Often referred to as the "Next Industrial Revolution," Additive Manufacturing has improved virtually every aspect of manufacturing new products. In some cases, additive manufacturing is becoming the primary process for producing end-products, also know as direct digital manufacturing.
The Wohlers Report, a publication dedicted to analyzing the current and future trends in additive manufacturing, has continually stated the movement to a digital production standard. ”Most indications suggest that we are heading toward a relatively new method of manufacturing and an industry worth tens of billions of dollars.” Along with providing a more economical and efficient method of low-volume production, additive manufacturing has greatly impacted tooling; the molds, patterns, jigs and fixtures required to manufacture high-volume products. Just think how many products you come in contact with every day that have been produced with injection molding, blow molding, silicone-molding and sand-casting…or assembled using jigs and fixtures.
In a more traditional form of manufacturing, CNC tooling was often used to produce these tools and patterns. The problem with this was often time constraints as well as material waste which often effected costs. With additive manufacturing, a direct CAD to part solution is now available and with it, tooling on demand.
A Look At the Changing Landscape
Direct Digital Manufacturing has the power to reshape many of the restrictions previously obscuring the manufacturing industry. DDM therefore has the potential to change the landscape and economies of manufacturing as we know it. Whether it be fit form and function testing, or low-volume production, additive manufacturing is creating new efficiencies and opportunity for time saving.
|Part/Tool||Customer||3D Printing Technology||Alternative Method|
|End of Arm Robot||Thogus||FDM||$600/24 hours||$10,000/4 weeks|
|Automated Turntable||Thogus||FDM||$8,800/2 weeks||$50,000/8 weeks|
|Steel Plates||Thogus||FDM||$20/2 hours||$200/2 weeks|
|Injection Mold||Seuffer||Polyjet||$1,350/day||$54,000/8 weeks, 500kg of metal|
For jigs & fixtures, DDM is a manufacturing dream come true. With DDM, assembly tools can be easily created to meet exact user specifications – then tested, tweaked and reprinted until perfection. Equally exciting, the precise tool required can be 3D printed on demand within hours, streamlining the manufacturing process and eliminating the need for tool inventory. Imagine how this will positively affect workflows and profits. If a jig or fixture breaks, no problem. You don’t shut down assembly, you just 3D print a new one!
Matt Hlavin, CEO, Thogus, explains “We can take a 3D geometry and 3D print an end of arm tool that weighs 70–90% less, in less than 24 hours. And if the design doesn’t work, we can tweak the CAD file and reprint it again.“Here’s another great example: vacuum cleaner legend, Oreck created a custom fixture using Stratasys FDM-based 3D printing technology for use in its inspection of injection molded parts before they’re mass produced. The result is the Quality Control process that previously took a month to complete can now be done in one day! And Oreck can now create customized fixtures that are specifically designed to quickly and perfectly position each First Article for testing.