A famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin says: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Although in reality Franklin never said these words, the quote has become extremely popular because its message resonates with anyone who has ever tried to make sense of new technology. To a large extent, the quote also applies perfectly to additive manufacturing (AM). Here, Marc Saunders, Director of Renishaw’s Global Solutions Centre, explains how additive manufacturing is moving from the world of rapid prototyping into series production.
Additive manufacturing benefits include the ability to design complex geometries with internal features like lattices and cooling channels, better strength-to-weight ratios and efficient material usage with minimal waste.
For a few years now, there has been a clear need in the world of AM to make the technology more accessible to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from across industries including medical, aerospace, automotive, oil & gas and consumer products.
Ask the right questions
A common question OEMs ask themselves is which parts or products could be manufactured using additive manufacturing. Although sensible, this is not always the best question to ask. Many parts can be manufactured using AM, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they should be made using AM. Instead, manufacturers should consider what additive manufacturing makes possible that was impossible before and how it could help solve the specific design challenges they might have.
Another question is what additional processes will be needed to complete the production of an additively manufactured product. AM is a near-net-shape process, and some level of post-processing will be required such as; support removal, heat treatment, surface treatment, finish machining and inspection.
Essentially, AM can offer remarkable design and production benefits, and companies should go through a rigorous assessment to understand how these benefits apply to their situation, and to prove the productivity and capability of the AM process.
Where do you start?
The best way to answer the questions above is to experiment with the technology. This is where Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Solutions Centres can help. They offer a cost-effective and secure development environment, equipped with ‘incubator cells’ that companies can rent out and use to build their knowledge and confidence when using AM technology.
Incubator cells within the Solutions Centres contain a metal AM machine, design workstation and the ancillary equipment required to design, build and refine a product. Clients will be able to use a range of materials and will have the support of experienced applications engineers. Access to essential finishing processes is also available.
Equally important, the latest AM technology and knowledge is also complemented by Renishaw’s extensive experience in metrology, machining and finishing, which in turn helps companies to develop integrated manufacturing solutions
The first step when trying out additive manufacturing is to understand the new design framework and capabilities. This means creating a design that embodies the benefits AM has to offer. Once the design is established, it’s time to turn the concept into metal, which means rigorous testing and objective benchmarking. It typically takes several design iterations to optimise the product design and the AM process.
For any new product design, the manufacturer needs to be confident that the production process is predictable and consistent, so a period of pre-production is needed to establish AM process capability. They also need to understand the finishing and measurement processes and tools they might need to make dependable parts.
These process steps will not necessarily be stages of a linear process for every project. Normally, several design iterations are needed before the ideal design is identified and often, designers will have to go back to the drawing board – or in this case, CAD software – to rethink certain aspects of the product. However, this is where the flexibility of additive manufacturing comes in, making it easy to create new design iterations should additional requirements be added.
Additive manufacturing provides many attractive capabilities that will disrupt product markets, supply chains and business models. To take full advantage of this opportunity, however, firms will need to adapt their design thinking – a leap of faith is needed. However, if backed by practical experience and sound engineering practice, committing to AM need not be a leap in the dark.
For further information contact:
Clare Phythian – Renishaw plc
Brooms Road, Stone Business Park, Stone, Staffordshire, ST15 0SH, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 1785 285 000
Fax: +44 1785 285 001
Renishaw is a UK-based international engineering company. The company specialises in measurement, motion control, spectroscopy and precision machining. Renishaw is also known for its industrial metrology products, which are used in applications for machine tool automation, co-ordinate measurement, gauging, machine calibration and position feedback, but in recent years has diversified into areas as diverse as CAD/CAM dentistry, additive manufacturing, large scale surveying, stereotactic neurosurgery, and medical diagnostics.