Additive Manufacturing ("AM") is the technology that builds 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material, whether the material is plastic, metal, or one day….human tissue. The process uses computers, 3D modeling software (Computer Aided Design or "CAD"), machine equipment and layering material. Once a CAD sketch is produced, the AM equipment reads in the directions from the CAD design and adds successive layers of liquid, powder, sheet material or other, in a layer-upon-layer fashion to fabricate a 3D object.
SOUNDS COOL - DOESN'T IT?
IT IS COOL!
And AM (and 3D printing), like any manufacturing technology, blends well into the shop floor to create new and improved capabilities. The real power of the latest technologies, including additive manufacturing, is alongside existing product solutions. And still the need for the best process, the right materials, and the best design for the job rings true. But additive manufacturing is making great headway and providing powerful solutions. For example (1):
▪ In the Aerospace industry, GE’s LEAP engine fuel nozzle serves as the poster child for what AM can do. Proving that the technology is capable of keeping airplanes flying is all well and good, and the bulk of that plane is still made using traditional manufacturing technologies. AM proved to be the right tool for the LEAP fuel nozzle job because of its unique benefits of part consolidation, complex geometries and light-weighting. As a one-piece unit rather than a 20-part assembly, and weighing 25% less than the original while offering five times the durability, more than 30,000 of these nozzles have been 3D printed for use in LEAP engines.
▪ In the Automotive industry, there is a strong market for AM, as 3D-printed replacement parts and custom retrofits are being made today. Big-name manufacturers including Daimler, Ford, and GM have adopted AM and 3D printing into their operations to enhance, not replace, their production lines.
SHOULD AM BE USED FOR THE MANUFACTURE OF YOUR PARTS/COMPONENTS?
If not already, Additive Manufacturing (AM) may soon be part of the solution in the production of your manufactured parts. The legacy notice that AM and 3D printing materials are too weak for the manufacturing environment is clearly erroneous. At high volumes, the time and cost of 3D-printed parts is often far greater than that of traditional manufacturing and so doesn't today replace processes like injection molding or casting. For custom, low volume parts & custom prototyping, AM may be a preferred manufacturing method, as it may produce intricate and exact parts fast and at a lower cost. And as AM can support small modification quickly, turnaround times can often be reduced.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
We don't blame you! It is an exciting space and we feel fortunate to be part of it. As noted, the real power of any new technology is in ensuring it is used most effectively and, most often, used in combination with other great technologies. At CIM, we are dedicated to delivering timely, cost-effective, quality parts - using the best materials, designs and technologies to create the most valuable products possible. We have added Additive Manufacturing to our list of premier services and would be happy to talk to you more about opportunities to use this new technology to further enable your success.
Thank you - and Happy Holidays!
Michael Brown, President and CEO, CIM
(1) Forbes. "We Need to Stop Equating Disruption with Displacement: Where Additive Fits into Manufacturing " 11/28/2018