You might not think that a 3D printer and a sculptor have anything in common, but you’d be wrong. While 3D printing companies usually focus on the automated parts of their process, there can be a tremendous amount of labor and post-processing required to finish a part. This depends on the metal 3D printing process, of course, but the idea is generally the same--parts require a lot of finishing work after the print. While such things are usually straight-forward, the flexibility of AM and importance of post-processing adds another layer of complexity to the process.
When people think of the benefits of 3D printing, they often think of complex geometries, quick iteration, and short lead times. But many are now realizing that 3D printing can be a huge cost saver when its done right.
"3D printing, with its digital manufacturing, has the potential to completely change the game for manufacturers". - Matt Sand, President of 3DEO
3D metal printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process where metal powder is fused together, layer by layer, to make objects derived from digital data. The benefits of 3D metal printing including reduction in material loss, adaptability, and shortened production times. Additive manufacturing has the potential to lead to a 5-27% reduction in global energy consumption by 2050. Cameron Chateauneuf, CEO of ErgoKiwi, discusses how they use additive manufacturing with 3DEO to keep production cost and energy consumption low. 3D metal printing adoption is rapidly growing and experts project the industry could be worth as much as $10 billion over the next 15 years.
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.
The notion that manufacturing and environmental health are at odds with one another has been commonly held since the Environmental movement really got going in the 1960s. Most of the time, this characterization has been true. There really is an environmental trade-off associated with industrial activity—at least in the traditional sense. Among the most damaging of these effects are:
From machining to MIM, metal parts buyers have a wide range of options for addressing their part-production challenges. The key in choosing from among them is to remember that each technology brings something different to the table, and every part has unique requirements.
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.
Production runs of small, intricate metal components have traditionally been addressed by metal injection molding or investment casting. Some manufacturers, however, are finding that advances in 3D printing technology can make it a cheaper and faster alternative.
The question of which manufacturing method is best suited to metal part production can be complicated. It’s not a decision that can be reached by weighing only a single factor. To arrive at the best decision, it’s important for businesses to consider many factors and prioritize.
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.