3D printing is really great for prototyping and design and certainly
has potential for keeping prototype work in america. For production
parts though, its very costly compared to classic plastic injection
A couple years ago I had a face plate and bezel (3cm x 15cm x 27cm )
printed for about $400 dollars from a Stratasys 3-D printing machine,
it was an excellent print, though it had a satin finish, wherein the
spec called for gloss.
We had a production mold for the same part made in China, the 2 molds
were ~$5.5k. We had received quotes from US companies of ~$15k for the
same molds.The unit cost of production was ~$3-4 per bezel/faceplate.
In very small quantities, 3d printing makes sense. In situations where
the "fixed cost" of a mold is negligible, I doubt 3d printing will
ever be able to compete.
P.S. I will note that it was cheaper to have our metal backings made
in the US. The shipping costs for iron from the US to China was very
high (though shipping by ocean freighter was not considered).
“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be
sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”