Hackernoon logoThe World of 3D Printing: Alchemy of Additive Manufacturing by@golubev

The World of 3D Printing: Alchemy of Additive Manufacturing

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Additive manufacturing is a class of promising technologies for the customized production of complex-shaped parts from a 3D computer model by sequential application of material (usually layer-by-layer) - as opposed to the so-called subtractive production (for example, traditional machining).

As follows from the above definitions, additive technologies make it possible to manufacture a part or product directly from a computer 3D model, which is virtually cut into thin layers; the file with this model is transferred to the system, which carries out the layer-by-layer formation of the final product. The development of additive technologies began in the early 1980s. from rapid prototyping - creating a prototype of a product in order to check calculations, refinement and approval of a prototype before starting serial production.

The cost of manufacturing a single prototype was many times higher than the cost of manufacturing a unit of product in mass production, while manufacturing a sample took several weeks. The ability to quickly create a prototype and quickly check its parameters has become a technological breakthrough for manufacturing and design companies and has served as an impetus for the development of the market. Industrial companies drew attention to the new technology and began to use it for the development of tooling, which significantly reduced the preparatory production cycle and cost.

The main technological processes and types of materials used today:

  • photopolymerization in a bath (Vat Photopolymerization, VP) - photopolymers;
  • material jetting (MJ) - photopolymers, wax, organic materials;
  • Binder Jetting (BJ) - metals, polymers, ceramics;
  • synthesis on a substrate (Powder Bed Fusion, PBF) - metals, polymers, ceramics;
  • material extrusion (ME) - polymers, ceramics / composite materials, organic materials;
  • direct supply of energy and material (Directed Energy Deposition, DED) - metals in the form of powder and wire;
  • sheet lamination (SL) - metals, polymers, ceramics.

Main modern technologies:

  • CJP (ColorJet Printing) - technology of full-color 3D printing by gluing a special powder based on gypsum.
  • MJP (MultiJet Printing) - multi-jet modeling using photopolymer or wax.
  • SLA / DLP (Stereolithography Apparatus / Digital Light Processing) - laser stereolithography, based on layer-by-layer solidification of a liquid material under the action of laser radiation.
  • SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) - selective laser sintering under a laser beam of particles of a powdery material to form a physical object according to a given CAD model.
  • SLM / DMP (Selective Laser Melting / Direct Metal Printing) - selective laser melting of metal powder according to mathematical CAD models using an ytterbium laser.

Main modern materials of additive manufacturing:

  • wax;
  • gypsum powder;
  • polystyrene;
  • polyamides in the form of powder - glass-filled, carbon-filled and metal-filled;
  • UV and photo curable liquid photopolymers;
  • ceramic-filled liquid photopolymers;
  • Metal alloys - stainless, tool, nickel, non-ferrous metals, cobalt-chromium, aluminum, titanium, etc.
  • thermoplastic polymer materials, thermosetting polymer materials, elastomers, hydrogels, functional polymers, polymer mixtures, composite materials

The obvious benefits of additive manufacturing today are:

  • Flexibility to begin production of complex customized products and parts that either cannot be manufactured using traditional manufacturing or are required in small quantities.
  • Manufacturing of parts of complex configuration (for example, containing internal cooling channels) that cannot be manufactured by the subtractive method.
  • The ability to transfer a computer 3D model to any place in the world where a suitable printer is installed, which allows organizing local production on a global scale.
  • The proximity of the resulting product shape to the specified one, which significantly reduces material costs and production waste.
  • Short duration of development stages and quick launch of the product into production.
  • Possibility of prompt tooling production
  • Printing designs of any complexity without increasing the price (the principle of "complexity for free" - when the production of one part costs the same as a large batch).
  • The economic feasibility of small-scale production and the release of customized products.
  • Ability to make changes to the project already at the production stage.
  • Topological optimization for special requirements
  • Decentralization of production, simplification of logistics, reduction of delivery times, reduction of stocks.
  • Ability to combine multiple components into one part, which simplifies assembly and speeds up production
  • Ability to develop product designs that were previously unattainable or too expensive to manufacture using traditional methods
  • Printing of spare parts for repairs in the field.
  • Print on demand when the need arises.
  • Effective use of robotics; robotic 3D printing machines are able to automate the post-processing of printed parts

Limitations of additive technologies at the current stage of development

Despite the undeniable advantages of 3D printing, there are fundamental limitations that hinder the expansion of the scope of the technology:

  • scale of production (large-scale production is too expensive);
  • the size of the part (limitation in the size of the product);
  • manufacturing accuracy (determined by the minimum achievable layer thickness);
  • speed (relatively low productivity compared, for example, with the forming method);
  • cost (high cost of some materials used for printing);
  • energy consumption (high energy intensity of production);
  • materials (relatively narrow choice of materials);
  • finishing of complex surfaces;
  • low stability of product quality - there is not yet a single industry standard, there is also no factory standard for industrial users
  • The problem of preserving intellectual property and capitalizing its value

Financial perspectives of additive technology

According to Frost & Sullivan, the global market for additive technologies is growing at an annual rate of 15%. If the CAGR (compound annual growth rate) remains at this level, the market size is projected to increase from $ 5.31 billion in 2018 to $ 21.5 billion in 2025. According to experts, by that time, up to 51% of the AP market will be accounted for by the aviation industry, healthcare, and the automotive industry. And the experts from J’son & Partners Consulting showed that:

 The 3D printing market is at the very beginning of an upsurge, printing experiments in different industries, various product ranges, product redesign; software, materials, equipment, processes are being intensively improved.

 3D printing confidently takes its place in almost all sectors of the real sector of the economy, has been put into commercial operation, companies continue to expand the range of printed products.

 The use of additive technologies in production, marketing, design, visualization for customers and company management is expanding every year:

 By 2030, 2/3 of all manufactured products in the world will be manufactured with printed components.

 By 2030–2050 in a number of manufacturing industries, 3D printing will allow printing completely finished products.

And yet, how serious are the chances to be hype?

Despite the continued growth of the market, experts admit that their expectations for additive technology were "a little overheated." And this is due, in my opinion, to the fact that these technologies were going through a phase when the main drivers of market promotion were technology developers.

For quite a long time they positioned additive technology separately from other methods of creating products, trying to present their results not as part of the value chain, but as a separate opportunity, sometimes as a service, sometimes as products, but always separately.

This was the stopper. And now further development associated with the organization of business goes in two directions: integration into the overall value chain at the enterprise and deepening the system of division of labor within the additive industry itself. It became clear that at this stage of development, additive manufacturing occupies the most important place in the philosophy of Industry 4.0, being the embodiment of the effective connection between the digital and physical world.

Compared to traditional manufacturing, the most important advantages of additive manufacturing are manifested in the additional capabilities at the stage of product design and development.

Despite its limitations, companies are increasingly using it to take advantage of this key advantage, which allows them to increase design complexity without proportionally increasing the complexity-for-free cost of the part, which is not possible in traditional manufacturing.

Other Advantages

Another advantage manifests itself in the analysis of economic models of production. A production chain is the process of converting raw materials into goods. Converting available resources into products requires a number of steps: design, planning, manufacturing, and selling. In recent years, it seems that the traditional value chain is undergoing transformation through the use of 3D printing technologies.

Custom products with complex geometries can be designed and manufactured using additive manufacturing. In this way, markets can be supplied with the required products on time, without creating large stocks at companies, which usually entail high costs. In fact, in some cases, 3D printing creates the possibility of localizing production at the point of use, which reduces (or eliminates) transport costs, making additive technologies a competitor not only to other production processes, but also to transport.

As the 3D printing “universe” continues to expand, it is important for both hobbyists and entrepreneurs to understand the quantitative and qualitative effects of new products entering the market. These developments are constantly pushing the boundaries of the additive approach, both in terms of design and cost effectiveness. Turning to the "economic" block, I can say that additive technologies are developing completely in line with global trends, becoming part of system platform solutions for the production and sale of goods.

Three types of market players are developing their platforms and “ecosystems” that include an additive component:

  • highly specialized manufacturers of equipment for the additive industry
  • companies that provide their customers with various types of equipment for processing materials and creating products
  • leaders of the PLM systems sector

Summarizing the economic effects, it must be said that additive technologies "interfere" with the product life cycle at different stages - design, supply chain, sales process, labor resources, and marketing and, as a result, affect the final consumer.

Moreover, all these elements are interconnected, and an improvement in one of them develops the entire business system:

  • product design changes, which become possible due to the use of additive manufacturing, lead to the possibility of changing (cheaper) the material of the part;
  • by regrouping production centers, it is possible to reduce delivery times and change the supply chain;
  • the possibilities mentioned above are implemented with the aim of solving specific problems of the consumer, and with such "customization" much closer work with him is required, already at the stage of forming requirements, which was previously characteristic only of specific industries
  • Additive manufacturing forces the "manufacturing industry" to seriously engage in marketing, since the market for the manufacture of complex products, which was previously quite narrow in terms of performers, is democratized due to this technology
  • changes in the workforce are perhaps the most critical

Entrepreneurial initiative plays a key role in the “effective use” of additive technologies: the formation of proposals for new and traditional markets with a deep understanding of the problems and opportunities of modern high-tech industries and additive manufacturing, allow us to count on market growth and an increase in the number of successful companies in this area.

An additive revolution on our doorstep?

Additive manufacturing is changing the world. It transforms the way products are designed and manufactured. These are completely new possibilities for the production of products that were discussed above. Additive manufacturing is a revolutionary technology. It changes the characteristics of products: weight, quality parameters and distribution methods. It's not that you can now quickly print a toy, unique gift, or replacement parts for your lawn mower.

More importantly, these technologies are revolutionizing the design, manufacture and supply of products. They affect the entire product lifecycle that business leaders care about. The need to print parts on demand is a significant factor driving the adoption of additive technologies, especially in the production of spare parts. If you urgently need to replace a failed part, but at the same time you do not have the opportunity to keep a whole warehouse of expensive spare parts, then an additive technological process becomes the best option.

Parts are printed as needed - anytime, anywhere. This is the revolutionary nature of the process - in localization. This approach allows us to take into account the unique needs of the consumer and ensures fast delivery of spare parts at any time during the operation of the product. The new technology simplifies manufacturing processes and also enables parts to be manufactured in-house rather than third-party suppliers, which guarantees strict quality control and eliminates the need to keep stock.

The need for alternative methods of manufacturing

Businesses strive to improve quality and reduce costs, and ensure that parts can be manufactured at the right time in the right place. Reducing the cost of manufacturing and supplying products plays a colossal role for the future of manufacturing companies.

Additive technologies are opening up new possibilities for shortening delivery times and securing inventory levels. The new revolutionary production technology makes it possible to produce products that previously could only be dreamed of.

Additive manufacturing is completely transforming the engineering industry and allows for the most daring innovations that take products to a fundamentally new level. Additive manufacturing doesn't work wonders by itself. Its support requires special software applications and functions. Additive technologies have enormous innovative potential. They can help you produce great products faster and cheaper, innovate and provide a competitive edge.

It is true that the time has not yet come when smart 3D printers will produce products with real performance and surface quality at the speed of existing injection machines, milling and turning centers and other modern production equipment.

But technology is advancing and the revolution has begun! Cutting-edge developments are moving towards this cherished goal. Now hundreds of projects and start-ups have turned their attention to additive technologies and have begun the stage of exploring and diversifying opportunities. The revolutionary stage is a time of trial and error, but right now, when placing an order from industry for a specific functionality of machines and materials, progress is real.

The main result in this revolution is the production of highly detailed solid products from liquid polymers and the emergence of a wider range of materials with specified physical and mechanical properties. Today, the additive revolution is already taking place in a number of sectors of the economy, such as:

  • jewelry production, where the technology has reduced the preparation time for a prototype and a series of products, reduced the cost, expanded the range, removed technological limitations in modeling.
  • Dentistry, for dental prosthetics, digital modeling of oral hygiene, and modeling of surgical templates.
  • Prototyping and small-scale production (souvenirs, toys, household items, etc.).
  • The market of polymers and 3D printers for medicine. Again, the creation of prostheses, traumatology.
  • Automotive, aviation and rocket and space production.

The introduction of additive technologies in other critical industries, in connection with the increased requirements for the quality of products, is recommended for the success of implementation in a certain sequence:

  • preliminary selection of the range of manufactured and promising products;
  • preliminary selection of equipment (type, manufacturer, model) and materials;
  • production of laboratory and full-scale samples at related enterprises or from a prospective supplier, carrying out a complex of preliminary studies and tests;
  • technical and economic analysis of the organization of additive manufacturing;
  • coordination of issues of equipment certification and product certification;
  • purchase of equipment and materials, installation, commissioning, production of samples in our own production;
  • re-testing and updated feasibility study;
  • conclusion on the possibility of producing an experimental batch of products.

The above-mentioned industries have found an economic justification for the introduction of additive manufacturing precisely according to this algorithm.

Modern Business Models of the Additive Manufacturing Revolution

When assessing the potential business benefits of additive manufacturing, it is important to understand three basic principles related to complexity, scale of production, and product size:

  1. Additive technologies make complex mold production both possible and economical. This means that the more complex a product or component is, the more appropriate it seems to use additive manufacturing instead of traditional methods.
  2. The next basic principle is related to lot size. In general, the larger the batch of products produced, the less appropriate additive manufacturing will be. In classical economics, the larger the batch, the lower the unit cost. In the case of additive manufacturing, the unit cost is independent of lot size. This allows you to produce small batches of products or parts with less risk, for example, when customization is important.
  3. Finally, additive manufacturing as it stands is best suited for small parts or products. This means that in the production of large parts, enterprises should still turn to traditional technologies.

Concrete results already obtained based on the principles mentioned above are best classified according to the criterion of adding value to processes and products. The more this value plays in solving the problems of the end user, the more opportunities for the emergence of competitive advantages, new business models and proposals. Business benefits for processes:

  • Time to market for new parts and products is significantly reduced. This greatly improves the rate of product update.
  • Simplifies equipment maintenance and repair: spare parts and specialized equipment are always available on demand.
  • Reduced assembly time and tooling costs when you can 3D print a product or part in one go, without the need for additional assembly units.
  • Since the minimum number of products is one unit, customization, including mass customization, is a real solution. As a result, it becomes possible to open, at low risk and cost, new verticals and regional markets with special needs.
  • Rapid prototyping and testing can effectively optimize design and incorporate consumer feedback into product development.

Platforms for co-creation of products based on additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing opens up opportunities for collaborative product creation with consumers. Collaboration can be carried out at almost all stages of the product life cycle. During the conceptual phase of a new product, consumer feedback can be easily taken into account by testing small batches. You can also customize your existing design or add value to your product throughout its life by releasing customized add-ons. In situations where

Maximum customization

By using additive manufacturing in combination with tools such as 3D scanners, companies can now mass produce customized products with high levels of cost-effectiveness. Since the performance of such products is generally much better, their consumer value increases significantly. This form of customization creates many new business models in a wide variety of areas (from prostheses and glasses to headphones). It is important to note here that despite the growing market for affordable scanning instruments, it is necessary to use sophisticated professional 3D scanners to create medical devices (prostheses, hearing aids, etc.) in order to ensure the required high level of accuracy.

Product lifecycle management

Product lifecycle management is currently one of the main applications of additive manufacturing in industry. Life cycle extension begins with the product or part development phase. Leveraging the design capabilities of additive manufacturing eliminates the need for assembly, which increases product lifecycle and reduces malfunctions. During the after-sales service phase, the lifespan of the equipment in use can be extended through the use of custom tooling and scarce, expensive custom made parts. In general, this process involves improving the supply chain (reducing the number of manufacturing operations, reducing tooling costs and simplifying maintenance procedures). As a result, this leads to a significant reduction in total costs in the supply chain, as well as an increase in the level of customer service.

Provision of additive manufacturing services

Additive manufacturing requires a large number of new resources that are just beginning to form in enterprises, so there is a promising niche for service providers. Understanding design capabilities and potential product benefits, design considerations for additive manufacturing, 3D printing materials and techniques, 3D printer and post-processing skills, and quality improvement actions all require skilled and experienced employees. Enterprises of all sizes are increasingly pondering what role they could play in the provision of additive manufacturing services.

Future business models

With the development of additive technologies, the possibilities of their application also expand, both from a technological and economic point of view. As the productivity of the equipment increases, the level of depreciation and costs for each printed part will correspondingly decrease. This means that a much larger range of products or parts will become economically 3D-printable.

Increasing the maximum printable area will also have a positive impact on the business model. The ability to print larger parts will also allow larger batches to be produced in a single print session. This will result in shorter lead times and a corresponding reduction in total cost of ownership.

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Written by Sergey Golubev (Сергей Голубев)

Also published on: https://medium.com/datadriveninvestor/alchemy-of-the-additive-manufacturing-84b33254be9b

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by Golubev_Od_UA @golubev. Crynet.io (project manager), vtorov.tech (expert), ICO/STO/IEO, venture & marketing projects[email protected]


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