How Useful is Additive Manufacturing Processes?

How Useful is Additive Manufacturing Processes?

Additive manufacturing processes gives the freedom to design and innovate for organizations while yielding better quality products.

FREMONT, CA: Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a technological advancement made possible by the transition from analog to digital processes that can bring digital flexibility and efficiency to manufacturing operations. As the name implies, additive manufacturing adds material layer upon layer to create an object in precise geometric shapes. But when manufacturers use traditional means to create an object, it is necessary to remove material through milling, machining, carving, shaping, or other means. The method uses different materials to create 3D-printed objects where the technology fabricates jet engine parts from advanced metal alloys, and it also creates chocolate treats and other food items.

Additive manufacturing is already used to develop an impressive array of products, including everything from food creations to jet engine parts. Utilizing thermoplastics, the AM process creates temporary support structures. Researchers use the technology for biochemical healthcare applications that involve the use of bio-inks fabricated from stem cells to form everything from blood vessels to bladders. Because AM excels at producing parts with weight-saving, intricate geometric designs, it is the perfect solution for creating light and robust aerospace parts.

A recent report has shown that the McLaren racing team is using 3D-printed parts produced by additive manufacturing technique in its Formula 1 race cars. Further, in some applications, aluminum alloys are used to create exhaust pipes and pump parts, and polymers are used to produce bumpers. The application of additive manufacturing in healthcare is evident from a clinical study of 300 patients that evaluated the efficacy of patient-specific, multi-colored kidney cancer models. The study examines if the models will effectively assist surgeons with pre-operative assessments and guidance during operations. Companies are increasingly investing in the technology to create custom, on-demand 3D printed surgical implants for patients who have bone cancer. Additive manufacturing overcomes the constraints with other manufacturing processes.

With additive manufacturing, computer models and designs can be easily transported electronically or even shared for download on the Internet.  It allows businesses to quickly and cost-effectively develop functional prototypes for product testing.