3D Printing manufacturing allows for the creation and production of impossible parts that can't be created with any other process.
3D printing is the most versatile plastic forming process available. Arguably the most versatile manufacturing process available. Geometry-wise you can literally create anything. Now there are sometimes tradeoffs in quality, speed, and overall manufacturability when you make "anything" but rarely do you have to completely redesign an part to have it 3D printed. This is the primary reason that 3D printing has been embraced as a prototyping technology. But as a production technology, where thousands of parts are created, 3D printing manufacturing offers capabilities beyond what traditional processes, like injection molding ever could.
3D printed parts can have geometries within geometries. In the example of the fractal above, this pyramid has a repeating pattern throughout. There are triangular holes inside and outside the pyramid in all 3 dimensions. It would be impossible to mold this shape, because there is no way to remove the part from the mold because of its complexity. Even if it were possible it would be phenomenally expensive.
Another simple impossible part would be a hollow Cube that is not thin-walled. Or perhaps a solid cube with a sphere of space inside of it. There is no way that any other process than 3D printing can create those types of geometries. because no tool can create a void inside a part without cutting though the outside of the part.
Another example of impossible parts are shown above. These gear shafts were built around a bearing, making the entire assembly effectively a single part. Traditionally plastic parts would have to be designed to interlock, and pull apart so that a bearing could be added. In this particular case what is now manufactured as a single assembly would be have to be split into the gear, the toothed pulley, the shaft, and the bearing. Then they would all be assembled after each was manufactured individually.
Since this part was 3D printed. The gear, pulley, and shaft could be combined into a single part. Then, during production, each part would pause to have the bearing added. Then the part would continue to be built around it. 3D printing reduced 4 parts into 2 that are manufactured as 1. The manufacturing cost was dramatically reduced because there was no assembly and none of the tooling needed to make 3 new parts and combine them with 1 bearing.
3D Printing is an incredibly valuable process for creating impossible parts. And now that it is possible to created thousands of these parts with 3D printing manufacturers, designers and engineers are free to create much more efficient and complicated parts to use in their products.
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