Additive manufacturing – for my company? Posted on 9. February 202110. March 2021 by pattn Additive manufacturing has great potential for industry. Fast implementation times for projects, high flexibility in component development and a large selection of different materials make 3D printing an attractive alternative. And yet you can hardly imagine it, especially if you haven’t had any points of contact in this area of production. Sure, additive manufacturing itself is a well-known term, but how exactly does it work? And is something like this not only worthwhile for large, manufacturing companies? Here is a first-hand practical example: Like many companies, the corona pandemic hit us at 3Dstrong GmbH unexpectedly and hard in spring 2020. As a start-up founded in 2018, we already had some good connections, especially in the aviation industry, but the pandemic presented us with new challenges. Orders were lost, and there was also short-time working. And then came a request from the Hamburg school authorities. Disinfectant dispensers were sought. As many as possible, as fast as possible, as robust as possible. For us as a company in the 3D printing industry, which up to this point had mainly worked as a supplier for the aircraft industry, an unusual request. But thanks to additive manufacturing, it is not unsolvable. The first prototype was on the table within just 3 days of the request. Printed overnight with the 3D printer, our engineers were able to examine and revise their design from all angles. The existing contacts supplied the aluminum components for the dispensers, and our offices were quickly converted into a production hall. The first 3,000 disinfectant dispensers were manufactured and ready for delivery just one week after the order was received. A total of 15,000 dispensers were produced, all based on the prototypes from the 3D printer. Opening up a new business area always opens up new opportunities. We have improved our portfolio of disinfectant dispensers and added additional models. Smaller parts such as the drip tray or a stroke regulator come directly from our printers in series production. Only the dispenser housing does not come out of the printer ready. We assemble them manually. In order to produce robust and resistant dispensers, we buy the metal parts here. Although individual parts could be produced on a metal printer, the cost-benefit effort is still too high here. So much for our recent experience of the opportunities 3D printing offers. But how can that be generalized? Basically, the process behind every new product is always the same. Someone has an idea for a product, finds out about its feasibility and creates a draft. A prototype is manufactured, assessed and changes to the design are made. A prototype of the new version is then produced, assessed and improved. And this is exactly where additive manufacturing comes into play. If an engineer has the first idea and implements it in a CAD program, prototype production can begin immediately. When creating an initial mock-up, 3D printing offers clear advantages compared to other materials: The prototype can be printed exactly as planned. Size deviations of a few micrometers are only significant for a few prints. Depending on the product size and print material, it only takes a few minutes, hours or a few days before the finished part can be held in the hand. Small and large changes can be made directly, the entire implementation time is shortened. The choice of materials, which is constantly being developed, also opens up new possibilities in 3D printing in additive manufacturing: It is no longer just simple “plastic parts”, that is, simple PLA parts, that can be printed. Carbon or glass fiber reinforced parts, parts made of particularly heat-resistant material or made of metal are no longer uncommon. This opens the market for completely new business areas in which conventional PLA parts are out of the question as a material due to their nature. A similarly high level of stability as with aluminum can be achieved, with a significantly reduced weight. There are a lot of new possibilities here, especially in industries where weight is important. Aircraft construction. Shipbuilding – Manufactures that struggle for every gram that can be saved benefit from additive manufacturing. Even medical products are coming out of the printer more and more often. Due to the high adaptability of the models, dental crowns, hearing aids and surgical instruments are now printed. This type of additive manufacturing is called bioprinting and is a separate business area in the world of 3D printing. In the area of injection molding, too, there are currently major advances in the manufacture of molded parts. Manufactured from heat-resistant resin, molds can be manufactured as finished components. An injection mold from the resin printer only needs a few hours to be produced and is ready for use immediately after a short post-treatment. Of course, there are also areas in which additive manufacturing cannot (yet) offer the same standard. The production of parts made of metal or aluminum is made possible by the new generation of printers, but the finish is currently not comparable to that of the punched or milled parts. Metal from the 3D printer requires a high degree of post-processing, which drives up production costs, especially in (small) series production. Even parts that require a very high level of transparency can only be produced on a few 3D printers with special materials. However, here too the market is constantly developing. It remains to be said that a cost-benefit analysis is always worthwhile. Production costs can often be reduced enormously through additive manufacturing. Are you still not sure whether or how you can integrate 3D printing into your production? Contact us or book one of our 3D printing trainings, we are happy to help you!