Additive Manufacturing is here and expanding its footprint. More companies are utilizing the workflow. However, it is a slightly different thought process for the Design Engineer. Subtractive, or traditional manufacturing, starts with a piece of material larger than the final part needs to be. Then, with traditional CNC manufacturing, we start to slowly remove material until we achieve the final design, within tolerance. Additive manufacturing is the opposite, adding material where only the part exists.
The old axiom of it’s too slow for production and limited material choices are no longer true. Printing in a variety of materials including even carbon fiber, the choices today are plentiful. Metal printing is coming along, with machines in production around the globe. Will 3D Printing replace traditional subtractive process? Nope! Never happen. However, this technology is working its way into our lives, and it is not just for prototyping anymore.
So, how do you Design for Additive Manufacturing? There are some guidelines. Like traditional subtractive manufacturing, you will need to consider the style of additive machine being used. Resin, 3D extrusion printing, metal printing. Products like Fusion 360 with NetFabb not only helps you design, but they also prepare the design for manufacturing. A specific process or additive machine can also be chosen. Understanding what the Additive process is capable of along with its limitations is a useful asset for today’s engineer.
For around $400 USD you can get a no fuss 3D Printer from Amazon and put it in the CAD room. I have mine next to the coffee machine! Its an engineer’s dream!