Additive Manufacturing 101: Common Questions
It’s time to take the mystery out of additive manufacturing. Here are the answers to a few common questions about the industry and where it’s going. Here’s a little Q&A interview with Bob Holbrook, Sales and Marketing Manager.
Are any well-known commercial products made with additive manufacturing?
Thousands of products are made by additive manufacturing, and more are being created every day. Consumer products include toys, jewelry, art, and even shoes. Specialty medical devices include Invisalign® braces, dental crowns, and hearing aids. Industrial products—widespread but maybe not well-known—include jet engine fuel nozzles, carbon fiber fan blades, and heat exchangers.
Why can additive manufacturing create parts that no other technique can make?
Additive manufacturing creates parts layer by layer, similar to building a house of bricks. This layering process allows parts to have many complex features such as undercuts and blind passages. It can even produce geometries that are impossible to create with the traditional manufacturing processes of milling, drilling and casting.
What excites you most about 3D Printing?
The opportunity to create things that used to be impossible! Every day we have the chance to create innovative solutions to engineering problems. I love working on these problems, and also seeing what other designers invent.
What are the key differences between the various types of AM processes? What are the benefits and limitations of each one?
That’s a big question! For a quick overview, check out our guide to the different types of AM processes and what each is best for.
What are the latest developments in the materials that can be used for AM?
It seems like new materials are available every week. The field is growing with specialty plastics, metal composites, glass, and ceramics. Recently, even asteroid matter has been used for additive manufacturing.
What are the limitations of additive manufacturing?
There is limited ability for mass production using AM’s current techniques. Large scale production isn’t feasible due to traditional manufacturing’s economies of scale and AM’s individual part costs. The AM industry is working on this, though, and it’s only a matter of time before mass production is possible.
Do you think AM will ever be able to produce large structures, such as an aircraft wing? If so, what’s needed to make this happen?
Yes—just as other manufactured items have grown in size throughout history, one day additive manufacturing will be able to create large scale parts. The needs are the same as any innovation—commitment, research, risk taking, and creativity. We at ProtoCAM will be one of the companies leading the way forward.
As 3D printing improves, how will it change traditional manufacturing processes?
Additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing help each other when they work together. Additive manufacturing is an ideal way to create fixtures, jigs, and other pieces that support the manufacturing process. It’s a terrific way to make molds for all types of casting. Additive manufacturing also rapidly creates replacement parts for traditional production lines, improving efficiency, reducing downtime, and lowering the overall cost of production.
Have questions of your own? Contact us here.