Ann--you are correct, but the article was not written well and headlined in a more sensational manner than necessary. Lots of progress is being made, but the over-hype is already creating ripples in the investment communities and could actually serve to slow progress if funding is pulled back from innovative start ups.
It seems most of the fully functional metal parts made are done in very, very expensive machines, for very unique problems, and while faster and lower cost than, say, machining and welding titanium, are quite a ways from more mundane applications.
I think it would have been better to serve the audience by highlighting what Ford is actually accomplishing by commiting to an approach thereby making it available to their teams. Over the years since 3D "printing" began appearing in engineering shops, it often was championed only by engineers, and management didn't have a long view. The cost of in-house printing a decade ago scared off most bean counters. What Ford is doing is changing the game from a contentious discussion on the value of a technology to one of resource availbility and "what can we do with this to be more competitive". That is the key take-away for me.
I think it's more important to point out what accomplishments are being achieved by 3D printing. It's been used for so long for prototypes only--or by hobbyists--that that's what most people think of when they hear the term. Consequently, many don't think that printing big production parts in metal is possible--but it is. As is often the case in a technology area, the high end is where the bleeding edge occurs, and where the dollars are concentrated, and therefore that's where the next big breakthroughs in what's possible occur. Of course it's expensive and addresses small markets--that's the nature of the territory. Eventually, those technologies get proved out and become available to larger markets.
Hi Ann--that makes sense. Any chance you will do more coverage on the mcor's IRIS printer which makes 3D models out of paper layers? I think with some development that technology could also be used to make sand molds--I beleive that some molds used to be made by burning the form out of the sand mold then casting. It would be easy to burn or digest the paper form and have a good quality sand mold.
Funny you should ask :) I cover high end AM and 3D printing, but not the prototypes or software. That's the CAD/CAM Corner blog. My ex-colleague Beth Stackpole, who used to have that beat, covered the pre-Iris paper Mcor technology here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1394&doc_id=238107 and my current colleague Cabe Atwell, who has that beat now, covered the Iris in a post that ran today http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1394&doc_id=257141&itc=dn_analysis_element&
It's feeling pretty "Brave New World-ish" out there in 3D on-demand manufacturing. My guess is that this will work it's way into all sorts of areas that we can't even think of right now. Imagine everything from geological structure models, animation characters, non-human biological structures. It might even be cheaper to make something "in place" instead of shipping it for certain parts. Definitely a game-changer.
Scott, building something in place is already happening: it's what's behind both the attempts to make stuff on the moon from moon dust, which we've covered here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=250614 and also to make huge multi-unit buildings in place on earth: http://www.ubmfuturecities.com/author.asp?section_id=262&doc_id=523906
"it does open new opportunities for the unscrupulous to copy legitimate products such as car parts, aircraft parts, guns and other items that are copyrighted or controlled" ... I don't understand, i can reverse engineer any part for my own use copyrighted or controlled ... as along as i don't sell it
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.