Metal 3D printing (additive manufacturing) is revolutionizing traditional manufacturing

Article by Heather Johnson / Hartwig, Inc. January 14, 2018, 10:52 am MST

Our friends at CompanyWeek published this piece from Heather at Hartwig on the impact additive manufacturing is having on our industry and manufacturing in general.

In order to stay ahead in the market, it’s paramount for an organization to find and implement strategies that differentiate it from others in its field. The search for value creating resources that are necessary to improve performance may come through the skills of the organization’s people, as a result of unique business processes, or by finding inimitable ways to use physical resources. Regardless, companies must continue to focus on developing these resources because, as markets change, so does what it takes to remain relevant within them.

These changes in the market are happening quickly as technology continues to advance rapidly; industries are being redefined and restructured by near-constant innovation. Companies can no longer remain comfortable with the old ideal, “This is how we have always done it,” because the world is changing. Organizations that grab ahold of these game-changing technologies, learn how to utilize them, and implement them in their processes will start to develop the new competitive advantages in this business era.

One of these technological revolutions has arrived to metal manufacturing in the form of additive manufacturing, an industrial 3D printing process. The time for manufacturers to start exploring how 3D printing will affect their future has arrived, and those who incorporate it into their business processes now will be ahead of the curve.

“The business impact that this technology will have is going to be quite powerful; it has the potential to completely transform supply chains,” states Maximillian Eils, EOS North America‘s area sales manager. EOS is a current world leader in the additive manufacturing market with physical locations in 11 countries so far and 3,000 systems in production worldwide. Of these systems, 49 percent are manufacturing with metal and the other 51 percent are polymer.

In traditional manufacturing with metal-cutting machines, parts are built through methods of material removal; however, with additive manufacturing, the parts are built up layer by layer using laser sintering to melt the material powder as it is added. Manufacturers will realize significant cost savings from the reduction of waste in production since they are no longer literally throwing away millions in metal chip waste that was cut away to produce the part.

“This is non-traditional manufacturing,” explains John Liddington, product specialist engineer – additive manufacturing and metrology equipment at Hartwig Inc., a U.S. distributor of CNC and 3D printing technology. “With traditional manufacturing, everything is being removed [subtracted] from a piece of stock, but in additive, we are basically making a part out of dust. We are adding material to the part eliminating chips from the post-cutting process.”

The opportunities for manufacturers utilizing this technology are substantial. Parts that could not be previously made on the traditional metal cutting machines are now able to be produced. According to Eils, “Additive manufacturing allows engineers to come up with objects, geometries, or applications that could not be done before through traditional metal removal practices. For instance, you can integrate cooling channels into tooling during printing.”

The additive approach also allows manufacturers to redesign their parts for material optimization. “This technology gives you the control and ability to alter the dynamic, fundamental makeup of the part without losing any of its functionality. The end result will be the same part, with the same strength and same properties, but with significant material or weight reduction.” Liddington explains.

Furthermore …