As mold manufacturers across the country work to grow and succeed, regularly examining the new and existing technologies on the market, which may help positively affect your shop’s productivity, leadtimes and bottom line, should be an integral part of your business strategy. And, additive fabrication—with its related technologies and applications—should not be overlooked.
According to Wohlers Report 2005, “additive fabrication refers to a group of technologies used for building physical models, prototypes, tooling components and even finished series production parts—all from 3-D CAD data, CT or MRI scans, or data from 3-D digitizing systems. Unlike CNC machines, which are subtractive in nature, additive systems join together liquid, powder or sheet materials to form parts that may be impossible to fabricate by any other method. Based on thin, horizontal cross sections taken from a 3-D computer model, they produce plastic, metal, ceramic, or composite parts, layer upon layer.”
This industry continues to grow after more than 15 years with new technologies, methods and applications. Beginning with this issue, we will publish a column on how additive fabrication relates to the current and future state of mold manufacturing with the help of Terry Wohlers, who is an industry consultant, analyst, author, speaker and president of Wohlers Associates, Inc.—an independent consulting firm he founded 19 years ago that provides technical, marketing, and strategic consulting on the new developments and trends in product design, prototyping, tooling and manufacturing.
Wohlers Associates estimates the number of additive fabrication systems sold and installed in all countries around the world via the annual Wohlers Report, which is a global market study that addresses many aspects of additive fabrication—including its history, applications, industries, annual revenues, growth estimates, sales forecasts and investor information, trends and developments in cast metal parts, direct metal fabrication, advanced approaches to tooling and exciting new applications of rapid manufacturing.
Our column will examine how additive processes can help moldmakers reduce the likelihood of errors and miscommunication with customers; how the technology permits moldmakers to get their hands on the design, define parting lines, suggest design improvements, and produce a plan that eliminates major surprises and delays; rapid tooling; rapid prototyping as an application; and, rapid manufacturing.
Through this column we hope to help mold manufacturers gain an understanding of additive fabrication, so you can take advantage of technologies and strategies that enhance mold and product development while improving your time-to-profit.