Additive manufacturing/3D printing offers a wide variety of new opportunities and benefits by enabling production of complex product designs, rapid innovation and improved economics for lower volume production and customization.
There are many potential benefits of applying additive manufacturing to your manufacturing processes. Some of the most common benefits include:
- Enabling rapid prototyping and design iterations to bypass the lead time and costs involved with tooling. Rapid iterations enable the resolution of design issues that may have taken weeks or months longer with traditional methods.
- Radically improves the economics of low volume production, including end of life and repair parts, or customized products. By avoiding tooling costs, companies selling low volume on-demand replacement parts can eliminate the costs of inventory and warehousing, reduce the risk of obsolescence and eliminate the costs of maintaining a wide range of older tools.
- Creating more complex parts such as lattice structures and integrating formerly separate parts, reducing part count and thus manufacturing costs.
- Used for making molds, mold inserts and patterns (e.g. for sand casting and injection molding) reduces the number of process steps, resulting in cost savings. Also, additive manufacturing reduces the amount of material waste that might otherwise result from subtractive and traditional manufacturing processes
In order to obtain the benefits outlined above, additive manufacturing is used in an expanding array of applications and industries. A few examples include:
- 3D printed sand molds and patterns for sand casting as well as molds and mold inserts for injection molding
- Aerospace components, such as components of rocket propulsion systems for satellite launches
- Customized medical prosthetics and surgical components
- Dental appliances, such as orthodontic aligners
- Customized jigs and fixtures for manufacturing
- Automotive spare parts for rare or classic cars
MEP Center experts can work with you to understand your needs and propose ways to apply additive manufacturing that are right for your business. The process generally involves:
- An assessment of your company’s specific opportunities to apply additive manufacturing
- Recommendations about where additive might solve problems or create opportunities
- Development of a business case for use of additive manufacturing
- Connection with 3rd party 3D printers or technology integrators/vendors
- Rigorous measurement of results