After decades of hype and predictions surrounding additive manufacturing (AM), AM is poised to be on the brink of becoming the disruptive technology that many have long expected. Disruptive technologies are often deemed too costly, less capable or too niche to replace incumbent technology. But over time, many of these technologies reach a tipping point and rapidly replace these incumbents.
AM is one such disruptor. It may not completely replace subtractive manufacturing, but if AM makes even small inroads into areas that have been historically subtractive realms it will have a huge impact on 21st-century manufacturing.
Well known for producing prototypes and models from plastic and resins, AM has advanced to printing with metal, using different processes, printing at increased speeds, and is capable of larger parts. Mass customization is also driving faster adoption of AM.
AM is already disrupting at the margins. Small-run manufacturing of fixtures and molds, and on-demand spare parts anywhere in the world (including space, as NASA has demonstrated), will prove AM’s value to manufacturers. DFAM (design for AM) promises new designs that create forms and functionality beyond subtractive manufacturing capabilities, such as cooling tubes in solid metal parts and lightweighting with lattice structures instead of solid ones. Generative and genetic design can produce unique forms and exotic shapes that have better functionality and use less material. This will accelerate AM’s growth.
Interactive RAPID AM Portal (iRAMP)
To accelerate the adoption of AM, a program was created to help manufacturers investigate the right equipment for the right applications—and instill confidence in that information. The Interactive RAPID AM Portal (www.iRAMP.org) will allow manufacturers to query based on their needs and identify the AM equipment that meets their search parameters.
SME will be the trusted third party among manufacturers and AM equipment providers.
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