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Additive Manufacturing: Tastes Great or Less Filling?

Posted on August 10th, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications


By Janne Kyttanen via de zeen magazine

From aerospace and automotive parts to custom prosthetic devices and designer clothing, new applications of additive manufacturing seem to emerge daily. Are its benefits limited to the engineering end of the product life-cycle or will additive manufacturing pay greater dividends later in the process?

With the growth in the additive manufacturing market projected at nearly 20% CAGR through 2020, the industry and market is certainly taking notice. Heavyweights such as Siemens are investing in AM expertise and companies such as Vader continue to innovate on the manufacturing process. AM has even gone Hollywood. Being featured in mainstream television programs such as Grey’s Anatomy, enabling the fictional character Dr. Callie Torres to print custom anatomical components to make a one-legged man.

Freed from the limitations of conventional subtractive manufacturing processes, there is no doubt that additive manufacturing (AM) enables a new level of engineering freedom, producing geometry not previously possible. Conceptual engineering however, is only the first step in the life-cycle of any product. Are there other constraints in the conventional production and distribution process where AM can offer as much – if not more opportunity? For example, by combining multiple parts into a single part fabricated by AM, entire assembly steps, tools, and required manpower can be eliminated. Alternatively, the manufacturing line can be moved to wherever the raw material is located or where the final part is needed, thus eliminating logistics steps.

Pete Zelinski and the team over at Additive Manufacturing summed up additional benefits well in the video below entitled 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Additive Manufacturing.

In the video, Mr. Zelinski describes the following freedoms achievable through AM:

  1. Material
  2. Conceptual
  3. Logistical
  4. Quality
  5. Machining

While all of these freedoms appear plausible and worth consideration, the possibilities around materials are of particular interest to me. The potential for AM to simplify or even enable the use of new alloys, material combinations, or to selectively tune performance characteristics in different regions of a part is revolutionary. For example, the capability to print a rigid frame having flexible mount points for wheels could eliminate the need – and expense – of designing, manufacturing, QA-ing, and maintaining suspension components. Imagine the possibilities.

Where do you believe the biggest returns on AM will be realized? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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