The True Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

From stereolithography to 21st-century 3D printing, additive manufacturing has traveled a long way to provide a cool, cost-effective way to create assorted goods and components. Though the medium boasts several decades of history, the average manufacturer has only recently become receptive to the innovations additive has to offer, namely in the areas of engineering, economics, and supply-and-demand.

But what benefits can companies reap from the switch?

Fail flexibly.
Redesigns, edits, and modifications are staples of the product development process, and being able to roll with the changes is essential to success. The ability to quickly produce prototypes (known as “rapid prototyping”) boosts the convenience factor and allows engineers to explore different possibilities without sacrificing too much material or cost. Because the CAD workflow is also used during this process, it takes less time for an idea to sprout from your head and find its way into your hands.

Decrease cost and labor.
Keeping up with high demand is tough with old-school subtractive techniques. Thankfully, the technologies of AM can be utilized to produce consistent, quality products at a fraction of the cost and manpower required of other methods. An example of this shift lies in MAGNET’s work with Heat Seal, a Cleveland manufacturer of shrink-wrap machinery. After being introduced to additive techniques, they were able to cut the cost of manufacturing one component from $8 to $3. These numbers may seem small, but they play a huge role in a company’s larger successes.

Go green.
Large carbon footprints are slowly becoming dinosaurs of the past, and additive has played an instrumental role in reducing environmental damage. AM requires only small amounts of electricity to produce goods, and transportation of parts is cut down due to 3D faxing. In addition, companies will waste less raw material since plastic is recyclable!

Explore possibilities.
Additive offers versatility not found in previous techniques, which allows the medium to make its mark in different industries. Sectors ranging from biomedical to food service have benefited from innovations in AM, and many companies have made strides in not just goods and services, but helping others. Osteosymbionics, a company housed in our Incubator, utilizes AM to create craniofacial implants for patients with skull damage, while a similar manufacturer worked with MAGNET to create practice models of the heart for medical students and aspiring surgeons. The flexibility of AM is a large component in making it common practice, and it’s a trait that should hardly be underestimated.

As a 20-year veteran in additive, MAGNET engineer Dave Pierson says it best: “This industry is no longer a dull, oily, greasy environment where things get made. Additive is manufacturing with a cool factor.”

Want to know how MAGNET can help you switch to additive? Call Linda Barita at 216.391.7766 or email linda.barita@magnetwork.org to get started today!

MAGNET is a part of Ohio MEP, part of the NIST-MEP program.

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Posted by Liz Fox in Additive Manufacturing

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