8/29/2019 | 4 MINUTE READ

Video: More Than Just 3D Printing—An Additive Manufacturing Conference Recap

Editor-in-Chief Peter Zelinski and Senior Editor Stephanie Hendrixson cover the extent to which additive manufacturing is closing in on production as well as their impressions from the first full day of the 2019 Additive Manufacturing Conference + Expo.

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Photo credits: SLM Solutions.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an ever present and growing part of the manufacturing industry. But, as Additive Manufacturing Media Editor-in-Chief Peter Zelinksi points out in this video, “successful additive manufacturing is more than just 3D printing.”

This week in Austin, Texas, the Additive Manufacturing Conference + Expo is taking place and is covering new technologies, ideas and growth patterns in AM. A concept previously met with much contention is now becoming a major growth pattern in additive manufacturing: production. Editor-in-Chief Peter Zelinksi and Senior Editor Stephanie Hendrixson cover the extent to which additive manufacturing is closing in on production as well as their impressions from the first full day of the 2019 Additive Manufacturing Conference + Expo in the video above.


Peter Zelinski, Additive Manufacturing

I'm Pete Zelinski.

Stephanie Hendrixson, Additive Manufacturing

I'm Stephanie Hendrixson.

Peter Zelinski

We're with AdditiveManufacturing.Media. We're at the Additive Manufacturing Conference 2019, Austin, Texas, finishing up day one.

Here's what I think about this, Stephanie. I think this is our sixth annual Additive Manufacturing Conference. In a way, this is our first additive manufacturing for production conference, additive manufacturing for scale production.

Stephanie Hendrixson

So, I think that's definitely true. Pete, you kicked off this whole day with a keynote that talked a lot about 3D printing for production and mentioned some of the people that we've written about lately, and it seems like that theme just sort of carried through a lot of the presentations today. We did have a couple of presentations here and there where people were talking about prototyping and tooling. But largely, the theme of today was production.

Peter Zelinski

Ellen Lee from Ford spoke and [covered the] surprising extent to which additive manufacturing is closing in on being a useful production solution for automotive.

I think of Eric Gatlin of GE Aviation; he sort of challenged this notion that the economies of additive manufacturing aren't quite there yet, that you've got to look bigger than the part costs, you've got to look bigger even than the processing costs. He talked about this (I'm checking my notes) ... mid-frame part, that used to be a mid-frame assembly, right, so hundreds of parts replaced by one. There are manufacturing savings just in that, but he talked about [how that can mean] fewer prints now. That [can mean] fewer suppliers. And in the future, that's going to be fewer parts to repair.

There are all those cost savings from the simplification that production additive brings.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah. Another production application we heard a lot about today was mass customization.

So, Aetrex, they are an EOS customer, they're using selective laser sintering (SLS) to make these polymer TPU custom insoles. So, actually, we got to see the scanner in action yesterday at EOS. It captures the pressure points on the bottom of your foot, and then turns that into this, sort of, digital map to show where you need extra support, where you need a little less, and it creates this lattice structure that they call digital foam. So it's actually changing the shape of the lattice cells in different places, depending on the unique geometry of your foot. And it can be different for either foot.

Both of us have had our feet scanned now, and I think it's safe to say we've learned some weird things about our own feet.

Peter Zelinski

At the conference today, we got beyond 3D printing, right? Successful additive manufacturing is more than just 3D printing.

I was struck by the presentation from Hirtenberger on automated postprocessing. Right now, production additive couples this very low labor operation, 3D printing, with what is potentially a labor consuming operation, the postprocessing.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah, I think the phrase he even said, it's like this high tech digital process with a finishing process from the Middle Ages. It's so manual, it's so labor intensive right now, or it can be.

Peter Zelinski

So for production additive to work, the entire production process has to be as low labor as the 3D printing and the technology is getting there. We learned about that and the attendees at the conference learned about that today.

What else? Give me one other thing.

Stephanie Hendrixson

So, one other thing. We heard a lot today about plastics 3D printing and how it's not a replacement for injection molding. The speaker from Evolve Additive Solutions talked a lot about that, how they're not going after injection molding applications necessarily. We also heard from Fabian Krauss of EOS talking about how the processes are complimentary.

There is a crossover point where it makes more sense to go into injection molding, and that point is kind of growing, it's getting higher and higher as 3D printing gets faster and faster. But you have to look at the cost of the whole thing.

I think there was a really good point that Ellen Lee from Ford made, where she said, you know, the customer doesn't really care if this piece of their car is injection molded or 3D printed. That's not really the selling point. You have to find that other benefit that [additive is] providing, whether that's allowing you to consolidate assemblies, save weight, save time, reduce costs. There has to be some other reason to 3D print beyond just you wanting to 3D print it.

Peter Zelinski

Yeah, so 3D printing on its own, just isn't flashy and isn't cool anymore. It's got to prove itself as a justified production process. That's what we're getting to.

Stephanie Hendrixson

Yeah, so this is just day two. There's one more day of this conference. Please follow along at AdditiveManufacturing.Media and you'll find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Please stay tuned.