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Additive Manufacturing – A Pragmatic Viewpoint

Blog Written by Hutch Hutchison
Life is not all rosy in Additive Manufacturing, according to an article that Forbes just published, there are several challenges manufacturers face in adopting the technologies. I thought I would paraphrase the article, since it represents a counterpoint to the picture I may have been presenting about the joys of additive in my past blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace the technology, but I want to present a balanced viewpoint, this article accomplishes that!
First of all, the article admonishes manufacturers, who aspire to additive, to get started soon, as the challenges are nontrivial. I reported in Additive Manufacturing – A New Tool in the Manufacturer’s toolbox, in part 6, that GE had decided to manufacture the fuel injection nozzle for the LEAP jet engine. I posed that project as an example of prudent decision making, in considering AM. The nozzle was a complex assembly of 18 manufactured parts, and it showed AM as an apt candidate to streamline the manufacture. Charles Gilman, who has been involved with AM for over 15 years at GE, reports that it took 10 years to refine GE’s additive manufacturing process, so that the nozzle really could be a consideration in 2011.
Another challenge for AM is the inherent tolerance mismatch, between traditional, subtractive techniques, with nominally 2 thousandths of an inch tolerances, and Additive, which produces 5 thousandths, requiring post-printing operations to bring into specification. In addition, inspection of dimensional accuracy is challenging, and potentially costly.
Final downside reporting warns of problems with dynamic monitoring of processes in AM, potentially resulting in scrapping the part(s) if a run goes out of control.
Lastly, as I have pointed out in my many blogs on AM, plastic and metal parts are in the lead in terms of AM development. Electronics, such as printed circuit boards are far behind.
The report is not entirely gloom and doom, with challenges surmountable. The author is cautioning us to lower our expectations of a sudden rise to stardom in the Additive Manufacturing world. Take note!
Read the entire article here:
Supply Chain Transformation with Additive Manufacturing

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