A new technologies have come along that may be revolutionise the world of industrial manufacturing. However, Additive Manufacturing, shortened to AM or sometimes known as 3D printing , is already being touted as the revolution that improve manufacturing in the same way that the world-wide-web changed our ability gain access to information.
Most of us have now seen some of the examples and applying AM. The recent news reports about 3D printing guns at home has raised the profile of the subject in the eyes of the public. However, the industry has been around for many as well as originated from the development of Rapid Prototyping which was first commercialised your market late 1980's. The technology has taken 25 years of development before it has reached the level of manufacturing focused industry that we are witnessing today.
Commercialisation of television . has developed in two key areas. Firstly, the plastic based industry now consists of number of processes for producing parts depending on the cost or quality desired by the user. It is now easier, quicker etc efficient to create certain products locally, often using desktop machines, than affected by the mass market to provide high volume consumer products that large companies are convinced consumers need. Maplins have recently entered the consumer end of this market and are taking pre-orders for desktop plastic 3D printers for 699.99. We all know of us all printing our own phone covers and children's toys may some way off, yet we tend to be on that path.
The metals based industry has developed differently, partly because of the greater operating complexity of the operations. Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is one such process where metal powder (stainless steel, titanium and cobalt chrome for example) is laid down in very fine layers on a machine plate and a substantial powered laser will probably be used to melt and fuse the powder particles together (and to the layer underneath) only where the material is required produce the final part. The result is a process where components can be formed in ways which have not been possible using conventional manufacturing techniques.
Many complex assemblies are currently formed from several components which are attached together. This generate problems for toughness for the final a part. Imagine a component that can be manufactured using complex internal geometry, such as internal cooling or fluid transfer lines. What about the advantages that can originate reducing the weight of a component by having hollow structures or adding strengthening features only where required. David Searle, General Manager of Croft Additive Manufacturing Ltd said 'We are seeing more and more customers wanting metal based complex components that can only be produced using AM technology'. AM to get only viable for low volume fabrique. The nature of the process is unlikely to be equipped to compete on cost for higher manufacturing volumes. But for low quantities, 1 to 100 parts, AM can be cheaper and quicker because there just isn't any need for capital investment in traditional tooling.