4 Truths about Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing

April 10, 2015 10:28 am
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posted within Technology Acceleration

Written by: Mary R. Miller

Yes you’ve heard this before. Additive Manufacturing (AKA 3D Printing or AM) promises to be the next great industrial revolution. In many ways this revolution has already begun. Worldwide Additive Manufacturing revenues, from systems & materials, are forecasted to be over $4.5 Billion by the end of 2015 (according to Wohlers Associates, Inc.). Early adopters are poised for growth and stand to make the greatest impact.

Yet you still don’t know what to do with Additive Manufacturing. You’ve heard that it can reduce product development time and allows for an expansion of technical capabilities in the creation of highly complex parts.  You’ve heard that metal has come a long way but it’s still expensive and you’re not sure if and how it will help you grow your business.

Over the past few months, we at FASTLANE have immersed ourselves in AM to try to answer that very question: how can it help you?  Below are four truths we’ve learned.

Truth #1: Get Your Feet Wet

Every AM application varies as do your needs. The best way to find out if it makes sense for your business, is to get a part quoted. You may find out that the tolerance you need cannot be achieved or that the material you’re asking for is not currently used in AM. When you do get a quote you can compare that to your current/costs and timing. See if you are even in the ballpark.

Truth #2: It’s Another Tool in the Toolbox

If you are currently stamping parts and you want to look at switching over to hydroforming (or vice versa) you would look at the processes side by side and weigh the pros and cons. With AM it’s no different. You need to consider the material cost, the machine cost, the low/no tooling cost, training etc. Adding AM is like adding any other piece of equipment or process to your capability.

Truth #3: Expertise Varies

There are people who focus on the field of AM. Some may do metal processes but only with one material. Some may be experts in a certain polymer. A service provider’s expertise results from using the machines they have purchased with the materials they have used.  Explore several options and get multiple opinions. Finding the correct technology and expertise will greatly increase your chances of success.

Truth #4: Going it Alone Will Take Longer

FASTLANE is here to help you investigate this process so you’ll know if it works for your business. We will do #1 for you by talking to the right providers based on your needs. From now thru June 2015, we have a program to help you decide if this is something that will or won’t help your business. We can reduce your financial risk in the areas of expertise, application advice, engineering services and education.

If you are interested in finding out more about this program, contact Mary Miller at mary.miller@udri.udayton.edu