Additive Manufacturing Is Cyclical—Not Linear
The best use of additive manufacturing is in an integrated environment, says Benjamin Fisk of Methods 3D.
Additive manufacturing is often thought of as a linear process: A part is designed and built; powder is removed; the part undergoes stress relief, wire EDMing and thermal processing; surface finish is addressed and machining may be necessary; and finally, the part is inspected.
But just because you can make a part additively doesn’t mean you should, says Benjamin Fisk, general manager of 3D Additive Manufacturing at Methods 3D. To truly implement additive manufacturing, a different, fully integrated approach is necessary. Fisk shared what this approach may look like during the most recent Additive Manufacturing Conference.
Integrated additive manufacturing starts with choosing the correct parts for AM—those that have complex internal features, are customized, are made in low-volume quantities or create excess scrap are all good candidates. But those parts must also undergo design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) to ensure success. Build files must be created with powder removal and EDM in mind, for example, and proper design of supports for EDM removal can lead to a finished surface more quickly.
The entire process is cyclical, and additive manufacturing must not be seen as a stand-alone technology. Integration of additive with conventional machining is critical for success, but at the same time an additive system cannot be seen as “just” another machine tool.
“No one machine tool can do it all,” says Fisk. “Additive manufacturing is at the center, but all aspects are interdependent.”
If you’re going to use AM for production, the subtractive steps deserve as much consideration as the additive cycle.
Additive manufacturing offers powerful capabilities alone, but even more opportunities are opened when AM is combined with subtractive processes.
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