Video: AM’s Value Is in Product More Than Process
Marc Saunders of Renishaw says manufacturers must consider “what kind of play they’re going to make with additive.” The broadest perspective looks at AM’s potential to affect the performance of the entire product.
With additive manufacturing, “We can make products that we just can’t make any other way,” says Marc Saunders, director of global solutions centers for Renishaw. While there are potential process-related savings from adopting additive—savings on tooling and material, for example—those benefits are actually small compared to the potential impact of engineering a product or component to realize characteristics or performance that wasn’t possible before. “Manufacturers really need to make a strategic decision about what kind of play they’re going to make with additive,” he says in this video, and he goes on to describe the range of possibilities within that decision.
Pete: I’m Pete Zelinski with Additive Manufacturing magazine and I am here with Mark Saunders, who is director of global solution centers for Additive Manufacturing technology supplier Renishaw. Mark, make the case for Additive Manufacturing.
Mark: The power of additive really is in the product more than in the production process. With additive, we can make products we just can’t make any other way. So, whilst there are benefits in terms of costs in the factory, things like reduced material consumption, increased automation, reduced reliance on complex tooling, those benefits are really dwarfed by the impact that additive has on products themselves. With additive, we can make products that are lighter weight and more efficient in the use of resources, we can integrate products so that they can reduce joints and improve reliability and we can make products that are customized so that they’re perfectly adapted to their applications, but the other key area is materials. Materials we can process, materials with live additives that are very hard, or if not, very expensive to process conventionally, so I’m thinking about tough materials or materials with very high melting points and those materials really open up exciting new possibilities for product performance.
Pete: Historically, 3D printers have assumed single piece or short-run creation of parts, but the newest technology in additive, the machines expect full-scale production. Could you elaborate on that? What are the features of a metal additive machine that are designed with production in mind?
Mark: Our latest machines feature high power lasers and very small spot sizes to create very high energy densities to allow us to process some of these difficult materials. Another key area is automation. So, you’re gonna see on our latest machines, integral powder handling so that means no more manual sitting and that’s important because it drives labor costs, of course, but it also affects product quality in terms of reducing opportunities for oxygen to creep into the powder and it deals with a key health and safety issue that is of concern to manufactures.
Pete: Mark, Renishaw has a history in CNC machining. The company has various technologies and products and directly relate to CNC. Additive is like CNC in that the aim is a discrete part, but I’d like you to speak to the differences. There is a mindset change. Manufacturers moving into additive. How do they have to think differently?
Mark: I think that’s a really critical point and manufacturers really need to make a strategic decision about what kind of play they’re going to make with additive. I think there’s a spectrum here, so from one end may be rise-adverse for firms maybe in heavily regulated sectors may consider additive as a manufacturing strategy, whereas firms that are more committed viewing it as a business strategy. So, in those firms that are thinking of it as a manufacturing approach, generally the design space is pretty constrained. They’re looking at todays products, maybe adapting them a little bit, whereas the firms that are looking at it more strategically, they tend to be looking beyond the boundary of the component into the whole product and really thinking through how additive could enhance the product performance, augment its capabilities in some way and create value for their customers.
And the other key thing to think about is more than just 3D printing, you know? 3D printing is not an island you need to have a series of other processes to make qualified high-quality, you know high-performance products that are consistent. So, finishing processes heat treatment, surface treatment, machining and, of course, metrology, to tie all of that together, so firms need to really think about the whole thing, not just the headline acts, which is the 3D printing.
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