3D Printing and the Cloud Are Here to Stay

Joe Weinlick
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If you thought 3D printing and cloud technologies were just a passing fad, think again. Not only are more manufacturers looking into the use of 3D printers for their businesses, many are also currently using the process to create prototypes. There are still a few obstacles to overcome, such as integrating manufacturing software with the 3D printing process, but the future of the technology looks bright in the manufacturing industry.

What was once considered to be something straight out of a science fiction novel is now becoming a part of mainstream manufacturing processes, and 3D printing is only going to become more common as manufacturers learn how to incorporate the technology into their existing infrastructures.

Potential for Manufacturers

3D printing offers the potential for manufacturers to create one-of-a-kind items more easily and more quickly than ever before, reducing costs and allowing manufacturers to meet their customer demands more succinctly. By programming an object's specifications into the printer, it can be made, scrutinized and changed, if needed, in a much shorter period of time than traditional manufacturing methods allow.

Integration With Existing Business Using the Cloud

The biggest roadblock to having more manufacturers use 3D printing is the difficulty with integrating the practice into their existing businesses. This difficulty arises because, in order to produce something highly individualized, you need very complicated, sophisticated software, and that software isn't easy or inexpensive to alter as your demands change.

The solution to this problem lies in the cloud. Most manufacturing software systems rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that is dated and inflexible, but 3D printing can be done using a cloud-based ERP software that can be modified as needed. Additionally, the software can be accessed remotely by others, so collaborative efforts can be sped up tremendously. This also makes product life cycle management (PLM) much easier, as the specifications for a product can be easily altered and reproduced in real time, rather than taking weeks to achieve.

Preparing Manufacturers for 3D Printing

Many manufacturers love the idea of embracing 3D print technology, but they aren't sure how. It's certain that there will have to be a shift in the way that manufacturers educate their employees, as a new breed of 3D printing and manufacturing engineers will be needed to handle the day-to-day operation of this new technology.

This could even open up an entire new field of education for those looking to enter the manufacturing sector specifically to work with these printers. The system may make some lower-skilled jobs obsolete, but it would mean an increase in the need for skilled workers who could keep up with the busy production system.

The uses for 3D printing are almost limitless, and it can speed up the process of getting an idea transformed into a physical product tremendously. With the use of cloud ERP software, manufacturers can have all the benefits of this amazing technology without the expense of updating their own outdated systems. For 3D printing in the manufacturing industry, the future is bright, and the future is happening right now.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net



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