3D Printing and The Future

3D printing is on everyone’s tongues this coming year, and Dr. Devon Hagedorn-Hansen, Additive Manufacturing Specialist at Multitrade 3D Systems, a PtSA associate member sheds some light on this in the manufacturing industry

The Role That 3D Printing Plays in The Manufacturing Industry

Additive Manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing, has a growing role in the manufacturing industry. AM plays a significant role in prototyping for product development. New products can be printed and trialed for fit, new design considerations, and even market research and marketing purposes.

This was the most common use for additive manufacturing; however, AM technologies have grown in number and type over the years and different technologies are implemented for many different end-user applications.

Additive manufacturing is being used to create end-use parts and products in a range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, and dental. One advantage of AM is that it allows for the creation of complex shapes and geometries that may be difficult or impossible to produce using traditional manufacturing methods.

In the tooling industry, metal laser powder bed fusion is utilised to manufacture mould cores and cavities with conformal cooling channels that increase the cooling efficiency of the part which decreases the cycle time. In the aerospace industry, metal parts are printed using different technologies for lightweight structures, difficult-to-machine components, and even turbine blades.

In the mining industry, turbines and pump impellers are printed out of different types of materials with different shapes that would otherwise be difficult or costly to manufacture using conventional processes. The adoption of AM is fast-tracked due to the rising material prices and supply chain issues faced worldwide. AM is also used to produce weird and wonderful parts for making different manufacturing processes and lines more efficient. AM is also seen as a solution for jigs and fixtures as well as parts for production lines to improve specific operations on the line.

How Additive Manufacturing Will Affect Production in The Next 5 Years

It is growing at a rapid rate with more and more companies opting for and designing for AM, especially during and after the pandemic when supply chains are constrained; AM is stepping up as the go-to technology to manufacture specific components locally.

In the next five years, additive manufacturing is set to grow to a 40-billion-dollar industry. In South Africa, the implementation of additive manufacturing is proving to be a game-changer for the manufacturing industry. It is filling the gap left by traditional casting methods, as AM allows for the production of parts in smaller batches without the need for costly and time-consuming mould-making.

Additionally, AM allows for a wide range of variations to be produced, which enables greater flexibility in the design process and opens up new possibilities for customization. This shift towards AM is helping to streamline the manufacturing process, making it more efficient and cost-effective. AM also allows for a reduction in the number of components required in an assembly through part consolidation. This can result in a smaller supply chain, as fewer parts need to be sourced, produced, and transported.

Additionally, as a result of consolidation, assemblies may be lighter, stronger, and more efficient. Furthermore, AM could lead to an on-demand production with smaller inventory holding, which is a significant advantage for companies that are looking for flexibility, faster time-to-market, or some sort of mass customisation.

AM machines can also run off uninterruptable power supplies and renewable energy sources, meaning parts can still be manufactured during load shedding. With the energy crisis being faced all over the world this also positions 3D printing in a good light over conventional manufacturing methods.

What Are Some of The Pros and Cons of Additive Manufacturing?

Additive Manufacturing is a rapidly evolving field with various technologies and methods, each with its own set of benefits and limitations. The general advantages of AM include the ability to quickly produce prototypes, parts, and tools, without the need for tool path programming or specialized tooling.

AM also only uses the material needed for the component and some support material, rather than needing a larger billet that is then cut away with lots of potential waste.

Additionally, AM allows for the production of consolidated parts, hollow components, unique structures, and complex geometries with internal features such as holes that are difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. While AM can be faster in producing small quantities of parts, when it comes to high-volume production, the speed advantages may not be as significant compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Other potential drawbacks and limitations include the dimensional accuracy of parts produced using AM is often lower than traditional manufacturing methods. The material choices at present are somewhat limited with material costs for AM often found to be higher per kilogram as compared to traditional manufacturing materials such as wrought billets or plastic pellets. It’s also important to note that the choice of AM technology for a specific application will have a big impact on the outcome. Some AM technologies excel in material properties, others in precision, and others in speed. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully evaluate the specific requirements of a project and to determine the most appropriate AM technology to use.

3D Printing and The Future

3D printing is on everyone’s tongues this coming year, and Dr. Devon Hagedorn-Hansen, Additive Manufacturing Specialist at Multitrade 3D Systems, a PtSA associate member sheds some light on this in the manufacturing industry

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