Additive Manufacturing Basics for Turning Shops

An additive manufacturing expert shares what turning shops should know about the technology, gives examples of how to use it and suggests steps for adopting AM.

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Additive manufacturing is relatively new to machine shops, especially turning shops. But interest in the technology is growing, both from shops and their customers, as are applications that require turning shops to understand and use AM. The article “Additive Manufacturing in the Turning Shop” covers different types of AM, as well as how turning shops might encounter them and tips for implementing it.

AM has some advantages over machining, but it also has limitations. It can produce complex features in both plastic and metal, making it useful for parts that cannot be machined, including aerospace and medical parts, castings, and weldments. But its inability to produce highly accurate surface finishes means 3D-printed parts need postprocessing, such as turning, in order to be brought into tolerance. Turning shops can also use plastic AM to print tooling or prototypes.

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When it comes to implementing 3D printers, polymer FDM printers are easy to get up and running, while metal additive manufacturing systems are expensive and require special expertise like metallurgy to operate. Instead of purchasing an additive manufacturing system, shops can build relationships with service providers, so they know where to go when customers do need these capabilities. For more tips, read "Additive Manufacturing in the Turning Shop."