What Is Additive Manufacturing?
From turbine engines to sensors, additive manufacturing is driving innovations across the spectrum of industrial automation. Curious as to which markets are hot? Get our Top 10 Guide to Industrial Additive Manufacturing Applications.
The Next Industrial Revolution?
Leading industry authorities have declared Additive Manufacturing (AM), aka 3D printing, the first manufacturing “revolution” of the 21st century. Unlike subtractive manufacturing methods that start with a solid block of material and then cut away the excess to create a finished part, additive manufacturing builds up a part (or features onto parts) layer by layer from geometry described in a 3D design model.
This building-up process can provide many advantages over subtractive methods, including:
- increased design flexibility
- improved end-product performance
- reduced time to market
- lower manufacturing cost and material waste
- extended product life
These advantages are driving interest in additive manufacturing technology for applications throughout the product lifecycle, from new product development to volume manufacturing to product repair.
Additive Manufacturing in action
Terry Wohlers Speaks About Additive Manufacturing
Leading authorities such as Wohlers Associates Inc., The Economist, and MIT Technology Review suggest additive manufacturing is a breakthrough technology that represents the third industrial revolution. It is seen as a transformative advancement because it enables distributed manufacturing and the production of parts on demand while also reducing cost, energy consumption and carbon footprint. With additive manufacturing complex parts can be built more easily and cost-effectively with less waste and significant performance gains. Ultimately, additive manufacturing empowers the production of things not even imagined yet.
Additive Manufacturing Applications
Additive Manufacturing technologies are used in a wide range of industries. Optomec’s unique advantage is our focus on solving 3D manufacturing challenges not addressed by any other supplier. Our patented LENS and Aerosol Jet technologies deliver the benefits of Additive Manufacturing/3D printing to applications in high-growth market segments such as:
In Powder Fed DED systems metallic powder is continuously blown through nozzles directed at the focal point of a high powered laser. The resultant molten pool of metal is then moved using a motion control system and the part is built up in free space. The entire process is visible as the part is grown layer by layer (see figure 2). Powder Fed DED systems, such as LENS offered by Optomec, also can be used to add material to an existing metal part for example to repair it, add an engineered feature or wear resistant coating, and for hybrid manufacturing applications.
The synergy of these two technologies integrated in one machine tool platform offers a number of advantages to the metal working industry including lower deployment cost, reduced learning time and risk, and increased manufacturing flexibility.
Additive manufacturing methods, known as direct-write, also have been developed for printing electronic and biologic materials. In direct-write a liquid material such as a conductive ink or paste is used to print conformal electronic features onto 3 dimensional structures. Common direct-write methods include syringe dispense, inkjet and aerosol jet technologies. In direct-write methods, such as Aerosol Jet offered by Optomec, a liquid material is atomized into a mist of material laden droplets. The mist is then delivered to a deposition head where it is focused into a collimated beam as small as 10 microns or as large as 3 millimeters in diameter. The beam is emitted from a deposition nozzle which moves according to instructions from a design file to print the desired features. This method has been used to print conformal antennas, electronic and biologic sensors, and other circuity onto a variety of 3D plastic, ceramic and metallic parts. (see figure 4)
Today additive manufacturing for printed electronics is used for mass production of consumer electronics devices. This variety of additive manufacturing methods and where they are applied is summarized on figure 5 below.
Optomec 3D Printers
With unique 3D printing technology that supports a broad range of functional, production-grade materials and feature sizes Optomec 3D printers are helping companies transform how they conceive, design, build and maintain critical parts and products. Two product lines collectively support metal 3D printing, 3D printed electronics and a hybrid additive manufacturing approach.
Materials for 3D Printing
The material science behind additive manufacturing is why this process is so transformative and revolutionary.Additive manufacturing technology from Optomec is capable of processing a wide variety of functional materials including structural and conductive metals, ceramics, conductive adhesives, dielectrics, semiconductor, biological and many other materials used to fabricate aerospace, medical, and consumer electronic devices. This unique technology also enables materials to be selectively printed only where needed to add structural or functional features or to improve end-product performance. The printing process can be controlled to produce features with desired mechanical or electrical properties. Materials can even be blended during printing to create new alloys or gradient structures for improved product performance.