Additive Manufacturing has numerous plus points such as the produced parts are light in weight, it is a cost effective procedure, provides quick solutions for design and concept validation due to which wastage is minimised in the final product, and proves useful to create products with complex or intricate geometries which cannot be produced with traditional methods. However, Additive Manufacturing is feasible for batch production and not mass production.
Additive Manufacturing – Live Examples
Numerous organisations are using this technology and their results are stunning! For instance, the car manufacturing giant, Ford is printing 200,000 parts each year on 14 different industrial 3D printers at its Michigan facility in the USA. The company’s 500,000th 3D printed auto part was a prototype engine cover for the all new Ford Mustang. According to the company’s website, with traditional methods, an engineer would create a computer model of an intake manifold—the most complicated engine part—and wait about four months for one prototype at a cost of 500,000 dollars. With 3D printing Ford can print the same print in four days including multiple iterations and with no tooling limits at a cost of 3,000 dollars.
The company is also producing large-scale one-piece auto parts such as spoilers for prototyping and manufacturing vehicles for the future. A 3D-printed spoiler weighs less than half its cast metal counterpart. Ford also plans to use 3D printing to make larger tooling and fixtures, along with personalized car components.
In the aerospace sector, 3D printing helps lower fuel consumption and minimises aircraft downtime as light-weight parts can be printed on-demand. Aircraft manufacturer, Airbus has produced more than 1,000 flight parts for its A350 XWB aircraft. The 3D printed parts were used in place of traditionally manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility, enabling Airbus to meet its delivery commitment on time. More recently, Airbus installed a 3D-printed titanium bracket on its series production commercial aircraft, the A350 XWB.
Transforming the Manufacturing Sector
Industry players have termed ‘Additive Manufacturing’ as the next big phenomenon in the manufacturing sector. However, there are a few who are worried that the new technology will replace the traditional way of working. However, industry experts state that Additive Manufacturing will complement, provide an extension to traditional metalworking and enhance productivity.
Various developments are taking place in this segment and many corporations are working on techniques to provide their customers with a better experience. METAV 2018 is one such event where the latest happenings of this technology can be explored. The show has a dedicated area for Additive Manufacturing as visitors are keen to know more about this technology. The trade fair is scheduled to be held from February 20–24, 2018 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The process, allowing for precise movements on an eight-axis motion system, is suited to produce lightweight components that must also be very strong.
During the visit, the device was building a black ribbed dome that could be used on a rocket.
Stratasys says the applications of the robotic technology are broad and could also be utilized in the oil and medical equipment industries.
Stratasys executives described the innovations as "step" changes but would not comment on a timeframe for commercializing the technology.
"We are confident where we are in terms of development and we wanted to be able to demonstrate to the market our intent and where we're heading," Garrity said.
Even if the vexmatech innovations can be made commercial quickly, there are other barriers to more extensive use of 3D printing.
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A key challenge for the auto industry, a relatively high-volume sector, will be matching the efficiency of conventional manufacturing, experts say.
Ellen Lee, who is in charge of bringing 3D printing into the manufacturing process at Ford, also said the technology does not yet make use of materials robust and durable enough for the most important car parts.
Boeing's Finchamp said the aerospace giant planned to use larger 3D parts on commercial airplane interiors as soon as this year. But questions about material strength clouds the outlook for use on larger parts.
"We have to be very cautious," she told AFP. "We're very very conservative with how to get things onto planes."
Pete Basiliere, an analyst at Gartner who specializes in imaging and print services, said greater consumer interest in 3D printing could help boost the technology.
"As consumers start to realize that they can (customize) and not at tremendous cost, then you're going to see the demand jump," he said.
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