Producing high-quality end-production metal parts with additive manufacturing for applications such as aerospace requires some very tightly controlled processes and materials. New standards and guidelines for machines and processes, materials, and printed parts are underway from bodies such as ASTM International. Its latest proposed working standard addresses powder bed fusion AM methods for metals, which includes EOS's direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) among others. Shown here, a prototype of a topology-optimized Airbus A380 bracket made of stainless-steel powder produced via EOS's DMLS (right) with a conventional cast steel bracket shown behind. (Source: Airbus Group Innovations)
Excellent point Greg, much better than putting the cart before the horse and then having compatibility issues later. Standards tend to evolve somewhat with new technologies but they are definitely a good idea, especially in the fields you mentioned.
It would be nice to see printer material delivery standards. Companies producing new printable materials can be prevented from selling them without a fee because the printer manufacturers own the patents to material delivery mechanisms for their printers. This could be a big material development disincentive.
Nancy, good point about the way that standards tend to "evolve." The big thing that's changed after several decades is now using these processes for end production, especially in fields with rigid quality requirements. There's enough complexity involved in 3D printing/additive manufacturing--among processes, machines, materials, and the characteristics of finished parts--that advance cooperation has become necessary.
jhankwitz, thanks for the reminder about the captive & proprietary status of so many 3D printing materials. There is an open matetrials market, especially for filament fusion printers, but these are low-end desktop machines and the materials tend to not be engineering quality. As we've discussed several times on DN, an open engineering-quality materials market is highly desirable but faces several hurdles. Standards for specifying higher-quality 3D printing materials will certainly help.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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