Additive Manufacturing: The past and the prominence of 3D Printing
Manufacturing and construction have witnessed significant reforms in a fast-changing world. Newer processes, machines are coming up with more unique means of operation, management, and increased efficiency. Remember, time is a valuable asset in today’s world.
Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a computer-operated approach to construction and industrial production.
Additive manufacturing is a computer-operated and controlled system that creates three-dimensional objects by carefully sequentially depositing various material compositions in layers.
A comprehensive digital layout is fed as design data, and the machine operates accordingly. Additive manufacturing is mainly used for making rapid prototypes and forging complex geometric objects.
The other names for Additive Manufacturing are 3D printing, Additive Layer Manufacturing.
Conventional methods employ lengthy processes which are time-consuming and prone to errors. Traditional methods of creating an object include material removal through machining, milling, carving, shaping, etc.
Additive manufacturing brings in more pro-manufacturing method that differs significantly from subtractive, conventional manufacturing methods.
For example, while the conventional method involves milling a work object from a solid block, additive manufacturing forges the part layer by layer from fine powders fed as materials. Things such as various metals, polymers, and composite materials can be used for 3D printing. The operational directives are provided by computer-aided design (CAD) data or 3D scanners that drive the machine in precise geometric patterns to deposit materials layer by layer.
The primary constituents of additive manufacturing technology are:
- Computer-Aided Design or CAD software
- Machine equipment
- Layering material
Once the CAD data is lodged in, the computer guides AM machine to read the CAD data and lay down layer upon layer of various materials, usually in powdered & liquid form, to create a 3D object as intended.
In simple terms, additive manufacturing works like an “aircraft on autopilot.”
Commercialization of 3D printers
Additive manufacturing is not an archaic process, but rather, it came up in the ’80s. Here is a point-by-point history of AM in chronological order:
The first commercial use of additive manufacturing with stereolithography from 3D Systems. The SLA-1 was the first commercially released AM machine. Ciba-Geigy partnered with 3D Systems for SL material development and commercialized acrylate resins. DuPont’s Somos stereolithography machine also entered the market in the same year. Japan’s NTT Data CMET and Sony/D-MEC commercialize stereolithography.
Germany’s Electro-Optical Systems sells the first stereolithography system. Quadrax introduces Nark 1000 SL system. Three AM technologies, fused deposition modeling (FDM) from Stratasys, solid ground curing (SGC) from Cubital, and laminated object manufacturing (LOM) from Helisys, were commercialized. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and Soliform stereolithography system from Teijin Seiki were commercialized. Soligen commercialized direct shell production casting (DSPC), which used an inkjet mechanism. This year saw a bunch of new additives manufacturing systems. ModelMaker from Solidscape, Solid Center from Kira Corp., or EOSINT by EOS were examples. This year saw 3D Systems sell its first 3D printer called Actua 2100 that used an inkjet printing mechanism that deposited wax materials layer by layer. AeroMet was founded as a subsidiary of MTS systems corp. The company developed a laser additive manufacturing (LAM) process that used high-power laser and titanium alloys. Optomec commercializes laser-engineered net shaping (LENS).
The early 2000’s:
This year saw the emergence of new technologies. Quadra by Object Geometries, Sanders Prototype (now Solidscape) by PatternMaster, and Z402C machine by Z Corp. (World’s first commercially available multi-color 3D printer). Generis GmbH from Germany introduced its extensive GS 1500 system. ProMetal installed its first RTS-300 machine in Europe. Stratasys sells its Dimension product for $29,900. Solidscape introduced the T66 product while Phenix Systems of France sold Phenix 900 system for the first time. Later on, Stratasys signs an agreement with Arcam to be the exclusive distributor in North America for electron beam melting (EBM) systems. Dimension 1200 BST, NanoTool, InVision DP, Accura 60 photopolymer, Formiga P 100 laser-sintering system, SEMplice LSM, V-Flash 3D printers, ZPrinter 450, A2 electron Beam melting machine were some of the groundbreaking AM machines introduced in the early 2000s.
The late 2000’s:
EuroMold, SLM Solutions present SLM 280 HL. CRP Technology announced Windform GF 2.0, while 3D Systems unveiled a smaller 3D printer, the ProJet 1000, for $10,900. In 2012, MakerBot released the MakerBot replicator. EasyClad from France introduced the MAGIC LF600 AM machine in 2012. Solidoodle from NY released Soldoodle 3D printer wild Belgium based Materialise introduced Magics 17. The late 2000’s So the growth of additive manufacturing and the 3D printing machine market. The AM or 3D printing Industry witnessed massive investment. In September 2013, Voxeljet announced its $100 million IPO plan. In March 2015, ExOne released Exerial, a large machine with multiple stations to enable continuous production. Early 3D printers were not very light and convenient to handle. It is only after the advent of the 21st century that they have become more affordable, straightforward, easy to operate, and versatile enough to be used in a wide range of operation ranging from tools & Page 4 of 1 component manufacture, electronics, metalwork, polymers, and product prototypes. Past three years, there has been a tendency to employ 3D printing and AM tech in the real estate industry.
We can see how fast Additive manufacturing emerged within just three decades and how it is relevant across multiple industrial verticals today. Whether it is about building prototypes, constructing affordable housing or producing components, AM and 3D printing have offered effective systems that triumph over traditional methods.
This technology enables faster product development and market entry, smoother product customization, and seamless integration at lesser cost and time. Thus, additive manufacturing provides OEM manufacturers an excellent opportunity to unleash their products at a higher rate at much lesser expenses for great returns and better customer benefits while ensuring sustainability.
Wohlers, T. and Gornet, T., (2016). History of additive manufacturing, Wohlers Report 2016. Retrieved from https://docplayer.net/13470116-History-of-additive-manufacturing.html
Reverse Engineering: Outsourcing and Beyond
We all know reverse engineering is an economical approach towards product development & innovation which is often utilized by manufacturers to evaluate and redesign competitor products. The method requires understanding the product design, system integrity and the manufacturing processes involved to realize the potential required to build a similar or an improved version of the product. The reverse engineering technique is best suitable for producing design data and related technical manuals for products that no longer have any design information available.
The entire work-process involves engineers studying every single design feature, associated manufacturing processes and tools needed for product development and storing information using CAD tools. After digitizing the entire information, suitable design modifications are carried out as per requirements.
However, to get things right one should have an efficient and dedicated engineering team, right software and hardware tools, etc. which seems difficult to have within the organization always.
Here comes the advantage of outsourcing reverse engineering projects where the activities can greatly reduce the cost of product development and burden on the engineers who can, then, put full emphasis on developing innovative design solutions for the product.
If one still questions outsourcing, some of the important benefits to outsourcing reverse engineering projects are mentioned below.
- Outsourcing can bring in a global pool of talent with the myriad of innovative ideas that can assist in product design and development without investing in infrastructure and resources.
- As the in-house resource can focus on R&D, it greatly helps in improving the productivity of an organization.
- Product development time reduces considerably.
- Hiring an outsourcing partner who matches requirement scale greatly enhances the organization’s capability.
- RE outsourcing presents a scope to develop the product at a competitive price since the development cost is considerably less.