In a video with AddUp CEO Frank Moreau, he said something that caught my interest: “…, a study from 2019, made by AM Power, has shown that 90% of the parts which have been produced this year with runs below 1,000 parts per year. 70 % of this global market has been produced with runs below 100 parts.” Is 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing not suitable for mass production? With the examples below I would like to show that additive manufacturing is possible and in fact is already happening for mass production, though as you will see it does depend on the size and the application of the part. A disclaimer: the exact numbers might not be correct to the current date, but it does give an indication of the number of parts in mass production. Feel free to comment with more precise numbers or to add other examples of 3D printed mass production.
Because of (or thanks to) the Covid pandemic we could experience the real potential of 3D printing. Nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs were needed to collect samples for COVID-19 testing. An NP swab is a flexible stick with a bristled end that you need to insert in your nose before being placed in a vial that contains a culture medium. Since NP swabs are low in stock in many places around the world, 3D printing companies, amongst others Formlabs, started developing 3D printed swabs (also top image) that can be quickly manufactured and sent to places that are out of stock. To give you a number, in October 2020, Eye-2-Eye, a major technology distributor serving Southeast Asian markets using Carbon‘s 3D printing technology, aimed to produce more than four million swabs before the end of November 2020.
According to the article on 3DPrint.com, German car manufacturer Volkswagen claims to have produced over a million components as well, such as center consoles, door cladding, and instrumental panels in plastic. This gearshift knob is 3D printed in metal is just one example of the many 3D printed components.
A really nice example of 3D printed mass production, and personalization is from Align Technology, which specialized in orthodontic solutions. The article (from 2020) states that Align Technology has 3D printed more than 320,000 pieces per day!
In the introduction, I have already mentioned that some applications are better suitable for mass production. Another example is the 3D printed mascara brush from Chanel. Already in 2007, Chanel filed a patent for this 3D printed mascara brush. From 2017, the fashion brand collaborated with Erpro Group, which specializes in additive mass production. Since then they have 3D printed more than 17 million parts!
The last example comes from tire manufacturer Michelin. The sipes are 3D printed and it is very easy to gain high numbers with such small parts. It was hard to find exact numbers for this company, but according to our own blog post in 2018, Michelin already 3D printed over 1 million parts per year. I can only imagine that number increased over the years.
Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.