Three Examples of Additive Manufacturing in Production
Is additive manufacturing (AM) ready for production scale? The latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine highlights manufacturers who are succeeding with 3D printing for production right now.
Is additive manufacturing (AM) ready for production scale? The question implies that 3D printing technologies are too costly, too unreliable, or too slow to achieve production volumes effectively. But for several manufacturers featured in the May issue of Additive Manufacturing, AM is not only ready for production but already winning here. Three examples:
1. Near-net-shape aerospace components
The cover story explores how a structural component of the Boeing 787 (pictured) came to be made additively. While conventional wisdom is that parts made additively should be designed or redesigned for additive, that wasn’t the case for this access door latch fitting. Rather, Spirit AeroSystems is printing the original, machinable design. Why? The buy-to-fly ratio for the existing design is actually lower when it is 3D printed to near-net shape before machining. In this case, production via AM is the more cost-effective solution even for a design intended for a machine tool.
2. Small, complex parts made from Inconel 625
Contract manufacturer Incodema3D has been making parts with metal 3D printing for some time already, but in fits and starts. The company just launched its first continuous-flow production job for AM making the parts described above for the defense industry. Intricate part features in a difficult-to-machine metal made 3D printing the right choice for this job, and development work accomplished in the past few years allows for the traceability and dependability these parts require.
3. Tool-less polymer parts for the medical industry
Resolution Medical develops and manufactures complete catheter systems and other medical devices that often require casings, handles and other plastic components. Where in the past these parts would have been injection molded, the company is finding opportunities to 3D print them instead. While the price per part is almost always higher than molding, the 3D printed parts come without the cost and lead time of mold tooling, which means faster time-to-market, flexible design changes, more cost-effective short runs and the ability to re-run a past job at a moment’s notice by simply pulling up the part file, no tooling required.
Also in this issue:
- A profile of Meld Manufacturing, supplier of a metal AM technology based on stir friction welding that can use a range of metal stock — even chips from machining.
- Three ways a moldmaker is using polymer 3D printing to its advantage.
- How Big Ass Fans leverages 3D printing in prototyping to develop and customize its high-volume, low-speed industrial fans.
Find these stories and more in the May 2019 digital edition.
When Precision Metal Products purchased its first 3D printer last year, the company hoped to collapse both tooling costs and lead times. But the technology’s impact is reaching core business operations, enabling the shop to focus on higher-margin, lower-volume production.
The widespread outsourcing of large machine castings led a collaborative team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to tackle the machine tool supply chain. The first step? 3D print the largest cast component.
An engineering modification that would have been impractical or cost-prohibitive in the past is realized on a machine tool performing metal 3D printing and machining in the same cycle.