3D printing: advantages and disadvantages

3D Printing: Advantages

Less waste

If you've ever looked at how a router works, you can certainly relate to this point the most. Milling, like many other conventional manufacturing processes, is subtractive. This means that a block of material serves as a starting point. This block is shaped into the desired form by operations such as cutting, milling, machining. Many products generate a lot of waste products as part of these processes. Of course, these can be collected again, melted and reused. But this in turn leads to new processes that entail costs.

3D printing, on the other hand, is an additive process. This means that the desired object is created layer by layer with the help of the raw material. In this way, only as much material is used as is necessary for the production of the respective object. Here is also the possibility of recycling material.

No tooling costs

For example, injection molding requires a mold (i.e., the mold into which the plastic is injected), which drives up the initial manufacturing cost. This makes it important for injection molding to directly produce and also sell thousands of products with it.

However, this is not necessary with 3D printing. Thus, there is no preliminary work to be done in the sense and no special tools to be made in order to produce a complex or simple object. This significantly reduces fixed costs, because a mold for injection molding can directly cost several thousand euros.

High process speed

As already mentioned, no tools are needed for 3D printing. These do not have to be elaborately produced, which saves a lot of time. In addition, quick changes are not feasible on the fly. You would actually need a new tool for every small change. For this reason, additive manufacturing is suitable for product designs, market analyses or small series.

Individual products – “batch size 1

Everyone wants to live out their individuality, but the bottom line is that many wear similar clothes or have the similar decorative items or furniture in their apartments and houses. This is due to the fact that the production of standardized products based on conventional manufacturing methods is faster and cheaper. However, as mentioned above, any change, no matter how small, is expensive and time-consuming.

This is where 3D printing comes in. It is possible to customize and provide a product for each customer individually. In the process, the CAD model must be changed and production can begin.

Complex designs

3D printing enables design engineers, mechanical engineers, product designers, etc. to produce structures that were previously impossible to manufacture. structures that were previously impossible to produce in this way. The 3D printer is relatively unconcerned whether it produces complex or simple structures. The cost of complex structures made by 3D printers is comparable to simple product designs made by traditional methods.

The disadvantages of 3D printing

Even though this is a 3D printing blog, I don't close my eyes when it comes to the downsides of the technology. There are certainly some present and some will not necessarily disappear many years from now.

High costs for large quantities

For example, while injection molding costs are high initially (see above – mold), unit costs decrease significantly as quantities grow. This means that tens of thousands of products can be manufactured at relatively low unit costs and thus sold competitively.

With 3D printing, on the other hand, things look different. After all, it doesn't matter if you produce one vase or a hundred vases for your customer. The cost per piece remains the same for you, unless you buy so much material that your dealer gives you discounts.

Limited choice of materials and colors

Although the choice of materials is wide, it does not yet come close to the choices offered by traditional product materials, colors and surface treatments. However, there is a rapid development in this area, which now allows you to print a wide variety of colors and materials. Hardly a day goes by without a product announcement from a manufacturer. Here we can still be curious.


Of course, the accuracy of 3D printed objects is great and nowadays we can make accurate objects even at home. But imagine if we had to produce small objects, precisely and in a high quantity with consistent quality and accuracy. This is hardly possible with some processes and again others are complex and expensive.

Limited stability

The layered structure means that the stability of 3D printed objects cannot correspond to an object that has been cast. Depending on how the forces act on a printed object, it will sooner or later “break apart” between the layers. There are materials where this is less and less the case and the object breaks like a cast part. In addition, the reproducibility of 3D printed objects is not always given. If you print a mount that can take a beating – send the file to a friend and they print it on a similar 3D printer – they won't necessarily be as happy as you are. This process reliability will improve in the future and stability will also increase with new materials and 3D printing processes.