micro 3D printed parts

How 3D Printing Small Parts Can Deliver Large Value

BY Nita Vaidya-Zannino

Recent advancements in additive manufacturing have focused on printing larger and larger parts. Meanwhile many of the world’s products are getting smaller and smaller. One major limitation in the trend towards smaller products is the inability to use traditional manufacturing methods to cost effectively prototype and produce the small parts.

Until now, there haven’t been any good 3D printing alternatives to producing these small parts due to a lack of technology with the ability to get the resolution and accuracy needed in parts of this size. Manufacturing small products is easier and more cost effective as new 3D printing technology delivers high resolution and accuracy.

3D Printing and Prototyping

Due to the high cost of producing small parts, companies were often skipping the prototyping step. Skipping prototyping creates a higher risk when production is initiated. Prototyping is a key step that allows time to refine the design, fix mistakes, and optimize the product for manufacturing. The tooling process for small, detailed parts is expensive. Without prototyping, companies may need to rework or scrap the mold if a change is needed. With better micro 3D printing technology, prototyping is again possible when producing parts for small products.

The Cost of 3D Printing vs. Molding

Cost curves of injection molding vs. 3D printing standard parts

Figure 1: Cost of injection molding vs. 3D printing of standard parts

Cost curve on injection molding vs. 3D printing for small and complex parts

Figure 2: Cost of injection molding vs. 3D printing of small and complex parts

Additionally, micro 3D printing can be a cost-effective method for producing small parts as well. For larger parts, the point at which injection molding and other traditional manufacturing methods becomes cheaper than 3D printing is fairly low (Figure 1). With small, high precision parts, the high cost of tooling compared to the low cost of material vastly changes this math (Figure 2). When it comes to producing small parts, it becomes much more cost effective to manufacture the final products using 3D printing.

The trend towards smaller products doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Companies need to find cost-effective ways to produce small parts to fit in these products. Micro 3D printing can provide a great solution. Contact us today to find out how BMF can help you fabricate the micro parts you need!