There is a misperception that Production 3D Printing means 100-1000 parts. Just a solution for bridging the gap between prototypes and injection molding. But this is far from the case. Mass Production 3D Printing is able to be more cost effective than injection molding beyond 100,000 pieces. And in many cases injection molding can never compare. But how is that possible. Let's go through it.
Per Part Cost
On average a single 3D Printed part is more expensive than a single injection molded part. But but by how much varies widely based on the design of the piece.
3D Printed parts can cost $0.25, $5.50, or 24.50 each. Higher volume makes them cheaper and simpler parts are lower cost to produce. This is really not that different than the per part cost of injection molding when you amortize the mold.
Now can 3D Printing ever match injection molding on price with enough volume. Yes it can. Think about the inputs. 3D Printing just needs electricity and plastic to make a finished part. Injection molding needs the same things.
At Slant 3D we have worked with many clients where the per part cost has been the same or less than injection molding into the 100,000's of parts. The higher the volume the more efficiently your part can be produced.
And a real key difference is that production 3D Printing can be profitable from the first part. Whereas molding has a large up front cost that requires the sales of thousands of units to pay off. Molding is high risk. 3D Printing is much lower risk while still being a similar or better cost.
Rarely when designing a product or looking for a manufacturer do people consider the rest of the supply chain. There is the cost to make the part and nothing else. But 3D Printing really allows for an entirely new supply chain dynamic.
With traditional manufacturing it is necessary to make a large quantity of parts in one go. And then ship and store those parts over a long period of time. Ford stores spare parts for their cars for 10-20 years. While it was cheap to mold them warehousing can account for 10-25% of the cost of a product.
A simple example would be a simple widget or toy. We will use a product from Angled.io shown below (retails for $19-25). To store this product in an Amazon warehouse would cost between $0.40-1.50 depending on the season. If they do not sell quickly then the warehousing would become about 3-5% of the cost of the product after just a few months. Imagine the carrying costs when you have to hold inventory for years.
Compare this to 3D Printing. A part only has to be made when it is ordered. Or in batches over time. There are no large production runs. This reduces warehousing to a fraction of what it was, reduces cash tied up in inventory, and ensures that supply always matches demand. While the per part cost of the part might be higher these saving often more than make up for it.
This is not always considered in monetary terms. But Risk is a big part of a product cost.
With molding you have to risk 10,000's of dollars in the cost of the mold before you can even sell your first piece. If people just don't want to buy it, then you will lose your entire investment.
3D Printing allows you to test the market. Even at very low volume (<100) you may be profitable or at least break even on each unit. And then as you grow your margins widen. But if the product doesn't sell you lose only hundreds of dollars not thousands. 3D Printing is exceptionally low risk because no part has to be made until it is sold. This is the fundamental premise of services like Angled.io
What is the cost of a delay or a shutdown. This is now known from covid, when manufacturing and shipping shut down. Local options became attractive. But even at that level traditional manufacturing is very fragile.
Most injection molding companies run 1-10 large machines making parts. If a machine breaks down, or even a operator goes home sick, a large percentage of capacity can go down and parts will be delivered late. Production 3D Printing farms are made up of hundreds of individual units. If a single one of them fails it makes no difference in production because there are ten waiting to replace one.
This makes production 3D Printing farms exceptionally reliable. Saving cost on shutdowns or delays from that single point of failure that traditional manufacturing suffers from.
So the short answer is yes, 3D Printing can produce millions of parts for the same or less cost than injection molding. Largely through the savings that it brings about up and down the supply chain from reduced risk and reduced carrying costs.
Hopefully this post has made that a bit more clear. 3D Printing is able to operate at scale without up front risk or long term shutdown issues. During the entire pandemic, Slant 3D never shut down. Our factories are too automated and efficient to require it. Our clients were able to continue to receive products instead of being caught in the limitations of overseas molding and storage.
Each year the season comes around. Prime Day, Black Friday, Christmas, New Years. The quarter most consumer companies, big and small, look forward to. Sales spike across, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon.
3D Printing companies this time of year often end up expanding their printing capacity by buying a few more machines. An investment of hundreds or thousands of dollars. The trouble is that after the season passes the machines are left idle. So the investment is not fully utilized. Certainly the machines may be "paid off" but profits are often reduced. And Christmas sales don't often correlate directly with business growth.
This problem is where services are valuable. They are able to bridge the production gap through the season. Clients are able to ramp up their production capacity using Slant 3D printing farms to complement their own. The benefit is there is no cash outlay for equipment that may go unused. The production is perfectly flexible. And the system is profitable on the first part since larger printer farms are often able to access greater economies than smaller 3D printing operations.
This is an especially a good system for small businesses such as Etsy stores. But applies equally well to the industrial sector where sales can spike and production rates need to increase.
Out of Darts is a Slant 3D client that utilized this resource in 2019. Normally Out of Darts manufactured Nerf mods that are 3D Printed on their Prusa Farm in Washington, but with spiking demand from the holiday season they did not have the ability to scale up production quickly enough to meet all of the orders.
Out of Darts reached out to Slant 3D to produce Nerf Dart Hoppers, a large part that absorbs a large amount of Print Time. Slant 3D was able to produce hundreds of the parts over a 2 week period in order to help them meet demand until they could scale up.
But there were challenges. Matching the same output as that associated with Out of Darts was difficult in the time allowed. Since they were using Prusa's and Slant 3D uses our internal Mason there was a conversion process that could've delay the production schedule. Not to mention color matching and other challenges. This is why it is important to prepare the the spike ahead of the need.
Slant 3D can accept quotes today for the christmas season and accept contracts based on need. Sampling and verification can all be completed as well to ensure that everything is ready when it is needed. This helps to prevent delays during the sales spike.
Slant 3D operates the largest 3D Printing farm in north america. We have a scale that allows any 3D Printed product company to scale up quickly in order to meet the short term demand.
Reach out to us for a quote for your 3D Printed product. And get great for the 4th quarter fun.
Reduce the Cost of International Shipping by Teleporting Parts Via 3D Printing
The internet has allowed the sale of products to anyone in the world. Whether those be consumer or industrial products. But that access is ruined when the products have to cross borders or oceans. Shipping a crate overseas then paying tariff and warehousing fees significantly increases the cost of a product to the end-user. Wouldn't it be great if Parts and products could be "teleported" to the destination country with just an e-mail to save those shipping costs. With Production 3D printing that is possible.
3D Printing allows 3D models to be emailed and manufactured anywhere in the world. The trouble has always been there has never been a formal entity that can print your parts in the country where they are to be sold and ensure they are shipped to customers. 3D Printing services like Slant 3D allow products designed in one country to be produced and fulfilled in another country without the cost of shipping. And Slant 3D can hold your model in our digital inventory and produce it only when it is needed.
How it Works
By using Slant 3D you can take your product international and not have to deal with international shipping costs. And you have the huge production scale of Slant 3D. So you know that when demand rises we are able to back you up. This is a great resources of companies and entrepreneurs outside of the United States to send their production to the US without the high cost of shipping.
3D Printing is quickly becoming a best option for production of plastic parts. You have little-no inventory. You can send your parts anywhere in the world for free, and you are able to grow without any high up-front investments.
Who is Doing It.
Slant 3D already doing this with dozens of companies and entrepreneurs. They include companies like Uncommon, a project call Part Mason, and Etsy stores such as BakersStreetCuters. All of these products are manufactured and fulfilled from Slant 3D. But most of them are designed outside of the United States
3D Printing is becoming a common method for producing parts and toys by small independent creators all over the world. These people often maintain several printers in their home or shop in order to make the products that they have created.
But if you are just starting out or trying to grow, the time and expense of your own personal 3D printers can make them prohibitive. Personal printers often cost $500-$3000 which, for a small cottage business is a high startup cost.
But with production 3D printing you can just upload you models and have your manufacturer hold them in digital inventory. That is, there is a onetime preparation fee, and then the part is ready to be printed forever. When an order comes in it is pushed to the manufacturer who will access the digital file and print the design.
And since companies like Slant 3D support dropshipping you can enter into a monthly plan where you pay a flat fee for each shipment and have Slant 3D print and ship the part only when it is ordered. This means you can create a business for basically zero upfront cost, and only pay the cost of manufacturing on a per-part basis. It is a lot like posting an app to the Appstore. You just create a digital design and it is copied when the design is ordered.
An Alternative method to operating on a small scale is to order inventory in small quantities for you to hold and then ship, like a traditional retailer. Again the design would be held in "digital inventory" by Slant 3D, and when you need 10-100 pieces for your stock you just send a message and the pieces will be printed and shipped to you within a few days.
And whenever you want to grow you business or add new products, you basically just send an e-mail. No more affording, maintaining, and operating your own printers. Just design great products without having to pay for them until they sell.