The importance of quality inspections for any manufacturing process can seem like a no-brainer. Of course, you must have quality assurance processes in place, including quality inspections. But like almost every other aspect of additive manufacturing, the reasoning for quality control is a little different in 3D printing.
And that difference is based on the nature of the process. Primarily, compared to other more traditional manufacturing processes, 3D printing is still in its infancy. That means we’re still pushing its boundaries and finding its performance parameters. So, very often, there is no precedence of quality control or quality inspection protocols.
Why Quality Inspections are Important in Additive Manufacturing
Indeed, there is a quality inspection protocol for even the most pioneering uses of 3D printing. Do it by hand. And technologies like CAD designs, 3D scanning and metrology make inspections by hand very accurate. But, our first point below tells us why inspection by hand just won’t do in an increasing number of the additive manufacturing processes.
Automated Mass Production Part 3D Printing
While 3D printing cut its teeth as a boon to rapid prototyping, perhaps its biggest application growth in recent years is in machinery capable of mass-producing consistent production parts. However, the more production the machines are capable of, the more important the quality inspection. If variances in a part begin to exceed accepted tolerances, it could ruin the entire run.
If rapid prototyping was the first big advantage of 3D printing, part customization was a close second. The elimination of the testing, prototyping and equipment setups of traditional part customizing, made tailored parts available to just about everyone and every application. But, as with any customization, you also get ‘customized’ quality assurance issues. And they require more specific quality inspections to reveal and correct them.
Creating product iterations, like producing a part in a variety of colours, is also made easy with additive manufacturing. Except each iteration introduces its own requirements of a quality assurance process. For example, if those differently coloured parts must meet certain colour specifications, there needs to be a step in your quality inspections for that.
To learn more about additive manufacturing processes, check out our recent article “Quality Inspection Services“.