Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as most of us still like to call it, seems to have been around for ages. But I’m prepared to bet that if you have a look around you right now, the only additively manufactured parts in view will be a novelty keyring from a trade show or a slightly wonky Eiffel tower from a school technology project. So what’s going on? Has the technology run out of steam, a clever solution to a problem we don’t have?
Far from it. Really far. The technology is progressing at a rapid rate, and Gordon Styles writing for tct magazine makes some very interesting observations on what developments we might see in 2018. It might be surprising that additive manufacturing with metals is so advanced, perhaps driven by weight saving demands from aerospace. For higher volume parts though, there are still time and cost issues. Hybrid manufacturing – for example combining printing, electronics or milling, is then a very exciting prospect. The growing consumer market for customised product is also worthy of particular note. On-demand, service-based manufacturing is becoming a reality that we really mustn’t ignore.
Hybrid additive manufacturing, which combines both additive and subtractive manufacturing technologies, offers an exciting avenue for engineers who seek to push the limits for design complexity and efficiency in manufacturing. German tool supply manufacturers are leading the way in the deployment of these technologies. According to DMG MORI, a build rate 10 to 20 times higher than powder bed fusion machines can be achieved with its LASERTEC 65 3D.