Although I listed it last, the ASTM standards effort to determine the mechanical properties of materials made with AM processes just might end up being the most important of these. There's continuing debate in the industry about the strength and durability of materials made by layering, and a metric for discussing and assessing them is a good start.
I am especially interested in the optimized support structure (slide 3) which shows a dramatically reduced amount of support structure material being used. This is can be very significant for certain applications. Not only will this save money (less material used), but will also allow for a much faster cleanup of parts (saves time). In addition to this, certain designs have very delicate features. By creating a minum amount of material to remove on these delicate features, part breakage and damage can also be reduced.
Thanks, Elizabeth. Depending on the process and post-processing, durability can be, as we've seen, good enough in metals for rocket engine parts, among other things. Plastics can be another story, but it's worthwhile remembering that 3D printing has been used in aerospace and high-end race car applications for several years. What we need is a metric we can all point to if we're going to have any meaningful discussions.
A new way of 3D printing is to extrude metal clay, like Metal Adventures Inc. BRONZclay. After the print is air dried, it is fired in a kiln to fuse the metal particles in the clay into solid metal. This technique is used in the Mini Metal Maker: http://minimetalmaker.com/press It is also being used successfuly in the Netherlands.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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