Science fiction of manufacturing
Everyone has seen a sci-fi movie where they need something, and instead of having a huge warehouse, they just make it on the spot. Whether it was food that was made in a machine or a complex part for a spaceship, Additive Manufacturing (AM) has had its time in the ‘future’ for a while now. So much so, that people have been working on it since the late 80’s.
AM has had many names over the 3 decades that it has been around for, from Direct Digital Manufacturing to Rapid Prototyping and more recently 3D Printing to Additive Manufacturing. The concept has stayed the same: a 3D file is sent from the computer to a ‘printer’ and the model is built up layer by layer until it is finished. Because of this, creating something has never been easier.
This ‘space age’ technology (yes, it is used in making space craft) is now moving from the prototyping phase of its life and becoming more of a mature technology. Through this, it is starting to take hold in more industrial applications. Although it is still mainly in industries like aerospace and medical, it is also starting to take hold in industries that are closer to the ground, such as the automotive and marine sectors.
Some of the reasons why it has been adopted into these industries, are the reduction in material usage that is possible with AM, but also the complexity that it allows you to use within your part. AM gives you the freedom to produce almost any shape. Of course, there are some limits, but nothing is perfect. One drawback of this is the current cost of materials. This isn’t just in AM, but the variances are scaled within the AM sector. The cost of material will come down as more materials are verified, and the adoption of the technology is more prolific.
This is an exciting time in manufacturing! We are seeing a complete shift in the way we build things. Before AM we were just removing material, but now we can only use what we need to and work towards a more sustainable future of manufacturing.