The lack of improvement in throughput places even more pressure on manufacturers to reduce the cost of materials, which are highly specific to each machine. "Materials are being sold at very high margins right now," said Vicari, "so there's a market for independent material suppliers."
Many different types of materials are involved in each printer's materials set; for instance, various additives for polymers to control melting temperature and flexibility. For metals, this is less true, but they still require custom development.
Even so, printer companies are only offering a few materials with their machines, compared to what's potentially available. By 2025, there will probably be a more open market with third-party materials suppliers selling many more materials choices. Meanwhile, some 3D printer companies, especially smaller and newer ones, are partnering with materials companies.
Users of printers often don't have access to controls, like modifying the chamber temperature for a given material. But once these machines move into production, not prototyping, where every large company has their own process engineers, these customers will want to have more control over the process and the materials, said Vicari.
Business relationships and business models will also change. For example, last November, Morris Technologies, a service bureau that worked primarily with aerospace engine components, was acquired by GE Aviation, which makes aircraft, military, and marine engines.
This makes me wonder whether more aerospace companies might adopt 3D printing and other AM techniques by outright acquisition, instead of investment or monetary support of various kinds, such as Lockheed's partnership with Sciaky. I also wonder whether machines and materials sets will become more customized for first, specific markets, and second, for individual, very large OEMs.
I think right now one impediment to "additative manufacturing" is the limited number of materials available for the process. That number increases at an ever-growing rate due to the probablility of success for the technology. I work with a machine shop that has made the investment in 3D printing to provide answers relative to "form, fit and function". Solid modeling can only go so far and most engineers like to kick the tires. Another great benefit is being able to provide marketing and sales a prototype to show customers. I have attended several focus groups in which models were presented to get consumers' opinions relative to design and limited function. These models were definitely preferable to on-screen presentations and demonstrated the part could be manufactured. Also, a model is great when you are designing tooling and fixtures for in-plant use. Excellent post Ann.
bobjengr, I think you're right about the materials angle, which is why Lux addressed that issue. OTOH, there are a lot more 3D/AM techniques for metal than has been apparent, which we're continued to report on. For instance, Monday's article on the Pratt & Whitney lab at the U of Connecticut: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=262205
Uidea Rapid Prototype, "traditional manufacturing" usually refers to methods such as injection molding for making high volumes. I'm not sure how a rapid prototype company such as yourselves would be threatened by the topics discussed here. Can you clarify your question?
Hi, I think the subtractive manufacturing itself and the techniques which use subtractive manufacturing processes are traditional manufacturing, like injection molding, die casting, CNC milling, CNC turning, sheet metal fabrication, extrusion, etc, while additive manufacturing should be the future manufacturing such as the 3D printing we are talking here, SLS, FDM, SLA and so on.
The popular rapid prototyping techniques we have been using in China include CNC machining, vacuum casting/silicone casting, sheet metal prototyping, rapid tooling, reaction injection molding, extrusion prototyping and so on, all of them are subtractive manufacturing or need use subtractive manufacturing processes. Also, more and more prototype parts are being or will be made by 3D printing. So 3D printing would be big threaten to traditional rapid prototyping company like us.
Uidea Rapid Prototype, thanks for the clarification. I can see how 3D printing techniques might look like a threat. Some companies that do rapid prototyping and small volume manufacturing are using several different methodologies including 3D printing, depending on which works best in a given component.
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