Additive Manufacturing Is Advancing into Production

The September issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine explores how AM is being used to manufacture production parts in increasing quantities.

When 3D printing first appeared, production applications were not in the cards. The technology was thought of as a tool for rapid prototyping, one that could not be trusted to make end-use parts, and one that could not compete at scale.

As the technology has evolved, however, these assumptions have had to change. 3D printing has progressed beyond prototyping into the making of functional tooling and on to the additive manufacturing of end-use parts in increasingly larger quantities. Today, 3D printing can be a more cost-effective way of producing parts that would otherwise require prohibitively expensive or time-consuming tooling, setups or assembly.

The latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine illustrates that 3D printing is not only ready for production, but already finding success in these applications. The Technology House, an early adopter of Carbon’s CLIP 3D printing process in Ohio, is capable of manufacturing up to 1,500 end-use parts per day that are comparable to injection-molded parts in quality and competitive in price. Similarly, California startup 3DEO is turning out thousands of metal parts per month with a 3D-printing process it developed and maintains in house. The company is able to compete with conventional processes such as metal injection molding and machining with this technology.

And equipment suppliers clearly see a future in production. HP, which released a polymer production system two years ago, is now introducing a similar solution for metals. Its Metal Jet 3D-printing platform is not yet available, but promises rapid, economic production of iron and steel parts such as those required in the automotive industry. If these stories (and others) are any indication, AM is, indeed, a viable option for production.

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