“There’s An App For That”™

I believe this popular Apple catchphrase from a few years ago applies very nicely to the momentum additive manufacturing is experiencing today.


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The Apple catchphrase, “There’s an app for that,” applies nicely to additive manufacturing. This became very evident to me as I wrote this month’s story on Garrtech Inc. (page 10). The Canadian blow mold manufacturer’s experience with additive manufacturing, and particularly the experience of CEO Tony Paget, is best described as an evolution from one application to the next.

For this company, what started out as a simple look at laser cladding has resulted in the company commercializing a patented additive manufacturing blow mold pinch-off process that employs laser metal deposition (LMD). While the Garrtech story only speaks to blow molding, there are many other applications for LMD.

This example goes to show that you never know where you may end up with additive manufacturing, but it’s probably not going to be where you started. One thing is certain: You can’t reap the benefits of this technology if you don’t even try it.

To take that point a step further, if you don’t push the boundaries or limits of this technology, you’ll never know what it can really do for you, your company and your customers.

In a relatively short time period, additive manufacturing has developed and advanced into applications never previously intended, such as Garrtech’s test molds, which are exceeding the company’s expectations in producing HDPE bottles.

Garrtech continues to advance with AM. The company has worked with the National Research Council (NRC) of London, Ontario, the Canadian government’s premier R&D organization, and its next move will be to take the NRC lab machine in-house to learn more about LMD with its own people. The company also will work with a machine tool manufacturer to build a production machine for this technology.

You can see the chain effect this sets in motion. Garrtech’s innovative application of AM leads a machine tool builder to innovate as well.

Pushing technology is something that seems to come naturally to Paget. Speaking with him, I could detect his passion for what he does. That passion includes not being afraid to stick his neck out. He thinks much of the resistance to AM is just a result of manufacturing typically being subtractive. Thus, it’s hard to think about “adding,” he says. It’s all in your attitude, your mindset.

Paget started making molds on Bridgeport machines, then followed the evolution to NC, which he supported as a young engineer when no one else would. He then moved to CNC and now AM. According to Tony, AM is just another step in the same progression.

In many ways, AM is still new, and many shops are still just beginning to understand how its value can extend beyond prototyping to actual production. There will always be limits—to the materials, to the machines, and so on—but new developments and new applications are appearing rapidly, so AM is something to revisit often. There is an AM app for everyone. Find yours.