It has become almost impossible to avoid the topic of 3D Printing, otherwise known as Additive Manufacturing, when speaking about new manufacturing technology. This is for good reason, as it has applications that are highly sought after in nearly every industrial sector. The technology has moved far beyond rapid prototyping and has become mature enough to even produce end-use critical components.
Below we will dive right into the 4 ways industrial manufacturers can improve their operations with 3D printing technology.
1. Less Material
3D printing offers some unique advantages over traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques.Subtractive manufacturing is where a finished part is machined out of a solid block or near net shape of material. This takes a toll on the tolls doing the machining, creating a need to purchase and replace worn machine tools. Also, this conventional process creates a lot of waste material. A component may be exponentially smaller than the block of material and the excess metal must be machined away in order to create the component or part needed. When it comes to additive manufacturing a machine can build the component from the ground up. Laying down layer after layer of material. This is a much more efficient and less wasteful way to manufacture.
2. Less Components
NASA recently manufactured a fuel injector for a rocket engine using 3D Printing. They were able to manufacture this critical component out of reliable materials while also reducing the total amount of separate components needed to assemble to part. This was possible because 3D printing allows manufacturers and engineers to create much more complex geometries than what was possible before with traditional manufacturing techniques. Instead of needing to manufacture separate pieces of the fuel injector separately, engineers were able to instruct the 3D printer to manufacture the majority of the structure at one time. This dramatically reduced the amount of individual pieces that made up the rocket fuel injector.
3. Less Weight
Having the ability to manufacture complex shapes while also using less components leads to another fascinating and incredibly sought after trait in the manufacturing world, reducing weight. This is especially true when it comes to aerospace manufacturing. When looking at aerospace, manufacturers strive to deliver the best quality products while keeping weight to an absolute minimum. This is because when working with an aircraft or space shuttle, the total weight will determine fuel consumption and efficiency. Many manufacturers were convinced that there was very little room for improvement when it came to reducing the weight of their components, until 3D printing came along. Now, the sky’s the limit. Furthermore, this can benefit nearly any other sector by helping to reduce shipping costs by keeping weight to a minimum.
4. Overall Cost Savings
Using less material, components and reducing the weight can have a lasting impact on any manufacturers bottom line. Every manufacturer wants to reduce unnecessary costs and 3D printing may be the tool to achieve this goal. Not every manufacturer is in a position to purchase one of these high priced machines. However, as with any technology the price will eventually fall to a justifiable RoI level. Now is the time to start doing a little more research on the subject and start planning for the future.