3D printing for manufacture - a basic design guide

25th September 2014

3D printing for manufacture - a basic design guide

Recent developments in 3D printing technologies have delivered some huge benefits to industrial designers and the whole process of product development. The ability to simulate products using very realistic materials on affordable desktop systems has transformed the design process.

Building parts one layer at time means that 3D printed components do not need moulds or tooling, so conventional ‘design for manufacture’ (DfM) issues like draft angles and undercuts don’t apply. This has led to the view that 3D printing isn’t subject to any design limitations.

Although this may be true for prototyping, the use of 3D printing in manufacture means that it will be subject to the same demands to minimise time, cost and waste as any other process.

Whilst 3D printing does not involve tooling, it does use a considerable amount of time and power, both in the production of parts and their finishing. These inputs need to be minimised to make the most efficient, and profitable, use of 3D printing as a manufacturing technology.

We have prepared a simple guide to 3D printing for manufacture that looks at these issues in detail. To begin with, we look at the most appropriate 3D printing technologies for manufactured parts. We then explain the basic principles of the technologies. Finally, we look at the advantages and limitations of the different technologies and examine the design rules that can help you create manufactured parts that minimise time, cost and waste.