Will 3D printing replace traditional manufacturing?


The reduction in production time noticeably reduces development and production costs. But additive manufacturing has even more potential for reducing costs. In order to manufacture workpieces, neither tools (e.g. for injection molding) nor programs (e.g. for CNC) need to be created; the CAD file alone is (mostly) sufficient. Tools can also be 3D printed directly.

Additive manufacturing is currently, only under certain circumstances, an option for mass production. As a rule, 'series production' in additive manufacturing includes batch sizes of 100 - 2,000 pieces, rarely more. (Small) series production in 3D printing usually means laser sintering, HP Multi Jet Fusion or, more rarely, FDM. In our article Laser sintering vs. injection molding, we have summarized some practical examples that may make it easier for you to make the right decision.

With regard to the procedures, however, there are very large differences. Whereas an FDM print in PLA is often available for a few euros, the costs for a 3D print in titanium are often 30-50 times as high for the same model. In the plastics sector, FDM is often the cheapest process, followed by HP Jet Fusion, laser sintering and stereolithography (more on the comparison in our article Laser sintering vs. stereolithography). Due to the high material costs and long printing times (layer heights around 15 µm), Polyjet is usually the most cost-intensive plastic 3D printing process.

Approx. 130 x 5.6 x 53 mm; Volume ~ 16 cm³

Up to approx. 1,200 pieces, 3D printing is cheaper.

Approx. 20 x 44 x 18 mm; Volume ~ 3 cm³

Up to approx. 3,000 pieces, 3D printing is cheaper.