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Advantages & Disadvantages of Additive Manufacturing Today.

April 3, 2020 by  
Filed under News

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Manufacturing is an industry practically defined by rapid innovation. This is true in terms of the nature of products coming off the line, as well as the processes companies use to meet demand, streamline operational costs and optimize revenue. Manufacturers ill equipped to look ahead — and harness these product and process innovations as they become available — are perpetually one step behind more cutting-edge competitors.

Additive manufacturing is a prime example of this principle in action. The ability to 3D print objects by depositing layers, rather than the traditional approach of removing extra material, has loads of potential for changing the very way in which products are made.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of additive manufacturing in today’s landscape.

The Potential of Additive Manufacturing

As TWI Global notes, the distinct advantages to additive manufacturing over traditional include:

  • Allowing for the creation of bespoke parts
  • Produce parts with complex geometries and little waste
  • Facilitates speedy prototyping
  • Allows for efficient, rapid alterations in design during manufacturing
  • Reduced lead times and costs
  • Fabrication of durable single objects, rather than assembling multiple pieces

In other words, additive manufacturing offers flexibility and agility in production. It also capitalizes on a made-to-order mentality, something traditional manufacturers struggle with — especially as customers increasingly demand the opportunity to customize products to their exact wants, needs and tastes.

Where are we currently seeing additive manufacturing shine?

TWI Global notes the aerospace, automotive and medical industries in particular are harnessing the advantages of 3D printing — especially for weight reduction, complex parts and custom-made devices.

Challenges Associated with 3D Printing

So far, additive manufacturing sounds great. In fact, you may even be wondering why companies haven’t made the jump from traditional manufacturing to 3D printing altogether given the potential for a shorter time to market and more customizability.

The advantages of additive manufacturing certainly seem in line with the goals of advanced data analytics in manufacturing: trimming operational expenses, controlling quality, speeding up production without sacrificing quality, reducing errors in assembly, minimizing waste and fulfilling customer demand.

However, manufacturers still face a certain set of challenges in implementing and using this technology. Even if a company does utilize 3D printing, it’s often for prototyping rather than producing objects at scale.

In fact, here’s what the experts at Deloitte see as three challenges facing additive manufacturing on a wide scale:

  • Materials: Traditional manufacturing materials have undergone years of development, standardization and qualification that AM has not, like in terms of fire resistance. There’s also the challenge of balancing quality with sustainability and recyclability, an area still requiring exploration.
  • Procedural: AM has the potential to add value by offering flexibility and ad hoc manufacturing but can also suffer from low production speeds when it comes to producing high volumes of product. The need for additional machine calibration can also cut into production time, as can the need to change over materials. Deloitte experts believe we must “master issues such as optimized data preparation, real time process monitoring and control” before we’ll see AM fully integrated into everyday manufacturing.
  • IT Integration: Manufacturers’ digital systems are often equipped to track types of parts rather than individual parts, which can lead to confusion when introducing customization into the mix. There is also the issue of integrating AM software with current IT systems in a secure and labor-friendly way; integration as it stands can be time-consuming and costly.

Like any emerging technology, additive manufacturing has advantages and disadvantages to consider. As manufacturers continue to address the aforementioned challenges, it will be more feasible to use 3D printing for more than just prototyping and designing.

Staff Writer; Greg Jackson


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