ProtoCAM: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping.

How Additive Manufacturing Benefits Tool and Die

3 Ways in Which Additive Manufacturing Complements Tool and Die

Some say three’s a magic number, and that’s definitely the case with the future relationship of additive manufacturing and tool and die-based industries.

Consider for a second that there are three main factors highlighting the benefits of using the two together.

How might these three factors improve your bottom line? Take a look for yourself.

First, the big data

Early-adopting advocates of 3D printing have long proclaimed the potential for additive manufacturing in the manufacturing landscape. Today, that potential has become a reality.

More than $1.2 billion was spent in 2012 on tooling produced using additive manufacturing and end-user parts produced using such tooling, according to industry data from Wohlers Associates. Furthermore, there’s no reason to think that investment has plateaued.

It’s truly a complementary relationship. After all, most manufacturers aren’t seeking sweeping changes to their processes, but instead will adopt incremental technology changes that improve their existing production outcomes. Additive manufacturing appears to be within that realm.

Now, here are three key ways additive manufacturing complements existing tool and die processes:

Reduced changeover time

Additive manufacturing can dramatically shorten the lead time of tooling set-up — some experts claim as much as 90 percent!

A recent study in the production of electrodes concluded that seven hours could be cut out of each batch cycle. That’s a considerable savings when you consider it’s a 33 percent cut in the total production process.

How does it improve tooling changeover?

  • Set-up becomes an in-house process, no need for third party involvement
  • Manufacturers gain greater flexibility adding set-up into their workflow
  • Streamlined digital process creates a shortened ramp-up cycle

So you can see how additive manufacturing takes the pains of tooling changeover out of consideration, and how a shortened changeover time benefits your business financially. This also leads us into our next point…

Reduced manufacturing costs

By nature, additive manufacturing overcomes the high initial costs for tooling and setup found in traditional manufacturing processes. There are several key reasons for this, most notably the dramatic reductions in waste and downtime.

Standard tool and die set-up processes assume a considerable factor of waste. Additive manufacturing reduces this loss of material during tooling fabrication because it utilizes a digital layering technique, eliminating the burdensome activities of milling, turning and fabricating metal.

Another consideration of how waste is removed from the tooling setup process involves the removal of human error, which can often lead to material waste. Additive manufacturing automates the creation process. Once an engineer carefully sets up the build, the machines take over, and the potential for introducing human error is minimized.

Here are some additional cost-saving factors:

  • Improvement in throughput lessens the tooling investment, a higher yield from less equipment
  • In-house tooling set-up allows for greater quality control and fewer costly errors
  • Traditional tools and jigs occupy costly storage space, while additive manufacturing only requires storage of a digital file on a computer

Lowering the costs of tooling allows you to address otherwise unmet needs during the tooling process. By default, you are improving the end-product.

Increased quality of end-product

There is no arguing that using additive manufacturing in tooling set-up has a hand in increasing the likelihood of receiving a quality end-product.

Quite often tooling is used beyond its lifecycle due to the replacement costs involved. Over time, this can lead to a reduction in output quality. The affordability and convenience of creating tooling through additive manufacturing eliminates this issue. Simply “good enough” is a standard by which manufacturers no longer have to resort.

Here are a few more benefits to the end-product:

  • Having fewer cost or time concerns leads to an enhanced product development stage
  • Companies no longer delay or forgo product design updates due to tooling investment concerns
  • More functional products with fewer defects when compared to wrought or cast material processes
  • Customized tooling leads to more customized products; better functionality and fit with a more precision set-up

In many cases additive manufacturing of tooling eliminates the design challenges of tolerances seen in traditional methods. When you can worry less about the tool and more about the end-product, it’s truly a benefit to the bottom line.

Your turn!

Additive manufacturing makes a great partner to tooling and die manufacturing. As it’s been demonstrated here in the three points above, its simplicity and efficiency dramatically benefits the tooling and die industries.

Do you think we missed a potential benefit of additive manufacturing? Please share your ideas by contacting us.