Economic analysis of plastic additive manufacturing for production of end use products: a preliminary study

Additive Manufacturing (AM) has enjoyed a rapid development over the past decade, and the improved process capability brings a number of attractive potentials for direct manufacturing of end use components and products. However, there is a lack of assessment for the economical use of this novel technology. This paper reports on an initial study focusing on the economic viability of using plastic AM as a production method for low to high volume production. A test product was designed and the AM production costs were obtained from ten AM service providers across Europe, which were further compared with injection moulding and vacuum casting. The analysis results show that AM is economically viable for low to medium batch production for up to 100 parts, which could save up to two third of the production cost per part compared with injection moulding. This indicates that plastic AM has the potential to be a bridge to higher volume production.