Additive Manufacturing Opens Exciting Opportunities

3D printing has generated buzz in the manufacturing world, specifically with prototyping. The term “Additive Manufacturing” is being adopted in the industry, as it describes the production technique of building from the bottom up rather than shaping an existing piece of material. Additive Manufacturing creates products by layering and allows using a wide range of materials to build models. The process is developing rapidly, as methods that were not possible a year ago can now be accomplished.

Multiple Material Use

An advantage of Additive Manufacturing is the ability to use multiple materials in the construction of a model. The last eight months has shown breakthroughs in the use of alternative materials. For example, the cost, appearance, flexibility, and turnaround of models using metals in 3D printing has vastly improved over what was possible a year ago. Material options now include various plastics, polymers, sub polymers, and organic materials. Using edible materials to build food is now a possibility, such as building a customized cake.

In-house metal fabrication is now possible with Additive Manufacturing. A plastic prototyped model can now be coated with metal through a nano-scale electrolysis process. An electromagnet coupled with a depositing tip allows the metal to be assembled droplet by droplet. Inserting metal into a carved plastic model is no longer necessary to incorporate a mixture of materials; an entire prototype can be built from the ground up using all necessary materials.

Since Additive Manufacturing constructs a model one layer at a time, a model can now be made that would be difficult or impossible to make using traditional manufacturing methods. It is now possible to enclose one type of material in another. Voids inside of material can also be made as well.

Multiple Color Options

Until recently, using multiple colors in 3D printing involved swapping out spools, as machines could only hold from one to three colors. By combining various colors with a white polymer, it is now possible to use the entire color palette. This is similar to how an ink jet printer can produce the whole color spectrum from three colors.

Material costs are significantly reduced when a white polymer can be colored on demand, as it is no longer necessary to have an inventory of spools for each color that you would like to use. This allows staff and clients to be more creative in their prototyping.

The recent advancements of Additive Manufacturing have increased the value it can add to a business; it can help you remain competitive and respond to your market. Have you considered using Additive Manufacturing? Does Additive Manufacturing have an application for your business?