What is 3D printing? You may not have encounter this term but eventually most products that you will be buying in the near future will probably utilize this growing technology.
This technology to create a three dimensional object is using additive manufacturing where raw materials are added layer by layer by a computer aided design or CAD program which contains the design of the object.
An analogy of this technology is to think of the desk jet ink printer that you have at home. Instead of the nozzles that dispense the ink to print your document, the 3D printer will dispense materials such as thermoplastic in liquid form layer by layer. The pattern of the layers will follow the design of the graphical data in the computer. Eventually, the materials will harden and the desired object will be created.
If you are in the research and development of air conditioner products, this technology will transform the way you do things.
In the conventional way, if you need to make a prototype such as a plastic centrifugal fan for the purpose of testing or to show your customers the design before getting their buy-off. These are some of the steps that you will take.
This process takes at least a few days and if any design change is required, the entire process is repeated. Purchasing a CNC machine may not be practical as it is costly and you may not be able to justify to the management to buy it.
If you use the 3D printer technology, there is no wastage of materials as the materials are only dispensed when needed according to the design of the parts. The price of the printer has gone down in recent years with the cost ranging from a couple of hundreds to less than $500,000 depending on the complexity of the machine.
Prototyping can now be done in a couple of hours instead of days as you can do it in-house now. Product development time has now been shortened thus enabling your marketing team the ability to launch new products ahead of the competitors.
You can use the printer to make the enclosure for this window air conditioner.
Here are some of the parts that you can create with ease using this technology.
For parts that are not needed in mass quantity you can now make it yourself using these printers. Instead of waiting for suppliers to deliver the parts, you can now make some of the parts in-house whenever you need them. In this way, the control of raw materials for production is now within your company's grasp. This in effect will help to reduce the inventory of these parts in the warehouse. The JIT (just in time) concept is now more achievable.
For a good understanding of how the 3D printing works, here is a video of the FDM process. Other processes such as SLS(Selective Laser Sintering) and SLA(Stereolithography) are also available. In the end, you will have to select the best equipment that meet the needs of your company.