Although additive manufacturing (AM) has been around for decades, it’s much younger than metal fabrication. That’s what makes it appeal to so many metal fabricators, including those who will be stopping by the Additive Manufacturing Pavilion at next month’s FABTECH® show in Atlanta. There’s an excitement to it, a feeling of untapped possibilities. There’s hype, of course, but within that hype are gems of opportunity, and sheet metal fabricators are just starting to find them.
Digging into metal additive manufacturing quickly reveals how expensive it can be, as some parts produced using incumbent technologies, such as laser sintering and binder jetting, can cost thousands of dollars. If there's one lesson Matt Sand, President of 3DEO, a Los Angeles, California-based metal AM parts supplier, has learned over the last few years, it's that cost is everything when it comes to serial production.
The central driver behind 3DEO is this: “a maniacal focus on making parts,” says Matt Sand, company president. The Gardena, California, startup is beginning to ramp up production, turning out thousands of metal 3D-printed parts per month. But 3DEO isn’t just an AM user. The company is also a technology developer, having created its own printer, software and process all for the purpose of volume production.
An interview with 3DEO’s Matt Sand. While there are many research firms working in the 3D printing industry, Wohlers Associates, Inc. is certainly one of the most well known. Each year they publish a report that attempts to define the size and scope of the additive manufacturing market. For 2018, they estimated a market size of over $7 billion and a growth rate of 21%. But perhaps most intriguing was their data regarding the growth in metals. According to the team at Wohlers, around 1,768 metal additive manufacturing systems were sold in 2017, which is nearly double the 983 systems that were sold in 2016.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), is one of the most exciting manufacturing technologies talked about today. We are now seeing a second modern wave of interest and enthusiasm for 3D printing with advances appearing in news feeds everyday across markets including consumer, industrial, automotive, aerospace, medical, and many more.
The perception that additive manufacturing is strictly a prototyping technology is quickly going by the wayside, largely thanks to companies which are using AM for production applications. One of the companies pushing AM production steadily ahead and which is proving its viability for making end-parts is California-based 3DEO.
Given the optimism that metal AM will continue to grow in relevance for series production, it's natural to focus on future potential and skim over the present. However, that forward-looking mindset obscures the exciting developments already taking place in 3D metal printing. The technology as a tool to be used in full production runs is not some distant possibility. It's already here. 3DEO's president Matt Sand details five current examples of how metal AM is changing manufacturing at scale.
With additive manufacturing (AM) becoming an established part of many companies’ product development and manufacturing processes, there has been a growing understanding of the technology’s technical and business advantages. With that, more users at all points in the value chain are benefitting from lighter and more durable parts, increased design freedom and on-demand part production.
In a field that’s advancing as rapidly as metal 3D printing, it can be easy to fall behind. Some of the most recent developments across the industry have been game-changing, and it’s important for manufacturers to know what’s out there. For that reason, and without further ado, here’s the comprehensive list of the 10 most important things you don’t know about metal 3D printing.
Metal fabrication does not lack for depth as an industry. No fewer than 6 distinct — and commonly used — techniques exist for the manufacture of metal pieces and parts in 2018. Each can be considered the “best” option given certain conditions. For this reason, it’s often tough for an organization looking to outsource a specific production run of components to decide just which method is right for them. The list of options is long, and it’s growing more nuanced by the day.