Additive Manufacturing - Key Technology for Serial Production

Dennis Faas's picture

Additive manufacturing is the process of creating an object by building it one layer at a time - similar to a 3D printer.

The method was initially geared at quick prototyping, producing pieces for testing and iterative design. However, during the past five years, engineers from all over the world have begun to concentrate on finding appropriate uses for final products and realizing the full potential of additive manufacturing. There are hundreds of potential products in every business, whether it be healthcare, aerospace, automotive, logistics, or consumer goods.

Using sliced computer aided design (CAD) models, additive manufacturing (AM) creates parts layer by layer to create solid items. A few years ago, rapid prototyping was the main application for 3D printing. Additive manufacturing has the potential to develop into a new core technology for serial production as a result of performance advancements.

Selective laser melting (SLM) makes it possible to produce high-performance metal components. Multiple lasers are found in modern printers, allowing for the simultaneous fabrication of many parts. AM is a comprehensive process that spans design and simulation, 3D printing, and post-processing, in addition to 3D printing.

The layer-by-layer construction of components from sliced CAD models to create solid objects is known as additive manufacturing (AM). Rapid prototyping was the main application for 3D printing just a few years ago. Additive manufacturing has the potential to develop into a brand-new crucial technology for serial manufacturing due to advances in performance. High-performance metal parts may now be produced thanks to inventive innovations like selective laser melting (SLM). Multiple lasers are present in modern printers, which makes it possible to produce many parts simultaneously. AM is an all-encompassing process that goes beyond 3D printing; it encompasses design, simulation, 3D printing, and post-processing.

Since the beginning of additive manufacturing technology, Siemens has made investments. The company is pushing the use of additive manufacturing for serial production, with an emphasis on high-temperature super alloys, with the launch of the new AM facility at Materials Solutions Ltd. in Worcester, UK, in mid-December 2018. For turbine components, the company uses the technology internally. It also offers solutions to fully digitalize the process, including design and engineering software, simulation tools, and complete machine and shop-floor automation for the aerospace, automotive, and other industries.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Adding Manufacturing

Is it really feasible to cost-effectively transition additive parts into mass production? This is the existential dilemma facing engineers and designers in additive manufacturing. We must consider the benefits and drawbacks of the existing AM technologies as well as the evolution of the complete process value chain in order to respond to this topic.

The primary benefit of additive manufacturing techniques is that they allow for a level of design freedom that was previously unheard of in technologies like milling, turning, casting, and injection molding. This flexibility is not restricted to the geometrical shape of the result; layer-by-layer manufacturing allows for the creation of parts with new internal structures. This has been utilized to add cooling channels right into the model without the need to assemble the product from several parts, especially in the prototyping phase or for high-performance items. Additionally, AM enables the model to be made lighter without altering its external shape, which is essential for precision "movement" applications like those found in high-performance automobiles, the aerospace sector, and electric vehicles.

The second benefit actually discourages additive manufacturing from being used for mass production. It is feasible to switch between goods rapidly and accommodate many item requirements in a single 3D print job because no special tools are required to set up for the manufacturing of a single product. This enables businesses to drastically shift toward a just-in-time (JIT) production approach. When needed, products can be produced in small batches to cut down on storage space requirements and transportation expenses. This is what the digital inventory for AM promises.

Additionally, additive manufacturing offers the opportunity to reduce the quantity of waste generated during production. The usage of 3D printed objects as a pre-product for later manufacturing procedures is similar to that of cast parts. The milling process can be streamlined and the amount of waste material significantly decreased by employing additive manufacturing to create a shape that is almost identical to the final result.

But the technique also has a lot of drawbacks, which have cut down on the number of applications for serial additive manufacturing. The processing speed is one of the most crucial ones. When creating simple shapes, 3D printing is still considerably slower than conventional manufacturing techniques, which is directly related to the cost of production. Applications for additive manufacturing are restricted to goods that don't require assembly processes to offset extra manufacturing time.

Lack of standards or certifications for AM processes, materials, and end-use parts in safety-critical industries including automotive, aerospace, and medical applications has been another barrier to AM use cases. Due of the high production costs, AM is kept in the prototype stage.

Serial Additive Manufacturing Preparation

With regard to the transition from prototyping to serial manufacturing, it is evident from the news and statistics that additive manufacturing is making significant progress. It is also obvious that as huge corporations engage in competency centers, material advancement, and technology upgrades, the results will become a rising wave over the coming years on both the realization and production phases.


Over the coming years, 3D printing will be recognized as one of the fundamental techniques used by engineers to create better, more affordable, and simpler goods in every industry.

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