In our second post of the series, we explained general metal 3D printing and introduced you to supersonic 3D deposition, our brand-new technology. But, why is high speed 3D metal printing important and what are we achieving?
Our vision is to enable people to innovate quicker and to develop new products with less risk. Manufacturing is a difficult business and cost, time, and resource pressure drive decision making. As engineers, we are told to be innovative on one hand, but at the same time we are asked to deliver new products now and at low cost.
Traditionally, to take a metal part from design to a cast part takes 10-16 weeks as there are many steps involved. High speed metal 3D printing solves this. In the same time it takes to call to ask for a quote to cast a part, you can print it. The same day, you can modify the design if it is not correct and also print 100 more parts – all being done economically.
The potential in disruptive change needs multiple pairs of eyes and sometimes bolts away unexpectedly. One of our clients thought of using the machine to produce prototype car parts, where only a few parts are required – essentially short run custom built parts. Another customer is planning on installing the printer at a remote site and replacing wearing parts when required.
Other companies require the printer for backup at large production facilities or sites. Huge stocks of parts are currently kept in case vital parts in vital pieces of production equipment fail. A single broken part can cost millions of dollars per day in lost production and the ability to manufacture the part when required results in a vast reduction of spare parts.
We are most excited however at the possibility of the printer being used on the production floor. At the start of a shift, a production worker programs the machine – 10 of part A, 50 of part B, 30 of part C. The printer builds the parts and a mill is then used to finish high tolerance features. The next production shift could be different parts, different volumes or different materials depending on the need. Thinking ahead, this process could be via automation using industry 4.0.
We didn’t think of these applications on our own as true disruption needs the eye of the outsider to see the possibilities. The key is enabling people to innovative quicker, develop quicker, and ultimately succeed.
This three-part series has explored the history of the manufacturing industry including the invention of paper and the philosophy of change. The belief that change is vital has carried on into today’s vision of manufacturing, particularly with metal 3D printing. The need for continuous innovation and evolution will ensure that this space is at the forefront of change.