3D Printing

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Additive Manufacturing: Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted October 06, 2019 12:01 AM by ahorner_22

As technology is changing, there are many new manufacturing processes that can elevate operations. Additive manufacturing is completely changing traditional practices while also saving time and money in the process.

Additive manufacturing, also referred to as 3D printing, is a process that takes a digital design and creates a tangible object. CAD software is used to create a design that is uploaded into an additive machine. This machine is then able to produce an object layer by layer with the use of heat lasers or electron beams.

Many industries are working with additive machines due to advantages with customization, durability, and lightness. One of the most important advantages around additive manufacturing is its allowance for mass customization.

Another benefit is that stronger parts can be produced. An object can be formed from one whole entity rather than an assortment of various pieces. This eliminates “stress points” that non-additive parts contain.

Reliability and convenience are a considerable upside for additive manufacturing. This method allows for the reduction of traditional manufacturing. A specific part can be produced instantaneously.

While many advancements are happening in additive manufacturing, it still has its disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is the limitations when it comes to the size of the object being produced.

Speed is much faster than outsourcing and waiting for a shipment to arrive. However, speed within the machine itself is rather slow when manufacturing the object itself.

While investing in additive manufacturing, the upfront cost of the equipment is expensive. While the payout is cost efficient, the initial investment isn’t.

While additive manufacturing may be costly and offer limitations, it is a highly specialized process that can’t be found anywhere else. This is advancing the way the manufacturing process works by bringing efficiency and adaptability to many different industries.

3 comments; last comment on 10/09/2020
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Start-up Raises $23 Million to 3D Print Sports Cars

Posted February 11, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Divergent 3D says additive manufacturing will reduce the cost of building vehicles while lowering the weight and reducing fuel consumption. The company has closed its Series A funding after raising $23 million that it will use to promote the commercialization of 3D printed sports cars.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Additive Manufacturing eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

9 comments; last comment on 02/13/2017
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The Death of 3D Printing Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted September 21, 2016 3:14 PM by HUSH

Did you get the memo? Perhaps you read the obit. 3D printing is dead. Over. Done with. Kaputski.

This past summer there were many articles criticizing 3D printing’s struggle to stay relevant. Stratasys and 3D Systems, two of the leading 3D printing companies, saw their stock surge 333% and 800% between 2011 and 2013, respectively. But since 2014, the two companies have seen their combined stock cash valuations plummet from $14 billion to less than $3 billion. The former has instituted layoffs and shifted manufacturing to China, while the latter has stopped selling its consumer-oriented printer. Some believe it would be in the best interests if Stratasys and 3D Systems were to merge, to consolidate technologies, efforts and products. Meanwhile, the industry becomes more muddled each year with startups that feel like they have a unique offering to additive manufacturing (AM).

Many of the critics also point out that 3D printing hasn’t become a ubiquitous as predicted; 3D printers aren’t easy to use; and instances of makers fabricating actually useful components are rare.

So because 3D printing lacks the cohesive focus and applications of more mature technologies, that makes it dead?

Almost definitely not. Last week, General Electric purchased separate AM companies, Arcam AB and SLM Solutions Group AG, for a total of $1.4 billion. When the deals are complete, GE will move from one of the world’s largest metal printing customers, to one of the world’s premier 3D printing suppliers. GE believes it can milk $1 billion in AM revenue from these two companies by 2020 (a 600% increase), while also saving between $5 and $10 billion on its own AM expenditures. And although the industry is amidst significant upheaval and uncertainty, it still grew by 26% on 2015.

So the so-called death of 3D printing can be attributed to two likely causes. The first, is (sigh) media hype. As quickly as journalists and news sources were ready to make 3D printing the king of manufacturing in 2013, they are just as ready to execute it today.

Gartner is a technology research and advisory company that details technological innovations, but also the societal or cultural changes around them. In 2015 they released the graph on right, depicting the 3D Printing Hype Cycle. Right now, we’re on our way out of the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ and onto ‘Plateau of Productivity.’ Right now 3D printing is immensely popular in the medical field for creating custom hearing aids, knee replacements, insoles, artificial limbs and so much more.

As hype grew around 3D printers just three years ago, so did imaginations and investments. Yet 3D printing innovations happened less quickly than what was expected, so hype died, and the narrative turned from all the possibilities of AM to all the shortcomings of AM.

The second cause is there is still not much consumer appetite. A few years ago it seemed that 3D printing was so disruptive to traditional supply chains and manufacturing that almost everyone would own one, much the way 2D printers proliferated. Instead, DIY 3D printer owners are mostly just fabricating dust-collecting knick-knacks. There hasn’t been that ‘killer app’ moment yet, where a 3D printer produces something so clever or original, that people are compelled to buy one. On top of that, producing an original design or replicating a broken one has a considerable knowledge barrier—your average Wal-Mart shopper likely doesn’t know how to set up a 3D printer, let alone begin scanning parts or fixing a broken part in CAD.

Considering the difficult business that is consumer-oriented 3D printers, there aren’t many companies willing to invest in new consumer-level products—not when even $200 3D printers can have trouble selling. This is why companies such as GE still see a light at the end of the AM tunnel, but to the general public it seems like nothing but a dead end.

6 comments; last comment on 09/27/2016
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Think Big with Robot-mounted 3D Printer

Posted April 16, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Typically, 3D printers operate within a workspace defined by the build plate and print-head guide rails. Printed objects generally measure a few inches, but a really big printer may produce parts several feet in size. How to build bigger? One solution combines additive manufacturing with mobile robots. Engineering360 explains how "Addibots" not only expand the traditional workspace of 3D printers, they expand the possibilities of additive manufacturing itself. Two videos offer application examples.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Additive Manufacturing eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

1 comments; last comment on 04/17/2016
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Printing a Functional Jet Engine

Posted June 19, 2015 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Toy makers make toys. General Electric makes turbines. So it's not surprising that GE's latest proof of concept is a 33,000 RPM miniature jet engine created using direct metal laser melting. According to CNet, the foot-long engine is based on a design used for radio-controlled airplanes and actually works.


Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Additive Manufacturing eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

8 comments; last comment on 06/23/2015
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