The next big thing: additive manufacturing


Additive manufacturing, now the official term, just might contain the “next big thing” where manufacturing is concerned. Though only 24 years old, the AM industry has grown by leaps and bounds in spite of some fits and starts along the way.

According to Tim Caffrey, an associate of Terry Wohlers at Wohlers Associates Inc., a full 24% of all additive manufactured parts are now in the category of ‘Direct Part Production’ (DPP). Caffrey spoke on Additive Manufacturing for Final Part Production at the RAPID 2012 conference in Atlanta last week. There are several reasons for this growth including more small-quantity custom part requirements, including one-off and “on-demand” components for medical implant purposes such as knee replacements.

Process efficiencies are also driving DPP, noted Caffrey. In particular, part consolidation, which allows several components of a part with complex geometry to be turned into one component. He cited the instance of one OEM that turned 20 different parts and 10 brazing operations into one part through the use of Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) from EOS. And there’s less scrap. “Machined metal parts using subtractive technology means a lot of chips on the floor,” said Caffrey.
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