From 3D printing to additive manufacturing: the 6 fundamental steps to achieve the best results
The use of 3D printing technology has become a widely adopted practice during the prototyping phase.
However, the continuous improvements in this technology are leading manufacturers to embrace the idea of scaling up to serial 3D printing production.
It’s no secret that efficient serial production, through additive manufacturing (AM), has the potential of reshaping the whole manufacturing industry. Increased cost efficiency, lead time reductions, and improved product performance are a few of the benefits that come with the adoption of this technology.
The transition to this production model can be challenging and several companies have failed to adapt to this process, misled by the idea that scaling up the process would just consist of putting a 3D printer to work in the production line.
Here’s a list of best practices to keep in mind when planning to adopt the AM production model:
Collaborate during the design process
Identifying what component best plays to AM’s strength can be tricky. It requires a deep knowledge of the product and an advanced 3D printing know-how. The optimal solution to this issue is a collaboration between manufacturers and suppliers to fine-tune designs to suit different 3DP technologies, test prototypes and move rapidly towards production.
Focus on quality and consistency
Once the design is optimized, it is crucial for the factory to store detailed reference data for each part produced, covering everything from the source material and its thermal history to the end product’s material microstructure and mechanical properties. The same rigor needs to be applied to post-processing.
Implement software for serial production
Software plays a role in several different aspects of the AM value chain,
- Helps translate the initial CAD into a 3DP-ready file
- Predicts printing flaws by running simulations
- Supervises AM processes
Print, then finish
Executing 3D printing and finishing steps in-house helps to achieve extremely fast cycle times while maintaining repeatability and reliable quality control.
Use both automation and additive manufacturing
Automation plays an important role in the production set-up phase, especially in mass production. The challenge with automation comes with small runs, although there are solutions that allow partial automation.
Grasp the opportunity
Additive manufacturing is still an untapped opportunity that can bring great results to wise companies. The best approach is to work with the right partners and avoid rushing the transition from prototyping to serial production.