Will Additive Manufacturing (3D printing) replace all traditional, long established manufacturing methods? Not any time in the foreseeable future. It may take a small bite out of some methods, but the real play is in enhancing the capabilities and possibilities for the processes that we use every day.
Additive enables many avenues, but many people only know or tend to focus on a few. With seven technical families (ASTM F42) and many “sub” families or technologies within, there are lots of different ways to grow parts. At Parker Hannifin we are using many of these different methods to help our operations in all three of the business realms: Prototype, Indirect Manufacturing, End Use Production. Consider these possibilities to find your business’s winning combination of traditional and Additive Manufacturing:
Of course, there are the well-known avenues such as display parts, checks for form, fit and function, and sales/marketing demos, but there is much more to keep in mind with prototyping. Consider clear parts for fluid flow or level studies, even on dynos. How about running a weaker plastic version of your new design through your manufacturing systems to look for interferences or accessibility? For complex, multi-part assembly operations, create a printed “buck” for Design for Assembly (DFA) activities to find the issues requiring redesign. Does anyone ever have actual parts to design dunnage or lift assist tooling at the necessary time? And of course, if waiting for components to run validation tests, bridge parts can be printed and used until production parts are available. Printing prototypes can quickly provide the opportunity for many design iterations and Design of Experiments (DoE) enabling better optimization and higher quality products.