From toys to tools and even car parts or food, 3D printing is changing the way every-day items are made.
This holds true for the manufacturing world as well, and Moraine Park Technical College held a conference to educate students and manufacturers about the possibilities of additive manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing is the process of making objects from 3D model data by joining materials together layer by layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methods, such as traditional machining.
“This is a great opportunity to host an event on additive manufacturing because no one knows a lot about it,” says Pete Rettler, dean of Moraine Park’s West Bend Campus. “After hearing about additive manufacturing at a previous conference, I brought the idea to a local economic development meeting, and no one had heard of what this is. ”
Although the concept has not fully been introduced into Wisconsin’s manufacturing practices, some companies around the United States are turning to additive manufacturing in the way they make parts for machines, jigs and other manufacturing components.
One benefit additive manufacturing brings is the fact that parts are easier to produce. Instead of a company having to order parts for machines from another location, additive manufacturing allows the company to make the part onsite, and for a cheaper cost.
Other benefits include reduction in assembly, weight and material savings and short runs.
Pete Zelinski, editor-in-chief for Additive Manufacturing magazine, warns that even though this process can streamline parts faster, it will not eliminate manufacturing all together.
“One point that is often mistaken is, people think additive manufacturing might eliminate today’s world of manufacturing all together,” Zelinski says. “However, that is far from the truth. Efficiency of machining is hard to compete with, and this may help machining become more effective.”
Another point Zelinski makes is that additive manufacturing is so new, a lot of investors are creating their products through trial and error, since there is not many resources out there on additive manufacturing.
One hurdle that additive manufacturing has is an additive does not do smooth finishes. Since parts are made by layers of materials, additive manufacturing is more of a competitor to casting, rather than machining.
Even though the concept is still new, students at the conference seemed eager to learn about this new way of manufacturing, and experts say the manufacturing industry shouldn’t be worried about this concept replacing manufacturing.
“People always ask me, ‘how far will additive manufacturing go?’ The true question is how far will manufacturing go?” Zelinski says. “We now have a call and a need for new generations of design engineers who understand and can teach this concept to other companies looking to invest into additive manufacturing.”