When metal 3D printing makes sense?

3D printing of metals is a fascinating method of making parts, objects and products. Due to the current factors, such as high cost and production time, it makes sense to apply it only when certain conditions are met.

The following list describes cases when metal 3D printing makes sense and adds value. The list is compiled from interviews with the leading european additive manufacturing gurus during April 2015.

Metal 3D printing makes sense and adds value when:

  1. Integration of the components is needed. The number of components can reduced. The ideal is monolythic construction. This typically leads to increased lifetime of the part. In best case the increase is from weeks to months.
  2. Free form internal channels needs to be implemented
  3. Flows inside the part can must optimized, such as air, gas or liquid. Consider for example conformal cooling.
  4. Miniaturization is useful: The (complex) part needs to be made smaller or scalable.
  5. Integration of functionality improves the product. New functionality can be added to the object as part of the manufacturing process. For example, hinges, springs and snapfits.
  6. Light weight products are needed. The mass of the part can be reduced due to design optimization.
  7. Maximum weight reduction needs to be obtained with minimal strength reduction.
  8. Very small complex parts must be produced
  9. The implementation of the first prototypes must be fast or the production ramp up the needs to take place in short time.
  10. Bi-materials are needed in the product.
  11. Parts must consist of functionally graded materials.
  12. 3D-surface textures are needed.
  13. Topology must be optimized.
  14. Bone ingrowth and regeneration are needed (biomedical applications).

Do you know further motivations to apply metal 3D printing?

Pekka Ketola,  April 22nd, 2015

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