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The role of 3D printing in lean manufacturing

Agile manufacturing, from the English language “lean manufacturing”, is a method of managing production processes that focuses on eliminating losses and optimizing processes. A key aspect of agile manufacturing is maximum inventory reduction and downtime. In its ideal form, this method maximizes production using 100% of resources. This is one of the important methodologies from the point of view of Industry 4.0.

Another technology associated with the fourth industrial revolution that is important for agile manufacturing is 3D printing. Thanks to quick implementation, zero initial costs, and the ability to dynamically adapt to needs, 3D printing is increasingly becoming an indispensable technology for companies implementing lean manufacturing. 

What is lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing is a method created in Japan at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s by Toyota engineers led by Taiichi Ohno. They developed a set of principles related to production processes, calling them the Toyota Production System (TPS). 

The method evolved into the concept now known as lean manufacturing. Its main goals are the elimination of losses, process optimization, and continuous improvement to increase efficiency and create value for the customer with minimal use of resources.

Emphasis on minimizing waste in lean manufacturing

When discussing agile production and the role of 3D printing, it is worth paying attention to the special emphasis on minimizing losses. The methodology distinguishes 7 types of waste:

  1. Overproduction.
  2. Overstock.
  3. Downtime.
  4. Inefficient processes.
  5. Unnecessary transportation.
  6. Over-processing.
  7. Product defects. 

Just-in-time manufacturing focuses on the same types of issues. It’s based on delivering the necessary materials and components exactly when they are needed for production, without excessive inventories. 

If we examine the benefits of 3D printing, we can see that they address many of the problems mentioned above. 

How does 3D printing support agile production?

In order not to pay lip service, we will focus on the mentioned sins of waste in enterprises and discuss why 3D printing as part of our service helps fight them. 

Overproduction and excess inventory

HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology enables us to produce short and medium series of parts with a lead time of 5 days, which eliminates the need to store large amounts of inventory. 

Because parts can be produced exactly when they are needed, 3D printing supports a just-in-time approach, delivering the perfectly calculated number of parts without overproduction. 

As a result, the company can avoid excess inventory and its associated costs, and reduce the risk of product obsolescence. 

3D printing also allows for flexibility in production and cost-free design changes between batches, further reducing the risk of overproduction. In other technologies, such changes are impossible or very expensive at best. 


One of the main applications of 3D printing is the production of format parts, grippers, and other elements necessary for production. If they are missing, factories are unable to work, and the costs of such downtime are enormous. 

Understanding this risk, we have introduced the option of priority order processing time. In this mode, we deliver parts to customers within 3 business days. This involves a 30% higher cost, but the difference is still incomparable costs compared to losses resulting from downtime. 

Product defects

3D printing offers unique possibilities for creating products thanks to the ability to create complex geometries, e.g. hollow parts. Thanks to this, designers have much more room to operate and are not limited by the imperfections of cutting or injection technology.

  • Optimal geometry: 3D printing allows you to create geometries that are difficult or impossible to achieve using traditional production methods. This allows designers to optimize the shape, thereby increasing their performance, durability, or aesthetics.
  • Light structures: 3D printing allows you to create parts that are hollow or have an internal structure, which allows you to reduce the weight of products while maintaining their strength. This is especially useful for products whose weight is important, such as aircraft or car components.

It is worth noting that additive technologies allow the production of parts with minimal material consumption because they eliminate the need to remove excess material (as in the case of machining).

Thanks to these possibilities, 3D printing can significantly improve the quality and functionality of products, while reducing production costs.

3D printing as a key technology in agile production

Cooperation with companies such as Colgate Palmolive Whether Berger & Kraft, is perfect proof of how 3D printing is quickly becoming an indispensable element of production processes. 

If you are wondering whether 3D printing will help your company get closer to the model of agile production, schedule a free consultation with us, and we will help you find the answer. 

Maciek Stefańczyk

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