In this Design2Part article, Frank Thomas explains how 3D Printing has evolved as a valid approach for manufacturers to enhance their agility on the plant floor by employing 3D printing for additive manufacturing. Whether they create replacement parts, tooling or jigs, the advancements in the durability of materials has enabled 3D Printing to be a dependable solution that is more affordable than ever before. Here are a few excerpts from Frank:
Thomas said that until fairly recently, additive manufacturing was used most often as a tool to create parts that you could hand to somebody so that they could see it, touch it, and provide some input as to what might need to be changed or modified. But that’s changed in recent years as new materials have been developed that enable printers to make stronger, more durable parts.
“Metal printing has always been there, but that has an economic value proposition that’s a bit challenging for it,” he said in an interview. “The ABS and nylon and other plastic 3D printers, up until the last couple of years, weren’t necessarily dimensionally accurate, and then they had challenges creating a part that’s functional. That’s what I think is different about the market today, compared to just, really, a couple of years ago.”
If the demand for 3D printed metal parts is going to grow significantly, especially for critical use cases, OEMs will have to be able to count on high-quality parts. Thomas believes the additive metal industry is up to the challenge because he’s already seen major improvements in quality in recent years.
“At the end of the day, this is really a materials game. If the materials that we’re able to bring to the market provide the end use quality that people are looking for, that’s critical.”