What is additive manufacturing?
Prototype Projects’ managing director, Justin Pringle, talks about Additive Manufacturing following a seminar he attended in June 2019.
At the start of 2019, I attended a metal 3D printing masterclass to find out more about 3D printing with metals, and to see if it is something we could potentially offer to our clients. As a company that strives to deliver the latest 3D printing technology, I then headed over to the Sauber Engineering Group in Switzerland, in June, and attended an Additive Manufacturing (AM) seminar, hosted by 3D Systems.
The seminar boasted a number of high profile companies, such as Alfa Romeo Racing and Georg Fischer, who talked about how they use Additive Manufacturing in preference of traditional casting.
Why? Read on as I explain more about Additive Manufacturing and how it can deliver time and cost savings (with a caveat on the latter!).
Additive Manufacturing in Industry
First of all, let’s look at which industry sectors are using AM as a production process:
- Aero Space
I am often asked if parts need to be designed with AM in mind. Simply put, yes. The key factor in using AM effectively, is to ensure that the part has been designed with AM as its primary manufacturing process. Every process has different requirements and so parts must be designed to those requirements, or else they risk costly and time-delaying workarounds.
What is Additive Manufacturing (AM)?
If you work as an engineer in any of the industries mentioned above (and more), it’s highly likely that you’ve heard a range of terms, such as 3D printing, rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing. You aren’t alone if you don’t understand what Additive Manufacturing is or how it differs from 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping, if at all. So, let me explain briefly:
Additive Manufacturing is where a 3D Printing technology is used to manufacture a part or parts.
Similarly, Rapid Prototyping is where a 3D printing technology is used to prototype a part or parts to test various factors, before it is ready for manufacturing.
So, what does 3D printing mean?
It is the term widely used to describe several processes that enable a part to be ‘printed’ from a material without the need for any tooling or machining. These processes are used to either prototype a part(s) or manufacture a part(s).
At Prototype Projects, we offer a range of 3D printing processes: SLA, SLS, FDM, PolyJet and Figure 4. Each of these processes deliver 3D parts; the results differ due to a combination of factors, which I won’t go into here. Browse the technologies on our website to find out more or please contact us.
Back to Additive Manufacturing.
What will AM do for me?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that Additive Manufacturing is not for everyone, or every part rather. It’s best to discuss your requirements with an AM provider, such as Prototype Projects, to find out if it will be the right solution for your project, or not.
Assuming it is, AM can allow a part to be designed with the freedom of not having to consider the normal manufacturing processes. This will enable a part, or an assembly, to be fully bespoke to a particular application.
This can mean that, compared to traditional casting, a part will:
- function better,
- weigh less,
- potentially cost* less, and
- be manufactured a lot quicker.
*cost is relative to the function of the part and taking other manufacturing processes into consideration.
Your AM questions
As I draw to the end, here are a few questions that you might be thinking about:
- When should I consider using AM for my parts?
- Does my product have a particular problem that is difficult to solve by the current normal manufacturing process?
- Will I need to have several variants of a similar design that will mean higher manufacturing costs?
- Which AM process should I use?
There are many answers to these questions, and it’s likely you have a lot more questions. After all, every project is unique and so poses its own unique challenges. The best answer I can give is to discuss your project or application with us. It’s our aim to find the right solution for your project. AM may not be for you, but it could just be the solution you didn’t know was there.
Finally, as I said at the beginning, I recently attended an AM seminar which prompted me to write this article. It also got me thinking about whether there are other terms which need to be demystified; jigs and fixtures being one of them. So, that’s what I’ll focus on in my next article. If there are any other industry related terms that you’d like to better understand, please let me know.
Ready to start your next prototype project?
Prototype Projects is a UK-based prototyping bureau delivering high quality prototype parts in fast turnaround times. Our next working day dispatch service is available for SLA, SLS, FDM, PolyJet and Figure 4 parts. We also offer a dyeing service for SLS prototype parts and a texturing service for SLS & SLA parts.
Contact us on 01763 249760 to discuss your next additive manufacturing or prototype project.
You may be interested in reading our Rotech case study which looks at how they use Additive Manufacturing.