An interesting definition of “additive” from one shop was “anything that is outside the core product we manufacture or service we provide; ancillary services and technologies.” The response emphasized that, to this shop, additive equals value-adding. Although this is not an accurate definition of additive manufacturing (AM), you could look at the use of additive technologies as a value-added service to your customers.
A more specific definition of additive manufacturing is: various technologies and processes—stereolithography, fused deposition modeling, selective laser sintering, materials, 3D printing, scanners, software—used to manufacture both prototype and production-quality parts and molds. AM also serves as an excellent way for moldmakers to get involved in product design and development, resulting in a better-quality mold.
The former part of the definition is the focus of one feature, which describes how a dedicated group within Boeing is tasked not only with making prototypes additively, but also with finding more production opportunities for AM. The latter part of this definition is the focus of a second feature involving Proper Group International’s use of 3D printing technology within its design lab, and which I believe also falls into the additive equals value-add category.
A recent survey of some moldmakers and molders reveals the level of familiarity and understanding of 3D printing and its applications, benefits and limitations. Here is a sampling of the responses:
Are you using 3D printing?
• We have only made limited use so far.
• We have not needed it yet due to our large part sizes.
• I would be interested to learn current pricing.
• We have outsourced 3D printing for trial parts prior to final design.
• I don’t know much about 3D printing.
• We use it to demonstrate certain features of geometry changes for customers.
• Would like to read an end-user case study.
• It makes more sense to outsource this service when needed.
How can it help you better serve your customers?
• It has worked great to prove out geometric positioning with mating products and/or to test automation processing prior to final design of production-ready products.
• Early-phase demonstration of part design during the stages of development equals time savings.
• Unacceptable part features might be identified earlier in the process.
• It has potential value for development activities and engineering samples.
• For new product introductions or dramatic product revisions.
• The possibilities are almost endless.
• It has more value for the final product rather than the mold.
To me, these responses demonstrate an immense opportunity for additive technology suppliers to educate and for potential customers to learn. And so, here we are with our Additive Manufacturing supplement to help with just that.