The five biggest misconceptions of 3D printing

Our Bureau manager Dave tackles the five biggest misconceptions of 3D printing.

3D print technology has come a long way over the past few decades, from the first SLA printer in 1984, to an overwhelming variety of different 3D printers being on the market today. Whilst there are a range of applications from custom tooling to jigs and fixtures, patient specific medical models, and more in which 3D print is a more suitable means of production than traditional manufacturing methods, there are still some developments in the pipeline.

We’ve sat down with 3D Print Bureau manager, Dave Bennett, to discuss the most common 3D print misconceptions…


1. It’s going to take over injection moulding.

Injection moulding is completely different to 3D Printing and produces parts that are superior in many ways. That said though, in certain circumstances Additive Manufacturing (AM) can have an advantage, but if you produced a 3D Printing system that was as quick as Injection Moulding, as low cost as Injection Moulding, what produced parts of the same standard and strength as injection moulding, and could use the same materials as injection moulding – then you would have just re-invented Injection Moulding. AM is an additional tool that compliments Injection Moulding and shouldn’t be seen as its replacement.


2. It’s too expensive!

3D Printing is expensive when you look at materials cost and the cost of the capital equipment, but in certain circumstances it can be cost effective compared to tradition manufacturing techniques such as CNC machining or Injection Moulding. Prototyping is almost always more cost effective using AM, as long as the application is suitable for a 3D Printed part. Furthermore, some low volume production or products which have many variants can be cost effective using AM. Large volume manufacturing though is not cost effective compared to traditional techniques.


3. It’s only suitable for rapid prototyping/concept models

It is true that globally most 3D Printing is being used for Prototyping, but many companies are today using AM for manufacturing real parts. When an application or circumstance allows AM to be cost effective, 3D Printed models can be assessed for their suitability in terms of mechanical and thermal properties and fulfil a real manufactured end use production need. More approvals are being added to the portfolio of AM materials, such as Rail Industry approval for Ultem, which is opening up the number of applications that AM can be used for. The manufacturing world has opened its eyes to the potential of AM and the tide is turning where manufacturers are starting to drive its use.

4. It’s a fad!

I hope not 😊 All predictions from Industry Analysts forecast growth in AM for many years to come and an industry that has existed for over 30 years obviously has some credibility. 3D Printing expands peoples ability to be creative and this is the source of invention which will always be a part of human endeavour.


5. It can print anything

Every production technology has its limitations and AM is no exception. A classic example is the humble sandwich box, the clips that hold the lids on are still a nirvana for AM. Its possible to print any geometry as long as its within the parameters of the technology used, but post processing is often an issue which the model needs to be able to survive intact and would the 3D Printed part perform well enough to be usable?


So there you have the five most common 3D print conceptions and some very honest answers from our Bureau Manager, Dave. Whilst we do love a good challenge here at the 3D Print Bureau, our team carefully analyse each file submitted to us and will let you know if we think there is a more suitable means of producing your part.

For more information on the types of applications 3D printing is used for, check out our blog post ‘The capabilities of 3D printing – What exactly can you print at our Bureau?’ .