Hybrid additive/subtractive systems for printing and finishing metal parts have been around for years now. With these systems, a part is completely printed and then is brought to necessary tolerances (i.e., edges, details, surface finish) through machining. It’s always been “first build it, then cut and polish it.”
If you supply production parts for the aerospace or automotive industries, PPAP is an acronym that you will hear about a lot. PPAP stands for Production Part Approval Process, and it’s the mechanism buyers in the supply chain use to gain confidence in component supplier’s production processes. This happens by establishing a reliable and repeatable production process, certified by the customer, that identifies and mitigates risks of failures or defects in the end product.
When it comes to selecting a manufacturing process, different technologies and methods stand out for each industry. Within each category there is still flexibility depending on the level of precision required, balanced with cost considerations. Depending on your application and industry, from prototypes to production runs, you have to find the right manufacturing technology for your application.
How will metal AM get on the highway to full-production volumes in automotive?
The automotive industry and metal additive manufacturing (AM - also known as 3D printing) have a deep and rich history together. Automotive was one of the earliest adopters of the technology with companies like General Motors buying into the promise of metal AM as early as 1992. The distinct advantages in rapid prototyping allowed AM to quickly change the game by cutting down lead times from weeks and months to merely days for delivery of scaled down models and freshly designed parts. With metal AM’s success in rapid prototyping, the logical next step was to continue developing the technology and ultimately bring it into the fold of high-volume automotive manufacturing -- over 25 years later and we do not seem to be any closer to high-volume metal AM production in automotive…. What went wrong? Does metal AM need more time and investment, or has the technology simply reached its highest potential?