Why choosing AM – additive manufacturing?
AM – Additive Manufacturing. The main benefits.
Compared to other methods, AM (Additive Manufacturing) can offer several benefits in creating prototypes and models, bolstering a product’s value by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the design process.
These benefits generally arise in three areas:
1. Saving time in the development cycle
2. Reducing costs in the development cycle
3. Enhancing the final product’s quality and design
1- Saving time
Typically, using AM in the design process can save time in three ways: by dramatically shrinking the time between design creation and prototype, by reducing the e effort and schedule impact caused by iterative design work, and/or by increasing organizational alignment to accelerate decision making.
First, AM can largely eliminate delays in waiting for prototypes. Traditionally, creating prototypes involves custom tooling, coordination with external suppliers, and multiple handoffs that could invite miscommunication and introduce risk. By allowing a designer to print directly from a digital le, early-stage prototype creation can become a fast and e effective part of the development process.
AM can also substantially reduce rework effort, since delays caused by multiple design iterations—each starting the process over— typically waste a substantial amount of time. Removing the need for tooling changes and incorporating seamless prototype creation enables rapid design iterations with little incremental impact.
Finally, incorporating 3D printing into the design process not only enables technical validation, but can also accelerate alignment within the broader organization on a new design—a key success factor o en overlooked toward the end of a design process. Using AM can allow engineers to explain and demonstrate a new design to a variety of geographically dispersed stakeholders—complete with physical models—even at remote sites.
For example, Turbine Technologies (a US-based manufacturer of educational laboratory equipment) integrated MultiJet printing into its prototyping process to help reduce the e ort and schedule impacts on PDD processes, long reliant on complex, investment grade wax prototype casting.
In particular, Turbine Technologies was able to print turbine wax mold patterns in 18 hours as a single component, in contrast to its 170-hour traditional multi-tool process requiring 170 hours.
The company was able to directly translate these time gains into competitive advantage and, as a result, landed a key defense contract. AM rapid prototyping can also save time by accelerating decision making. One athletic apparel company, for example, has been able to streamline its product evaluation process from four to six weeks to just one to two days.
2- Reducing costs
In addition to streamlining schedules, using AM in the design process can drive substantial cost savings through insourcing, inexpensive prototypes, and reduced change orders.
Insourcing the creation of prototypes through AM can offer direct cost savings that go beyond the cost of material for a model.
The development time required to prepare for traditional manufacturing methods (including creating manufacturing prints and layouts, programming CNC machines, and designing tooling) can largely be eliminated, as can the need to communicate and coordinate with an external design shop when the designer can print a prototype in-house.
For example, when one NASCAR race team adopted fused deposition modeling (an AM technology) to produce prototype parts for wind-tunnel testing, the team was able to slash testing costs by 89 percent and reduce development time by two-thirds.
In addition, AM can dramatically reduce a prototype’s total material cost, as elimination of scrap and lack of tooling creation often offsets the higher per-volume costs of raw materials.
3- Enhancing quality and design
Aside from accelerating the design process, additive manufacturing can lead to better designs, helping to develop products with enhanced quality, performance, and manufacturability. Faster prototyping typically means that a team can go through more design and review cycles during the development phase.
Furthermore, AM’s ability to help reduce barriers to testing concepts can cultivate an increase in designers’ entrepreneurial behavior—they can, for example, proactively share printed pre-prototype models to gauge market acceptance for consumer products, experiment with more radical designs with little risk, and test more frequently so they can avoid negatively impacting the more conservative design progression.
AM can also bring forth better products by helping designers to engage with a range of stakeholders inside and outside the company—and with each other. Printed models, as opposed to images, are self-contained, concretely defined, and more universally understandable as physical objects. Models may help stakeholders to align on concepts and design earlier in the product development process, while customers can be more involved in design and even co-create.
Proper Group International, for example, prints models to identify potential issues in design submissions from its automotive customers.
Finally, a company can incorporate AM’s enhanced ability to address errors and add improvements without needing to invest time and money in changing tooling. As a result, companies can more rapidly respond to market and customer demands, fix design flaws, and counter competitive evolution.