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.
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.
Are fast lead times essential? Do the components have tensile, strength, or hardness requirements? Is surface finish a major consideration? While it’s important for businesses to weigh various priorities, the final cost-per-part (within quality specifications) is often the deciding factor in which technique wins out.