Additive manufacturing or AM is one of the most exciting technologies developed in recent years. The core of AM is 3D printing. Unlike subtractive manufacturing where the process starts with a block of material and removing off the excess, additive manufacturing adds layers precisely from a geometrically described 3D design model. It is the exact opposite of the subtractive manufacturing process. AM affects several parts of the manufacturing process and here are a few aspects:
The involvement of 3D printing in the production of cars removes intermediaries from the production process. This process is known as “end-of-runway services,” and it refers to production happening in a nearby location so that products can be moved immediately after the order is received. This removes the intermediary or hired transport service provider from the supply chain. Companies can reduce waste in the supply chain by on-demand manufacturing and immediately ship the goods. Furthermore, additive manufacturing can boost product innovation through a variety of applications.
Rapid prototyping used in the automotive industry with 3D printing enables industrial designers and engineers to design iteratively without the risk of capital overrun required to create full-scale models. Since engineers use the same machine to print multiple models, the tooling costs are reduced. Faster production of prototypes with far fewer resources is possible by the usage of the same machine. Rapid prototyping allows early detection of flaws in the design that if detected later could be expensive.
Agile tooling refers to the ability to produce the tooling and molds necessary to create actual products instead of the real products. These molds have smaller lifespan than the product itself, and since more can be printed as needed, the cost of buying new tooling for machines or production of new molds is significantly reduced. This process allows manufacturers and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to design based on performance needs without the fear of delayed prototyping timelines or high costs.
The shift from rapid prototyping to rapid production is expected to be prevalent in the future. Additive manufacturing will appear more in final products, not just the design phase. The capability to print from materials other than plastic allows printing of fully functioning parts not only models. The shift toward rapid production is essential for 3D printing applications in the supply chain that offers many more opportunities in innovation.
See Also: The Manufacturing Outlook