Additive manufacture (AM), also referred to as 3D printing, provides exciting new options for business together with other established methods. These days, materials are being processed using nearly the same methods used at the time when mass production originally began. By starting with a simple block of material, (metal, wood or plastic) one would begin by taking away pieces- milling, drilling and grinding as necessary. However, additive manufacturing provides a new technique to making articles wherein material is added to a part, layer by layer. Shape and geometry freedom are vast compared to other production methods, thus making it easy to create even especially complex parts using 3D printer technology.
Image 1 - "3D printing technologies are described in terms of providing "complexity for free".
3D printers are controlled by computers and items are designed by CAD programs, since all machines depend on input from an STL file. Yet, the key to how AM works is that parts are made by adding various layers, with each layer being a thin cross-section of the part derived from the original CAD data. Instructions for additive manufacturing are easy to send as files anywhere around the world. These files eliminate the need for transporting articles and make it fast to customize a part for individual printing at a low price.
Image 2 - "ASTM International F42 committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies: "Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies.”
AM is not a specific technology; it’s an umbrella term for several technologies using variable methods. Industrial uses for AM are include car and aircraft parts, complicated metal parts, casting mods and prototyping. Vat photo-polymerization is one of the most commonly used methods in the industry whereby a liquid polymer is solidified by laser. Resolution is optimum when using this method, as researchers can make items with features as small as 1 µm for an object. Powder bed fusion is the most versatile technology, allowing the processing of many materials like polymers, metals, ceramics and composites. It was originally developed for producing plastic, using a point-wise laser scanning technique. Currently, metal sintering is used as plastic granulates laser scanning in powder bed fusion machines. Home printers use plastic extrusion, making it the most familiar of the various techniques. Industry uses this for prototyping and for creating some parts, however, resolution is never very high through the use of extrusion.
The future promises great opportunities for 3D printing as it takes its place alongside old production techniques and, as more and more types of materials are being printed all the time, including glass and pulp. 3D printing reduces costs and saves on the environment, since there is effectively almost no material loss. And, transportation costs are greatly reduced as products are made in only the necessary quantities. HUB logistics is actively searching for opportunities to improve services through the use of 3D printing.
Anne works at HUB logistics as a 3D coordinator
I. Gibson, D.W. Rosen, and B. Stucker, Additive Manufacturing Technologies,