print bottle moulds

Estimating 3D Printing Costs – A Tutorial[29]

There exist several methods to estimate the cost of a 3D printed part; outlined below is one methodology.


There are four major cost estimation aspects: allocation, machine operation, material, and labour cost. The sum of these costs represents the cost per part or cost per unit.

Allocation Cost

This segment of the estimate considers the portion of the printer’s cost allocated to printing one part. ‘Pp’ is the cost of the printer – it can range from a couple of hundred dollars to millions of dollars;[30] this is multiplied by ‘tb,’ which is how long it will take to print a unit. This is influenced by several factors, including how large the unit is and the infill percentage.[31] Less infill equates to a hollower and lighter part, resulting in a shorter build time.[32] Moving to the second half of the equation, ‘u’ represents the uptime, how long the machine spends building parts. This is multiplied by 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year which is multiplied by ‘y’ the amortization of the machine in years, essentially how long it will be in use.

Allocation cost formula
Variances in infill percentage

Machine Operation Cost

Taking the build time ‘tb’ from the previous portion of the equation and multiplying it by ‘co,’ which is the operating cost for the machine, this variable considers factors like printer maintenance and the cost of the space that the printer occupies. This factors in the operational costs for the machine.

Machine operation cost formula

Material Cost

Calculating the cost of the material requires consideration of several variables. ‘Ks’ accounts for the extra material needed to produce the unit. Complex shapes like an arch require support, so they do not droop as the machine prints layer by layer.[33] Support can be a dissolvable or easily removable component that allows the structure to hold its shape.[34] This variable is multiplied by ‘kr,’ which denotes how efficient the printing process is. This is multiplied by ‘v,’ the volume of the unit being printed, ‘cm,’ the cost of the material for every unit of mass and ‘d’ the mass density of the unit.

Material cost formula
3D printed part with and without support

Labour Cost

An employee or employees will be retained to set up a print, remove a completed part and clean the printer to prepare for future use; this is represented by ‘t1,’ and the rate for their labour is ‘c1’.

Labour cost formula


The example below puts the aforementioned equation to use. You are tasked with providing a steel pipe manufacturer with an estimate for purchasing a 3D printer to produce five pipes.

Allocation Cost

The printer will cost $300,000, and it will take 35 hours to print each pipe. The firm expects the printer will be used 95% of the time, and the allocation period is seven years.

Pp = $300,000
Tb = 35 hours
U = 95%
Y = 7 years

Substitute the figures for the variables, and the allocation cost is $180.25. Media:Allocation.jpg

Machine Operation Cost

It takes 35 hours to print each pipe and costs $3.00/hour.

Tb = 35 hours
Co = $3.00/hour

Substitute the figures for the variables, and the machine operation cost is $105.00. Media:MachineOperation.jpg

Material Cost

Note that support structures are represented by the figure 1.15. Inefficient production processes are represented by the figure 2.2. Each pipe is 555 cm3. Steel powder costs $0.53/g, and its density is 7 g/cm3.

Ks = 1.15
Kr = 2.2
V = 555 cm3
Cm = $0.53/g
D = 7 g/cm3

Substitute the figures for the variables, and the machine operation cost is $5,209.40. Media:MaterialCost.jpg

Labour Cost

The firm has hired a technician for $50/hour, and each pipe will require two hours of attention.

T1 = $50/hour
C1 = 2 hours

Substitute the figures for the variables, and the labour cost is $100. Media:Labour.jpg

Estimated Cost

The sum of the allocation, machine operation, material, and labour cost is $5,594.64; this figure is the cost per part, so to account for all five pipes, the estimated cost is $27,973.21. Media:Calculation.jpg


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  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrJ3_26sEIE&t=3
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  29. https://slideplayer.com/slide/16981065/
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  33. https://all3dp.com/1/3d-printing-support-structures/
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