In some areas of industrial manufacturing, AM is increasingly emerging from the shadows of conventional processes. But the big breakthrough in series production is still missing. We asked our 3D experts why.
We asked our 3D experts what problems additive manufacturing has to solve in order to deliver real added value. Christoph Hauck, board member at Toolcraft, clarifies: “It already delivers real added value for certain industries”. And he is absolutely right: For many applications in the fields of prototyping, medtech or mould making, 3D printing already counts as a standard application. But when it comes to its importance for industrial manufacturing, AM still has some catching up to do. “With additive manufacturing, we are where machining was in 1970,” Hauk continues. What is meant is that most industrial companies continue to rely on conventional processes for mass and serial production. In the shadow of machining and co., however, AM can increasingly gain a foothold. According to a study by Ernest and Young, 63 % of German companies have already used 3D printing in 2019. In this context, users see the greatest advantages of the technology in responding better to customer requirements (43 %) and making product development more efficient (38 %). So what is stopping additive manufacturing from displacing conventional processes?
Additive thinking is a prerequisite for additive value creation
“We notice that many users first have to go through a 'mindset change' towards 'additive thinking',” says Lisa Krämer from Forward AM. This requires a holistic approach that sees 3D printing not only as a solution to a specific problem, but as an essential part of the value chain. Then it is also easier to introduce application-specific end-to-end solutions that rely on close cooperation with partners such as printer manufacturers, material suppliers and print service providers. In practice, this means, for example, that the digital process chain must first be closed so that additively manufactured components can be more easily integrated into the processes.
AM must cut costs and increase sales
In addition to additive thinking, however, there are also very practical challenges that our experts see for additive manufacturing. This also involves core requirements that every manufacturing technology must fulfil: “Additive must show that it can not only be economical but ultimately save the user costs or increase sales,” notes Matthias Schmidt-Lehr from Ampower. Also in the Ernest and Young survey, many respondents said that the cost of AM is still the biggest hurdle to its adoption. 90 % (of companies not yet using 3D printing) said the material was too expensive and 87 % said the initial cost of manufacturing systems was too high. If the overall costs can be reduced accordingly, we will see many new AM applications, Felix Ewald of Dyemansion is certain.
WHAT PROBLEMS DOES ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING NEED TO SOLVE TO DELIVER REAL VALUE TO USERS?
We notice that many users first have to go through a 'mindset change' towards 'additive thinking'. As a cross-technology provider, we are therefore expanding our services and consulting more and more. We are now also using virtual communication channels more than ever to give general introductions to additive manufacturing and are expanding our e-learning hub with industry and application-specific webinars on an almost weekly basis. With our cross-technology approach, we also work closely with a wide range of partners and realise that it is the well-rehearsed interaction between printer manufacturer, material supplier and print service provider that can accompany customers from the initial idea to the final printed part. Lisa Krämer from Forward AM
For users in particular, the consideration of the entire process chain is currently a very relevant step. In order to completely close the digital process chain, post-processing steps must also be further standardised. - Kristina Hager from Cubicure
In the industrial sector, application-specific end-to-end solutions are needed to make it easier for customers to get started. Strategic cooperations can make an important contribution here. Likewise, the overall costs for 3D printing simply have to become lower. This will enable many new applications. - Felix Ewald from Dyemansion
In simple terms, additive manufacturing has to work. That means consistency and repeatability have to be there, and the application criteria have to be met. The technology and the material must be perfectly matched to each other and to the application. Last but not least, the overall solution should be cheaper than other methods.- Sylvia Monsheimer from Evonik
Additive manufacturing already offers the necessary flexibility and freedom to make productive components available quickly and with little effort. If additive manufacturing becomes established in industrial automation, this will be another big step. The prerequisite for this is data security in additive manufacturing. As in any other area, it must be ensured at all times that no unauthorised person can access and corrupt data and systems. Non-cloud-based solutions for data security play a particularly important role here. - Andrea Berneker and Kilian Rottenberger from German Rep Rap
It already delivers real added value for certain industries. With additive manufacturing, we are now where machining was in 1970. There is still a lot to be expected. In the future, additive manufacturing will be cheaper than it is today (falling powder prices, reduced scrap rates, higher productivity of the equipment). Conventional mass production is still a long way off, but it is not the measure of all things for us either. For us, it is important to have the complete value chain under one roof. - Christoph Hauck from Toolcraft
The entire production system must be available for series processes in a robust manner. Production must be efficient and conserve resources, and a good degree of automation is necessary for this. In the future, 3D printing must become as commonplace as, for example, milling has been in recent years. - Karsten Müller from Rapidshape
Additive Manufacturing must prove that it can not only be economical but ultimately save the user money or increase sales. So far, the technology has failed to provide this proof in many areas. - Matthias Schmidt-Lehr from Ampower
In industrial applications, it's all about cost, scalability, reproducibility, accuracy, speed and quality. Additive manufacturing technologies that fulfil these important criteria will prevail, regardless of the process. Only when additive processes really start to be seen as manufacturing processes and fulfil such requirements will they take hold on a massive scale. - Lutz Feldmann from Markforged
Process stability and automation are two main issues we are focusing on. - Maximilian Neck from Production to go
For AM to be widely used in series production, we have to ensure reproducibility on the one hand - every printed component from a series must have exactly identical properties. On the other hand, we must manage to reduce the cost of parts. This is the only way to achieve efficient series production. In addition, we must succeed in making the machine and the entire production process even simpler - from data preparation and the printing process to the post-processing of the components. - Damien Buchbinder from Trumpf