… THINGS TO CONSIDER
The previous article Benefits of 3D printing wouldn’t be enough for us to be able to look at the 3D printing objectively. Despite the fact that we consider 3D printing a technology of the future, like any technology, it has its drawbacks, which are worth mentioning…
DEMANDING 3D MODELLING
Although the first point is not a drawback of 3D printing itself, the fact that each 3D printing is preceded by 3D modelling is for many a great obstacle. Not everyone can work in graphic softwares and even if so, many people find it difficult to model a 3D object suitable for 3D printing. If there are any defects in the 3D model, a 3D printer won’t be able to read the data correctly and instead of a perfect 3D object one can encounter 3D nonsense. It is a waste of material, energy, time and money. In this case, it is often better that nothing is printed. For this, 3D models should always be carefully prepared and checked before being submitted. If you are not sure about the quality of your data, you can leave the preparation to professionals, but don’t forget that this service comes at a cost depending on the specifics and difficulty of the job.
LIMITED COLOUR RANGE OF THE MORE COMMON AND AFFORDABLE 3D PRINTERS
Many types of materials are used for 3D printing nowadays, but colour options are still very limited. For example, in and around Slovakia there is only one material suitable for full-colour 3D printing, which is gypsum composite.
VOLATILITY AND LIMITATIONS OF MATERIALS
Many materials used for 3D printing are unstable. PLA plastics distort in the sun, photopolymers’ chemical bonds break from UV radiation, gypsum composite is very fragile, elastic materials lack solidness, translucent materials are indeed translucent but not transparent… There is always room for improvement.
LOW DETAIL OF THE MORE COMMON AND AFFORDABLE 3D PRINTERS
High detail can be expected from most professional 3D printers. The more common and affordable machines, however, work less accurately. If design and high precision is not a priority for your project, this aspect of 3D printing may not be a huge disadvantage for your overall vision.
LIMITED BUILD SIZE
A 3D printer is unable to print larger models in one piece, therefore, it is necessary to print them in two or even more pieces. They have to be glued or combined otherwise and this work can be challenging for many people.
THE MOST COMMON AND AFFORDABLE MATERIALS ARE NOT ECOLOGICALLY FRIENDLY
Although there are some ‘green’ materials used in the process of 3D printing, the most frequently used materials – affordable plastics – are far from being ecologically friendly. In these times of eco-friendliness, this can be a major step back. Moreover, most of the 3D printed products are not recyclable and cannot be used for further 3D printing, thus we can easily find ourselves surrounded by useless ‘stuff’.
FINANCIAL DEMANDS OF QUANTITATIVE PRODUCTION
Even though 3D printing is an ideal and affordable technology for prototyping, it is still very costly to be used in quantitative production.
DURATION OF QUANTITATIVE PRODUCTION
Quantitative production by 3D printing is still disadvantageous not only in terms of money, but also in terms of time. However, 3D printing is one of the fastest methods of prototyping.
RELIABILITY OF 3D PRINTERS
3D printers operate with high precision, but their performance is often unstable. Both commercially affordable and highly professional machines can encounter this problem. They require frequent service, which goes hand in hand with unexpected investments. Before buying a 3D printer, you should have a sufficient financial reserve. In comparison with costs for its maintenance and for the purchase of materials, the 3D printer itself is not the biggest investment for which to prepare.
THE COMPLEXITIES OF COMPLETING A 3D OBJECT
The 3D printing process does not necessarily end when a 3D object has been created. Photopolymer objects need to be varnished to achieve higher stability, plastic objects have to be cut out of the support material, and great skill is required to finish the fragile composite objects with glue, wax or epoxy.
Along with the amazing opportunities for new products and technological possibilities, 3D printing also presents a threat to more traditional forms of manufacturing. Manufacturers are terrified by the possible vast production of counterfeits. Many of them are already trying to adapt to the new market by selling 3D models of their products online.
THREAT OF ABUSE
Like with any technology, it is unavoidable that it sometimes end up in the wrong hands for the wrong purposes. Some 3D printers are able to print dangerous and illegal items such as functional guns, or even drugs. While 3D printing is able to increase the quality of our lives, this technology can also be exploited…
If you too have experienced some drawbacks of 3D printing, please feel free to share them with us. We’d love to hear your feedback.
Still, based on some of the reactions to the article, we must say that in our opinion, the pros of this technology strongly outweigh the cons. The development of 3D printing is extremely fast and we are happy to be a part of it from its conception and to see it through its many inevitable and exciting developments.