Is additive manufacturing ready for mainstream production, or does it remain mostly a method for producing prototypes and spare parts? This is the question that faced a panel of experts at the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show in Anaheim last month.
Not long ago, 3D production printing was an idea best left to science fiction authors and speculators. It was often spoken of in the same breath as space travel and supersonic passenger planes. Though 3D printing ended the need for constant retooling, it was once thought too cumbersome and too expensive for mass manufacturing. As a result, it was relegated to one-offs like prototyping and small production runs. But thanks to advances in technology and higher levels of industry acceptance, additive manufacturing (AM) at scale is now less a matter of “someday” and more a matter of “right now.”
More and more companies are turning to 3D printing to give their businesses a "significant" competitive advantage. According to a survey published in the 2019 edition of "The State of 3D Printing," additive manufacturing has taken on a bigger role in their business strategies, and nearly half of those polled say it has given them a distinct competitive advantage. Another 55% indicate that 3D printing is one of their strengths, and because they have adopted the technology, they are staying ahead of the competition.
Advances in 3D printing could make medtech mass customization a reality. Matt Sand, president of 3DEO, will discuss the role of 3D printing in medtech in the MD&M Minneapolis session, “3D Printing: The Journey from Prototyping to Production to Metal 3DP.” His October 31 talk will include five tips for moving from prototyping to production.
Product development can be a lengthy, complicated process with a broad spectrum of outcomes. According to Engineering.com, “Taking a product from concept to reality is an intricate, expensive and time-consuming process. It’s not easy and there is a high degree of risk involved.”
These five applications are proving that metal AM has a place in high volume production—and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Given all the industry 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. That forward-looking mindset, however, sometimes obscures the exciting developments that are already taking place in the world of 3D metal printing. The advent of the technology as a tool to be used in full production runs is not some distant possibility. It’s already here. Here are the five best current examples of how metal AM is changing manufacturing at scale.
There’s a growing push among manufacturers towards integrating metal 3D printing into product development. Here’s why:
Metal-based additive manufacturing (AM) is growing at a remarkable rate. With metal printing unit sales increasing at over 50% annually since 2014, it’s clear that this particular type of 3D printing is finding its niche. Traditionally that niche has been in product development, but metal 3D printing is becoming increasingly advantageous for production as well.
As new products are designed, including valve bodies and the parts that comprise the finished valve, prototypes must be created. How that is achieved is what makes the difference in how long it takes to get development done and the product to market.