As the research from Dimension clearly demonstrates, most prospective 3D printing customers are waiting for big success stories prior to adopting the technology. The burden is on us, 3D printing companies, to showcase fantastic new applications of the technology.
With additive manufacturing (AM) as an established part of many companies’ product development and manufacturing processes, there has been a greater understanding of the technology’s technical and business advantages. With that, more users are benefitting from lighter and more durable parts, increased design freedom and on-demand part production.
But that’s just scratching the surface of AM’s potential.
Product development teams have long relied on the metal injection molding or casting processes to manufacture metal parts for decades. This time-tested process is robust, highly repeatable, and ideal for high-volume production. However, when engineering development teams think about the cost of manufacturing using injection molding, they typically think of the costs only in terms of direct materials, machine time, and direct labor costs (see Traditional Part Cost Model image). This conventional cost model, although intuitive, does not capture the true total costs associated with manufacturing a part using metal injection molding or casting.
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 Does Metal 3D Printing Compare to CNC Machining?
CNC machining has been a staple of metal manufacturing since it evolved from NC machining in the middle of the 20th century. CNC is a subtractive process and is particularly effective at creating complex parts while achieving the tightest tolerances of any technology. Metal 3D printing, also known as metal additive manufacturing, has developed rapidly over the last few years and is now beginning to challenge CNC machining in some applications.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is continuing its rapid advance across all fronts. It is beginning to touch every industry and new applications are being found every day. The fast growth is great for the industry, but a tipping point is being reached where the vast number of independent companies and technologies need to come together in a meaningful way for the creation of standards. One of the biggest challenges today for widespread adoption of additive manufacturing in actual production parts is the need for reliable qualification standards. Many of the additive manufacturing processes differ quite a bit and making sense of them can be a challenge, even for those in the industry.
There are 6.3 billion connections to the internet around the globe. According to Cisco, this figure will grow 60% by 2020. This enormous system of interconnections creates a ‘cloud’ of information and data that permeates cities around the globe. These clouds are now merging together and creating data sets of unprecedented scale.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, affords numerous benefits to design engineers. The primary advantages include the ability to consolidate components, reduce part weight, and design parts with complex internal geometries. Creating parts with additive manufacturing in mind is usually referred to as Design For Additive Manufacturing (DFAM). Consolidating components is especially advantageous because it reduces the number of parts that need to be designed and manufactured into the final assembly. Beyond just lowering the overall cost of production, parts consolidation also has a dramatic impact on the speed of production and also functional performance.
In traditional manufacturing, economies of scale and scope are potent competitive advantages. Scale is achieved by minimizing fixed costs (such as tooling) and by manufacturing an extremely high volume of products. At 100 pieces, a tool that costs $100,000 contributes $1,000 cost to each piece. At 1,000,000 pieces, the tool cost is a tiny fraction of the final part cost. Clearly, with tooling and high fixed costs, the competitive advantage is awarded to the manufacturer with scale operations.