Additive manufacturing is an emerging technology; businesses can take advantage of its specific use cases to reduce costs and timelines, to benefit both themselves and their customers. Amplifying material layer-by-layer to form 3D objects is what additive manufacturing (AM) refers to. In manufacturing, AM uses 3D printing to build tools and fixtures, prototype designs, validate designs, and produce low-volume end products. Keep reading about additive manufacturing's meaning, process, and technology.
Did You Know? United Launch Alliance successfully sent a rocket with 3D-printed parts into space recently. When they redesigned the ducting system using AM parts, they achieved a cost savings of 57%.
What is Additive Manufacturing?
A process of building objects by adding successive layers of material is known as additive manufacturing (AM). These processes include 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and freeform fabrication. Material is added layer by layer in additive manufacturing until the object is complete. The additive manufacturing process involves building things by combining tiny pieces of material, layer by layer, to form a larger whole. Additive manufacturing is similar to building a house from bricks.
Why Additive Manufacturing?
The additive manufacturing process is ideal for making items from plastic, metal, ceramic, and other materials. It specialises in creating complex geometries or manufacturing complexities that aren't possible with traditional manufacturing methods. In addition to producing finished products, it also enables rapid prototyping. In low-volume production runs, it reduces costs. Furthermore, it creates parts with complex shapes impossible to achieve with traditional "subtractive" processes like machining, which carves objects from solids. In addition to conventional manufacturing methods, you can use additive manufacturing also. Injection moulding, tool and die machining, and you can combine other processes with improving product quality and expanding production capabilities.
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How does Additive Manufacturing work?
Additive manufacturing converts digital inputs into tangible 3D objects - such as computer-aided design files.
To export an STL (Standard Tessellation Language) file, a user must have a digital CAD file for their part(s). Among all 3D printing file types, STL is the most widely used. STLs are solid-body representations of features that 3D printing software can parse and convert into printing instructions.
In an additive manufacturing software "slicer", the user imports the part design as an STL file. Slicer software translates the STL file into machine instructions for a 3D printer based on the user's parts and print settings. 3D printing software can integrate with ERP or MES systems through APIs to streamline and automate factory operations.
By using the machine instructions, the 3D printer determines the extrusion of filament material. Based on the instructions provided by the 3D printing software, the printhead moves across the horizontal (X-Y) and vertical (Z) axes and deposits material across XY and Z points. By stacking horizontal layers on top of each other, 3D printers build objects from the bottom up. The uppermost layer of the print job completes the job.
Plastic and composite 3D printers typically use filament spools for additive manufacturing. 3D printers can extrude precise placements through a tiny nozzle by heating the filament to molten plastic. Following the completion of each layer, the material dries and hardens, ready for printing the next layer.
3D printing plastics work differently from additive manufacturing with metals. 3D printing materials typically come in the form of metal powders. Due to the high melting temperatures of metals, this is necessary. Due to the extrusion system's inability to survive prolonged contact with molten metal, it is impossible to extrude metal from a 3D printer. A high-energy process - such as lasering or sintering in a furnace - is necessary for additively manufactured metal parts that start in powder form.
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Industries Currently Using Additive Manufacturing
The use of additive manufacturing is widespread, and new applications are developing every month. The applications of AM are endless. Commonly served sectors include:
Including parts for cars, planes, and trains. Various factors are available, including titanium car exhausts and lightweight aviation plastics.
Adding curves, internal chambers, and channels to medical devices is an area where additive manufacturing excels. You can use this method to make everything from prototypes to finished products.
A variety of items that include jewellery, home décor, and personal hygiene products.
Repairs and replacements for industrial equipment to extend machine life and reduce unplanned maintenance costs.
High-precision metal and plastic components used in computing, communications, and other applications.
Additive Manufacturing Production Techniques
A total of seven additive manufacturing production techniques exist. Each varies due to materials, machine technology, and layering needed. Following are the seven additive production techniques:
Powder Bed Fusion
Directed Energy Deposition
What is Powder Bed Fusion?
Additive manufacturing uses lasers or electron beams to melt and fuse the powder to develop products. The following are the distinctions between the below two types of this powder bed fusion:
Laser Powder Bed Fusion
Laser powder bed fusion involves heating powder to form 3D objects with the help of a laser. Following the indexing of the previous layer, this method will spread a new layer of powder. In the end, laser powder bed fusion does not require support.
Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion
Powder bed fusion uses electron beams to melt particles. Multiple melt pools can co-occur due to the fast manipulation of the shaft.
Directed Energy Deposition
Directed energy deposition (DED) involves adding or fusing a material onto an existing part or creating a new one with powder or metal wire and an energy source. The use of additive manufacturing is generally widespread. The types of direct energy deposition are:
A laser deposits powder on the build while melting it simultaneously. With this process, it is possible to achieve much faster build rates than conventional laser powder bed fusion.
A dynamic additive manufacturing process unique to EWI. Large builds are suitable for arc DED. Having existing robots and power supplies for arc welding is an advantage for manufacturers.
Electron Beam DED
This type of additive manufacturing makes it possible to make large parts quickly. The process is applied to heavy machinery, construction, mining, and aerospace industries to create large, low-volume parts.
With metal binder jetting additive manufacturing, a binder is printed onto the powder and "binds" the metal particles together. The following steps are debonding the parts from the powder bed and sintering (in an oven) immediately after removal. Sintering typically shrinks parts by 20-25%.
Sheets of material are bonded together in this type of additive manufacturing. Following are the two types of sheet lamination additive manufacturing:
Manufacturing forms objects by connecting metal tapes with ultrasonic vibrations.
Friction Stir Welding
A friction stir welding process enhances the properties of materials by stirring them together. As a result, diffusion occurs, which reduces grain size, resulting in a secure bond.
Material extrusion uses filaments or thermoplastic materials to create parts. This process involves heating the filament (or thermoplastic) and continuously layering it through a nozzle to create the final product. It is now possible to extrude plastic "rods" with metal filler. After unbinding and sintering, metal parts are made by binder jetting.
As a result of this additive manufacturing method, new materials are now available that contain metal filler inside the plastic "rods". Next, making metal parts will happen through the debonding and heating process, like binder jetting.
A vat photopolymerisation uses liquid resin instead of other types of additive manufacturing. The photopolymer resin is applied layer by layer and then hardened by UV light to create the final object or part.
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Benefits of Additive Manufacturing
The following are some of the advantages additive manufacturing offers over other traditional methods of fabrication:
Produces More in-house Parts
Outsourcing a core manufacturing competency creates a dependency on third parties for tools, fixtures, and jigs needed to manufacture the final product. The result is that manufacturers lose control, incur higher costs, and have longer timelines, and quality issues and other complications require more coordination and additional time.
Compared to subtractive manufacturing, additive manufacturing is more cost-effective. Manufacturing companies can save thousands of dollars per month using 3D-printed tooling instead of machining. Most manufacturers will see an immediate ROI from additive manufacturing platforms: within months or weeks.
Enhanced speed to market
Rapid prototyping is enabled by access to in-house additive manufacturing. Traditional manufacturing processes would take years to request and receive a part.
Controls Full Supply chain management
Businesses can control their entire supply chains using a 3D printing platform. Companies can simplify supply chain operations for manufacturers by reducing dependence on external suppliers.
The company that invests in additive manufacturing presents job-seeking engineers with the opportunity to develop innovative designs, solve exciting design problems, automate arduous tasks, and eliminate unnecessary constraints associated with subtractive manufacturing processes.
By layering an object, additive manufacturing creates an object. A subtractive method involves removing material from a solid block until it forms the final product. By implementing additive manufacturing, companies can attain several advantages.
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