Is the Best Use of Additive Manufacturing in the Details?

Rather than growing the entire part, the more efficient use of additive manufacturing might be to grow the features onto a pre-existing blank.


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Additive manfuacturing can make a part as if from nothing. Without tooling and without a pattern, the machine can generate a precise, solid, intricate form. But is “nothing” really the best starting point?

DM3D, a Michigan-based manufacturer of production AM parts, has recently been advancing a different idea. In some cases, rather than using AM to grow the complete part, the far more efficient use of additive is to start with a basic workpiece and grow the necessary details onto this part. “TransFormAM” is the company’s brand name for this idea.

The part above provides an illustration. This 25-inch diameter Inconel 625 component represents a jet engine casing. For a part like this to be grown entirely through AM would take something like 500 hours, says DM3D. An alternative is to begin with a cylindrical blank of material produced through forging or roll forming. When the company made the part this way, using AM just to add features and details, the additive cycle time was only 21 hours.

The company does this work on direct metal deposition machines with large travels allowing large starting workpieces to be brought inside. Learn more about this approach to AM.