allison-repliform, thanks for those observations. In 3D materials, as in recycled plastics or bio-based plastics, so much depends on the specific application and its specific combination of materials properties requirements, as you point out.
Thanks for the back-reference, Ann, I missed that article last month. Using your example of the engine manifolds being foundry cast, but patterned from a SLA, I maintain that while AM parts are not robust enough to used in volume production, they do greatly enhance the design process leading to shorter design-cycle-time.I can't imagine designing a product today without the benefits of Rapid Prototyping technology available to help the process.
You quoted Jeff DeGrange explaining how 2-3 day turn around for redesigning race-car parts is critical in the racing industry, and AM fills that need. But what component in a race car engine can hold up to that extreme application? Did Jeff cite examples of what parts in a race car are AM'd -?
Contemplating the multiple examples you've shown , it's clear that all industries are trying more and more innovative applications -- and that's great to see. But I think injection molding machines are still going to be around for many years to come.
Jim, I don't believe De Grange specified what automobile parts were being made with AM for race cars. I do know I keep asking all vendors of AM materials, fiber reinforced composites, recycled plastics and engineering plastics to tell me exactly what part of a car or plane or industrial machine their stuff goes into. It obviously makes a big difference whether that part is in the engine or the seat, for example.
That said, I'm still a bit surprised that some commenters on my AM stories tell me it won't replace all of injection molding anytime soon. Not to single you out, but I've noticed this theme in many comments, so am mentioning it here. I wouldn't expect that either, since volumes are so low in the first, and so high in the second. I see similar comments on my recycled plastics, composites, and bioplastics articles. I guess my opinion every time is, if we don't start we won't ever get there, and Rome wasn't built in a day. Remember when we didn't have composites at all? Remember when they weren't structural? And now composites, and structural ones, are both in the Boeing 787.
@Ann: I'm sure some of us can come across as naysayers, but the fact is that technologies such as injection molding have a huge head start compared to additive manufacturing techniques. Injection molding has been around since 1946, and continues to advance. Metalcasting has literally been around for thousands of years, and also continues to advance. There is a tremendous (and growing!) amount of accumulated knowledge and wisdom about these processes, which doesn't exist for additive manufacturing.
The "traditional" manufacturing techniques (casting, forging, machining, etc.) have been around for as long as they have because they work, and they continue to evolve over time. So I would be extremely skeptical about any process which claims to completely replace one of the traditional processes. Instead, I would look for new processes to fill specific niches, which might expand over time. Composites are a good example of this.
The fact that most of us don't think that additive manufacturing (or bioplastics, or composites) are likely to render existing manufacturing techniques obsolete doesn't mean that we don't think these developments are exciting. We do. But we also recognize that existing manufacturing techniques continue to advance -- and this is exciting too.
Dave, I'm only surprised at the statements that the new tech won't take over all of the old tech. Of course! That seems quite obvious to me. None of the trends I've been reporting on, in any of the areas I mentioned, claim to be able to completely replace all of any existing technology. Not even composites. So that's why I've been surprised to see comments from several people that are written as if those claims have been made. (Even if they had been made, they wouldn't enter my article.)
That said, you may have heard such claims elsewhere. If so, I suspect people making them have been affected by the semiconductor-ization of technology in general. This is not a real phenomenon, but a semi-washing, or perhaps better, a techno-washing, if you will, that seems to assume Moore's "Law" is applicable to anything except DRAM memory. (Which it's not, really, although in general semi-based technologies are known for such massive replacements.) This misperception then leads people to believe that all kinds of non-semi-based, non-electronics technologies will behave like semi-based and electronics techs and the latest tech will completely replace the previous one. This is, of course, just silly.
Beth, I'm sensing a hint of exasperation in your reply and for that I sincerely apologize. It might seem like Dave & I are opposing your vision, but I certainly am not – I applaud it and your sense of hope. I definitely can imagine a day when AM is routinely producing parts in volume, but of course the individual part cycle time will have to increase dramatically. (currently hours for AM –vs- seconds for molding) But to your hopeful point, "if we don't start we won't ever get there, and Rome wasn't built in a day. ". I share your hope for the future.
Jim, you accurately picked up on my frustration. But it's at unclear, inaccurate communication, not at the idea that someone is opposing my vision--I don't have a vision to oppose where AM/3D is concerned. I don't expect AM to entirely take over other forms of manufacturing. Not sure how anyone could read that in to the article or to my comments. And I was surprised at the negative tone in some of those responses, hence my "if we don't start we won't get there" comment. I hope that's all now clear.
ChasChas, additive manufacturing is the overall term to describe this technology cluster. 3D printing refers to the use of laser-printer-like lower-end machines and what they do. OTOH, I agree with you, neither one of them really captures the amazing stuff these materials and machines can do.
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