5 Lesser-known 3D Printer Applications

By June 17, 2020 No Comments

Companies typically buy 3D printers for one of four reasons.

  1. Save Time
  2. Save Money
  3. Make Money
  4. Because They’re Cool (Yes, we’ve actually sold printers for this reason.)

While one or two of these can fully justify the purchase of a 3D printer, here’s the best part about owning one. Once you have it installed, the possibilities are truly endless. This article shares 5 lesser-known applications you can take advantage of with your 3D printer today.

Ergonomic Tools

According to Cority, ergonomics-related injuries represent 33% of all worker injury and illness cases – which accounts for a staggering $15-20 billion annually that businesses must absorb.

3D printed parts have the ability to help reduce these statistics.

Here’s a real example of this. An employee on an assembly line was responsible for pressing two components together into a snug fit. After a long shift, his hand, specifically his thumb, was fatigued and sore. He mentioned this to one of the engineers at the company who wanted to help. The engineer sketched and printed a very simple cap for the worker’s thumb. He tried it and found that it completely eliminated the fatigue, and they were able to increase the speed on the line.


Training Models

Attune recently shared this information. Research shows that learners retain only 5% of material presented through lecture and 30% taught by demonstration. Hands-on participation, on the other hand, can lead to as much as a 75% retention rate.

Having the ability to print full-scale models of equipment and products provides companies with a huge advantage when it comes to hands-on training.

We worked with an aerospace repair company who wanted to give their employees more hands-on training with various types of aircraft. They began printing components of several aircraft models and actually included the wiring and other features. They even utilized transparent materials so the inner sections were visible. This allowed the team to practice the repair operations on any aircraft they needed.


Tool Organizers & Holsters

How frustrating is it to need a specific tool and it’s missing from your toolbox? Keeping everything within reach and organized helps increase efficiency and productivity. 3D printed tool holders and organizers give everything a place and help to make them easily accessible. There’s also something about organized tools that encourages the user to replace them as well.

A medical manufacturing company found that by printing custom holsters and belt clips, they were able to equip their workforce with all the tools they needed for their shift. This eliminated the need to go back and forth to their workstations when different tools were needed. Saving just 15 minutes a day adds up to 94.5 hours per employee each year.

Printing low-cost models can save you a significant amount of money by increasing efficiency, preventing loss, and damage.


Sales & Marketing Models

Prototypes are great in the product development stage but one application that tends to get overlooked is producing realistic mockups. We’ve seen these used in showrooms, sales kits, pre-release product photography and trade-show models.

One company we worked with paid off their 3D printer in less than a year just from savings on trade-show freight cost savings. They printed shells of parts that would otherwise be extremely heavy and painted them to look the exact same as the originals.

Another example is a company whose equipment is large making it impossible to show them in their trade-show booth. They printed realistic scale models and had one of the most impressive booths in their category. Check out more about this story by clicking here.

Model finishing is a huge part of the success of this application. We know all the tips and tricks to help you achieve nearly any surface finish you need.


Safety Components

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 353,000 workplace injuries resulting in days away from work in the manufacturing sector in 2018.

Production and assembly floors can be inherently dangerous places. While most companies have a solid grasp on safety measures on the floor, we still find some good opportunities to expand on that with 3D printed parts. One company we worked with had parts moving along a conveyor belt through several stations. What we found is the parts were positioned inconsistently on the belt so employees had to reach across it to pick parts. While this led to fatigue for the worker, it also provided an opportunity for clothing or badges to get stuck in the belt which could have led to injury. We helped them print a guide that moved the parts as close as possible to the worker to reduce the need to reach and eliminated the injury risk.


We’d love to visit your facility or do a Zoom walkthrough with you to look for opportunities like these. Your 3D printer is an incredibly powerful tool just waiting to make a big change in your organization and we’re here to help. Contact Us to learn more.

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