Additive Manufacturing: A Game Changer

amThroughout the decades I’ve been fortunate enough to witness the evolution manufacturing. I’m sure most of you old time I mean seasoned professionals remember the cam controlled chucking lathes. Cutting those cams to make the tool cut a certain path took skill and patience’s.

When manufacturing evolved into CNC digital machining then robotics I was simply elated and amazed at the progress. The simplicity of setup along with the repeatability and precision made these machines state of the art for many years. I can remember making my first .005 offset on a CNC machine then checking the part. It was an incredible feeling of power when the part checked exactly .005 smaller (big deal back in the day). In the past this offset took a touch of a surgeon using the positive stop method.But we’re here to discuss the latest emerging technology in machining called Additive Manufacturing. This is the newest innovation in manufacturing and it will simply change the game.

Additive Manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. Compare this to our typical machining model of removing metal from a blank or a bar. True geeks can check out ASTM F2792-10 for the complete technical definition.

To get your mind focus let’s consider the lighter side 3D printing. Imagine creating a chess set were all the pieces were replicas of members of your family. You could be the King your wife the Queen, Uncle Ed the Bishops and so on. All that is required is to scan each of you then create a simple 3D model. Load the model into your 3D printer and voila Smith Family Replica Chess set!

Now take that technology and put it in the hands of a company like General Electric!

Below is snippet from the GE website…

“GE is using laser-powered 3-D printers, 3-D “inking” and “painting” machines, and other advanced manufacturing tools to make parts and products that were thought impossible to produce and which sometimes verge on art. We see advanced manufacturing as the next chapter in the industrial revolution.”

In my view it’s like cloning parts rather than machining them. With little waste and no significant dimensional variability within the batch! You now have the ability to fax 3D models or easily reverse engineer obsolete parts and then affordably manufacture them! This process isn’t labor intensive therefore off shoring labor won’t be as profitable, keeping jobs at home.

Value Stream Managers and Lean Practitioners had better embrace this technology early because Additive Manufacturing is a game changer and here to stay.
What are your thoughts?

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