Production Additive Manufacturing Is Already Happening
3D printing has become commonplace in machine shops as a way of manufacturing jigs, fixtures and other tooling. But where is it being used for production?
Production additive manufacturing is arriving, as this build volume from Additive Industries illustrates. Read the special report from Additive Manufacturing.
Is additive manufacturing (AM) viable for production at scale?
Not so long ago, the answer would have been no. 3D printers were too slow. The AM process wasn’t repeatable or reliable enough. It didn’t offer production-grade materials. Even for companies that believed in AM, the best-case production scenario was to make small volumes of complex parts.
But 3D printers in recent years have gotten faster. AM is more repeatable and predictable. Materials are available in greater quantities and varieties. Not only is AM now viable for production at scale, it is already being used in production.
Additive Manufacturing editors have seen this in our reporting over the last year. We’ve visited companies that are using 3D printing as a production technology in a range of industries, from aerospace and medical to automotive and defense. Additive manufacturing still has progress to make, but these examples show that production AM is possible and even offers advantages over conventional manufacturing.
SPECIAL DIGITAL EDITION
For real-world examples of additive manufacturing being used for full-scale production, view the special digital edition from Additive Manufacturing.
A hybrid system combining metal 3D printing with machining gives the Marine Corps perhaps its most effective resource yet for obtaining needed hardware in the field. It also offers an extreme version of the experience a machine shop might have in adding metal AM to its capabilities.
Machining a large 3D-printed part for aerospace composite tooling is fundamentally different than manufacturing the part traditionally. Baker Industries knows this first-hand.
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.