While metal 3D printing is not replacing traditional manufacturing methods, it is changing how we think about fabricating metal parts. The basic physical difference in how objects are made with additive produces some major functional differences. The most important of these functional differences is that additive manufacturing can be used to create complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods.
The key advantages of additive manufacturing vs. subtractive are:
- More geometric freedom
- No tooling to make
- Automated fabrication workflows
With the main benefits of metal additive manufacturing in mind, here are five use cases you should be thinking about:
Functional Metal Prototypes
Metal 3D printing offers a way to produce metal prototypes without tooling. This allows you to have accurate metal parts in a matter of days, helping evaluate designs more quickly while avoiding expensive tooling rework. Engineers can explore more designs in a shorter period of time while compressing their product development cycle.
End effectors are the parts of a robot that physically interact with its surroundings. These conformal, often custom-made components are typically CNC machined, introducing the costs associated with machining intricate parts. If you have facilities with multiple automated tasks, each new end effector introduces additional expenses that could be eliminated with metal printing.
Metal 3D printing allows you to bypass steep overhead costs and create custom tools at a low cost per part. Free complexity allows you to design tools customized for a specific function, whether it involves interfacing with complex surfaces or accessing hard-to-reach spaces.
While many brackets and fixtures are easily made through traditional methods, some shapes prove difficult or impossible to machine effectively. Metal 3D printing is an ideal manufacturing method for these types of brackets and fixtures that require high strength and stiffness. Complex geometries pose no challenge to the 3D printing process, so lightweight brackets with intricate contours are often inexpensively produced using metal additive manufacturing.
Low-Volume End-Use Parts
One-off and legacy parts tend to be expensive. Often the original tooling and engineering drawings for the part no longer exist, leaving you with the task of reverse engineering tooling just to produce a handful of final parts. Metal printing can remedy this issue because printers make parts without the need for tooling, eliminating significant costs.
Does Metal 3D Printing seem like a good fit for you? Check out our Guide to Metal 3D Printers whitepaper down below to see how to get started!
Written by The EXBuild Team
The EXBuild Team of application engineers combined their depth of experience and industry knowledge to bring you the contents of this article.