Over the last 5 years, 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has had a tremendous influence in our industry. It is considered the current and future of almost any conceivable form of fabrication. Though this technology has been embraced by enthusiasts from small-time makers to international aerospace ventures, questions about its cost effectiveness are paramount to widespread adoption. Here’s why.
Costs of production for additive manufacturing fall into two categories: “well-structured” costs, such as labor, material, and machine costs, and “ill-structured” costs, which can include machine setup, inventory, and build failure. Right now, most cost studies focus on well-structured costs, which comprise a significant portion of 3-D printing production and are cited by detractors as evidence of cost ineffectiveness. Unfortunately, these studies focus on the production of single parts and tend to overlook supply chain effects, thus failing to account for the significant cost benefits which are often concealed within inventory and supply chain considerations.