Will metal 3Dprinting be the future of manufacturing

For mass production, traditional machining, die casting, sheet metal bending and wielding are very mature in market, in most situation 3D printing sits in inferior position no matter in cost or efficiency.

For example, a relative simple plastic part, length 20cm, width20cm, height 7cm, a one-off 3D printing parts cost run with USD$30-40, if you go with 20 sets, price go down about 30%.

Contrast with traditional manufacturing, such as injection modling die casting, molding cost around USD$7000, parts less than USD$2!

Under today’s environment, for less than 1000pieces production, it is not manufacruring, just hobby. It seems 3D printing have advantage in cost while talking about cycling time, injection mold wins. 


 To builds up layers of an inch (0.25mm) thick, tt takes one 3D printer 100 times to finish. 3D printing would take 20-60  minutes to accomplish parts using the latest laser sintering technology (SLS printing). The cycle time for the injection mold runs between 10 and 15 seconds!

You will find that, it would take hundreds of 3D printers to match the throughput of  injection mold.

But, do not get me wrong, 3D printing has its own place, and it will becomes better and better.  Ans a savvy product  manager would rarely allow expensive injection molds for prototyping when product proof-of-concept /proof of test has not been accomplished. 

For mock-ups, 3D printing surpass traditional processing method, it is fast, is able to use the same material as final products. Most important, it saves a large amounts of molding cost.

There are four target which we use 3D printing to achieve:

  • Decrease the numbers of accessory parts
  • Reduce the weight of parts
  • Reduce the time to assemble
  • Printing highly complexity prototypes

For example, General Aviation has launched a metal 3D printing design competition on the Internet. The original part of the aircraft weighs 2033 g. It is designed for the public to collect 3D printing design. It is required to meet the strength and assembly requirements. The lighter the better, the lightest wins; The competition attracted a lot of citizens to participate, and one of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is its so-called design freedom.

Most of the contestants showed their designs to meet the original constraints, which met the installation and strength requirements, and significantly reduced the weight. The final winner’s weight was 327g, almost the original weight. One, to be exact, is 16% of the original weight! This is undoubtedly a revolution for the aviation industry, which is “increase in size”; Each reduction of 1706g weight is equivalent to reducing the fuel cost by several hundred thousand per year and reducing the carbon emissions by 10,000 tons; This is the synthesis of 3D printing. Cost, not just the cost of manufacturing, but consider the effect of eco-friendly to the earth, which is very obvious for the aviation industry with strong demand for weight loss,. Not only the aviation industry, metal 3D printing can do the accompanying cooling mold, but also has a similar comprehensive cost advantage.

Metal 3D printing is very suitable for printing grid-like structures. These grid-like structures are ideal for internal support, which can reduce weight and retain strength.

In summary, metal 3D printing opens up new design options, freeing up design freedom and making more designs possible. 3D printing works well for short run, prototyping, proof-of-concept studies and marketing.

So in my opinion,  3D printing will not replace the traditional manufacturing methods, they have their own strengths and complement each other. Understand the specifications of metal 3D printing, so as to get the maximum benefit of 3D printing.

If you have a project to go with 3D printing, Hitions might help. 

Posted in Prototyping.


  1. I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve presented in your post. They’re very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are too short for newbies. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

    • Read more

      Thank you for your comments back, Dan, it is of great help to improve my exposure. I will extend the content after collecting and comparing more datas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *