Slash Lead Times Up To 95% with 3D Printing

Slash Lead Times Up To 95% with 3D Printing

Kelly Manufacturing (KM) had a significant amount of lead time to manufacture one of its airplane instruments. For 500 units of its “turn and slip” indicators, lead times were 3-4 weeks. KM had known that using the traditional casting process was producing inconsistent dimensions. And with each unit, workers had to manually sand away any excess imperfections. 

KM switched to 3D printing in order to solve its issue of slow lead times. Producing 500 units of the same product went from 3-4 weeks to a matter of days. Final dimensions were much more accurate to specifications and manual sanding was no longer a need. The company saw a 95% reduction in lead times. 

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is an incredibly effective method to reduce manufacturing lead times. It can produce products or prototypes in a matter of hours and remove the need for assembly. And it does all this at a high precision across numerous material types. For any manufacturer undergoing digital transformation, 3D printers are a valuable asset. 

Companies all over the manufacturing sector are reaping the benefits of 3D printing on their lead times. From automotive to consumer goods, 3d printing boosts efficiency. 


Audi needed a way to speed up its car design and verification process without sacrificing quality. Prototyping tail lights was a time consuming task consisting of molding and assembly that caused delays in getting cars to market. To solve its issues, Audi started using 3D printers to quickly produce high quality tail light prototypes. The 3D printer provides over 500,000 colour combinations with multiple materials. Audi can now produce production quality prototypes at a 50% reduced lead time. 


Unilever was in need of a more efficient prototyping process, so the company turned to 3D printing as a solution. Prototypes for its household care and laundry goods divisions can all be printed in final material for more functional and consumer tests. A process that initially took weeks now only takes a matter of hours to print each iteration of the prototype. The whole initiative led to a staggering 40% decrease in lead times for Unilever. 

GKN Driveline

GKN Driveline, a multinational automotive component manufacturer, was able to reduce lead times by 70% with 3D printing. The company uses the printers to produce complex, customized assembly tools. 3D printing takes a fraction of the time compared to the traditional plastic and metal tools used before. To further improve lead times, GKN is also looking to 3D print replacement parts on-demand for its manufacturing equipment. 


A4 Systems utilizes 3D printing in every project we undertake. It gives us the ability to rapidly prototype new products, components, and designs so we can improve the speed at which we go to market with a new solution. 3D printing is even used in some of our final products. Casings and various internal components we print for quicker turnaround and better quality products.