Interest in Additive Manufacturing Enters Phase Two

How long until we see acceptance of additive manufacturing for full-scale production of a wide variety of metal parts? Three to five years, says this AM researcher.


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At CIMP-3D, visiting engineers from various companies look at a layer slice of an additive-manufactured part. Penn State research assistant Kenneth Meinert discusses additive build orientation and parameter settings as they relate to this part.

Timothy W. Simpson, Ph.D., professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Pennsylvania State University, is co-director of the university’s additive-manufacturing-focused Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition, or CIMP-3D. He has toured more than 1,200 visitors through this additive manufacturing demonstration facility, he says, and he believes he is now seeing attention to AM enter a second phase. The knowledge level of potential users has advanced.

The previous phase reached its high point 18 to 24 months earlier, he says. At that time, visitors to his facility asked basic questions. A common one was, “You can 3D print in metal?” Amazement at seeing functional metal parts produced additively was common. But now—strikingly—almost every visitor to the lab has moved well beyond that level of knowledge.

The new wave of interest that he is seeing takes the form of engineers working with the lab to produce one-offs or trial batches of additive manufactured parts. In almost every case, the engineer’s purpose is to take these sample parts to his or her company management as part of an argument for adopting additive production. As a result, Dr. Simpson expects to see a third phase in another 18 to 24 months, as some of the bosses of those engineers agree to start implementing additive processes for the production of initial parts.

Projecting these anticipated phases into the future, Dr. Simpson estimates that 3 to 5 years from today will be enough time for additive manufacturing for full-scale production of metal parts to move to a point of acceptance beyond the leading edge at which it’s practiced today. By that point in the future, he says, the production of end-use parts through additive manufacturing will be an established, day-to-day practice in facilities serving a variety of industries and end uses.

Read more about additive manufacturing at CIMP-3D.