A Pulse Check on AM Among Moldmakers
MMT Editorial Director Christina Fuges conducted an informal survey to gauge the growing level of interest, understanding and use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies in the mold manufacturing community.
Last year was a big year for MMT, with most of our attention focused on our 20th anniversary, NPE, Amerimold and IMTS. The growing interest, understanding and use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies and processes within the mold manufacturing community was an area that stood out to me throughout all these events. It’s exciting. So, I did an informal survey to get a better handle on how to cover this constantly-changing additive landscape. Here is a simplified look at what I discovered.
Most of you consider yourselves “somewhat” familiar with additive manufacturing/3D printing and can explain the difference between the two. Simply put, 3D printing is the process at the center of additive manufacturing (AM), but AM involves so much more. The most understood 3D printing processes are FDM, SLA, direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) and hybrid sintering/milling machines. The majority of respondents are not applying additive manufacturing/3D printing in-house due to budgetary constraints and undetermined ROI. Current AM applications include prototyping and conformal cooling. About half of respondents are contracting these services out to a facility specializing in AM/3D printing to print prototypes, steel cavities, aluminum inserts and conformal-cooled inserts. The processes respondents want to learn more about include: material jetting and hybrid DMLS. The moldmaking applications that respondents believe have the most potential are complex cooling in mold bases and small mold inserts that are difficult to machine, low to mid volume part production, reverse engineering of old components, replacement parts, repair, fixtures, end of arm tooling and mold components.
Take a look at some of the coverage this month in our EAB column, Profile, International Perspective feature, and Tip, which may be eye-opening for some of you.
When it comes to aspects of AM/3D printing that people misunderstand, most respondents believe the biggest misconception is that it will completely replace how we manufacture. People tend to think AM competes with instead of complements traditional manufacturing. Other misconceptions include the over or underestimation of process speed, and part quality and cost; that it will work for every application; that a printed mold can produce any size part or complexity; and that if you can print something, it can be mass produced. To address these misconceptions, respondents are looking to technology and service suppliers to provide application analysis for cost-effectiveness versus possibilities; material and application limitations; better correlation between printed materials and engineering resins; the various outputs realized with each process; required process changes to achieve results necessary to meet product approval criteria; postprocessing requirements; safety concerns; training needs; designing for AM (DfAM) instruction; and, market trends and future expectations.
People tend to think AM competes with instead of complements traditional manufacturing, Overall, additive manufacturing/3D printing is another tool in your toolbox.
Overall, additive manufacturing/3D printing is another tool in your toolbox. So, be more than aware of it, use it. Where do you stand with additive and what is your plan to grow with this technology option? Hopefully, MMT can help get you there. For starters, take a look at some of the coverage this month in our EAB column, Profile, International Perspective feature, and Tip, which may be eye-opening for some of you.
SL modeling and rapid tooling methods combine to produce durable epoxy injection molds that generate production-quality parts in record time.
Moldmakers who are interested in exploring conformal cooling, but are concerned about its complexity and expense need to understand two things: it is neither complex nor expensive.
In the short term, indirect methods of RT will continue to flourish because these methods are the most developed. In the long term, however, companies will lean toward direct methods of tooling.