3D printing: the 10 main advantages deriving from the use of Additive Manufacturing

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I principali vantaggi derivanti dall'utilizzo dell'Additive Manufacturing

 

 

Has your company already taken strategic decisions regarding Additive Manufacturing? If the answer is no, now is the time to do so, by considering the advantages associated with this technology and industrial 3D printing processes.

The innovation associated with Additive Manufacturing is accelerating at a dizzying pace: increasing efficient and affordable machines, combined with new materials, are making it possible to create pieces that compete with and sometimes exceed those manufactured using traditional methods in terms of characteristics.  

Without forgetting that public interest in 3D printing products is ever-increasing. 

 

Below is a list of the reasons and advantages for which a company should at least consider using additive manufacturing in its industrial production processes.

 

1)  Sustainability and resource savings  

 

Sustainability, as we know, is an increasingly important factor. 3D printing makes it possible to reduce material waste and to save fundamental resources like energy.
 
Additive manufacturing involves the progressive “layer-by-layer” addition of material until the desired piece is complete. The process starts with the spreading of the first layer of material, before proceeding with the addition of the further layers that are processed and consolidated with those below until the object is complete.

If there are burrs or supports that withhold the piece during printing, they can be removed using traditional post-processing techniques. The overall level of waste is, nevertheless, minimal. 
In addition, the simultaneous production of identical, or completely different, pieces, makes it possible to save energy and reduce material costs.

 

2) Not just prototypes but advantageous systems for serial production  

 

Additive manufacturing is often the ideal choice for the manufacture of prototypes or small quantities of products, with increasing opportunities to start serial production efficiently as well as being profitable both in terms of economics and the quality of the manufactured products.

Production cycles are faster and less costly than traditional processes. For example, if it is necessary to obtain a limited number of parts, instead of creating a mould, it could be more useful to print them using a design file, simply using a specific machine and the material required.  

3D printing is particularly advantageous also in terms of mass customisation and on-demand production. In relation to the former aspect, it is necessary to emphasise the many opportunities offered by Additive Manufacturing with regard to the manufacture of customised products on a large scale.

Indeed, the design and production of an object can be rapidly adapted to satisfy specific customer needs. This makes it possible to obtain unique, customised products that satisfy requirements. 

It is therefore possible to fabricate specific items only when necessary, and avoid accumulating stock, consequently reducing wastage. Applying both these principles allows excellent efficiency, even on a large scale, while simultaneously saving 

time and resources, without having a detrimental effect on the quality of the finished product.

 

It should also not be forgotten that manufacturers of small batches can obtain great advantages from the use of additive manufacturing.

 

Find out how to make production processes more efficient using Additive Manufacturing technology. Download our free guide!

 

 

3) Reductions in the stocks required for production  

 

Additive manufacturing does away with the need to have excessive stocks to hand. Traditional manufacturing usually results in a warehouse full of pre-packed parts to be used when needed. However, were it to be decided to manufacture the same object with a different design, the parts already fabricated would be obsolete.

 

3D printing, on the other hand, makes it possible to obtain a virtual inventory. Information on parts is stored in the cloud for the whole of the product’s lifecycle and they are only printed when necessary.  

 

This system does away with the need to have a space set up as a warehouse, as well as dedicated personnel. 

 

 

4) Ability to recreate pieces that would otherwise be unavailable  

It can sometimes be difficult to find a specific object, for example if the moulds used for production have been taken off the market.


Additive Manufacturing can be the solution for overcoming this problem: by means of the specifications or files available (stored in the PLM cloud), the desired piece can be recreated using a 3D printer.

 

 

5) Improved quality associated with new materials 

 

The streamlined organisation associated with 3D printing can provide the opportunity to evaluate the range of new materials in order to improve the overall quality of the final products.  
Every year, new polymers, metals and compounds compatible with Additive Manufacturing processes are introduced.  

 

This makes it possible to create more reliable new pieces, avoiding future calls for assistance and reducing processing costs. 

 

 

 

6) Technology open to the future, from CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering) to Driven Design applications based on AI - Artificial Intelligence

 

Vantaggi Additive Manufacturing

 

 

The use of generative design guided by artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the way designers create objects.

A first revolution occurred with computer-aided engineering (CAE). This is an application based on analysis and mathematical simulation techniques connected with the product development process.  

 

CAE combines computer-assisted design (CAD) with disciplines like finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD), multiphysics and computational engineering.  

 

The initial purpose of CAE was to create products, assemblies and parts that are not only validated for use in specific operational conditions, but also optimised based on specific characteristics such as weight and robustness. 

 

The subsequent evolution of CAE made it a driven design system able to create 3D models starting from functional requirements and structural and fluid-dynamic optimisation targets.

In short, this process will be increasingly integrated with AI driven design based on the principles of machine learning. This will make it increasingly simple to convert the designs of customer companies into readily printable 3D models. 

 

7) The advent of AI Driven Design 

 AI e Additive Manufacturing

 

 

Thanks to the Driven Design connected to the system of Artificial Intelligence it is sufficient to enter a few parameters, such as the desired dimensions, materials and production methods, and the applications will suggest a series of design elements able to satisfy these requirements.  

 

This allows designers to save valuable design time and focus more on the design itself. 

 

More specifically, thanks to Additive Manufacturing’s ability to produce organic forms, generative design can suggest innovative solutions that would not otherwise be feasible.  

 

These ideas can comply with the required specifications and, at the same time, offer creative and original solutions. Using AI-driven design therefore offers a unique opportunity for companies to explore new design territory and create unique, innovative products. 

 

 

 

 8) Additive Manufacturing e Mass customization

 

Additive manufacturing offers unprecedented flexibility in manufacturing systems, making it possible to satisfy individual customer demands while opening the door to an era of customised production. 

 

There are already myriad practical cases of Mass Customisation achieved thanks to an approach that aims to combine the advantages of the efficiency of mass production with high product customisation.  

 

Until recently, these two factors seemed contradictory, but now, with additive manufacturing, it is possible to manufacture customised products on a large scale.

Customers can ask for unique objects, suited to their preferences and specific requirements, without having to pay high production costs or wait a long time. 

 

A concrete example of how Additive Manufacturing allows Mass Customisation comes from the fashion industry. Using 3D printing, it is in fact possible to create customised garments and accessories that perfectly suit customers’ individual measurements and tastes.  

 

However, the advantages do not stop with fashion. Additive technology is increasingly used in many other sectors, such as medicine. Imagine, for example, being able to print different prosthetic devices for different subjects, as part of the same production cycle. Thanks to ongoing innovation, the practical cases are increasing constantly. 

 

For further information on this topic, you may also be interested in: “Advanced Manufacturing technologies with market disruption potential”

 

9) The resolution of industrial design through the creation of complex shapes and trabecular structures

 

Thanks to Additive Manufacturing technologies it is possible to create complex forms that were unimaginable with traditional production methods. Solutions that pave the way for new design opportunities, allowing engineers and designers to explore completely virgin creative territory. 

 

One of the distinctive characteristics of Additive Manufacturing is the capacity to create objects layer by layer, without the limitations of subtractive technologies. This means being able to obtain complex geometric forms, such as organic or irregular forms, which can be easily fabricated, thus allowing companies to create unique and aesthetically appealing products.  

 

Although until just a few years ago, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to fabricate these structures, Additive Manufacturing now makes it possible to print objects with the above characteristics, efficiently and precisely, while offering further advantages regarding, for example, the optimisation of the weight and performance of the product. 

 

 

 

10) Printing of previously unprocessable materials

 

Stampa 3D industriale

 

Additive Manufacturing (AM) makes it possible to print materials that were considered difficult or impossible to process in the past. 

 

With the individual traditional processes, like milling and turning, some materials can be difficult to machine due to their chemical composition, thermal properties or other specific characteristics. Additive techniques, on the other hand, overcome these limitations. 

 

As a matter of fact, Additive Manufacturing makes it possible to process a vast range of materials, including metals, polymers, ceramics and compounds.  

This means that materials like titanium, high-temperature alloys, biocompatible materials or high-performance materials can be used to create specific objects. 

 

 

 

Fabrication of lighter pieces

 

 

In addition to the other aspects already dealt with, Additive Manufacturing (AM) allows the fabrication of lighter pieces without impairing the strength and functions of the products themselves, thereby opening up new opportunities in a vast range of industrial sectors. 

 

One of the main advantages of additive manufacturing consists in reducing the weight of the fabricated objects and, consequently, offering greater design freedom.  

 

Using traditional manufacturing techniques, geometric complexity and weight reductions often clash with the limitations imposed by processing methods.  

The pros of additive methods regard, first and foremost, the use of light, high-performance materials. Many examples of this can be found in the aerospace industry, where every gram of weight saved results in improve aircraft performance. Here, every gram of weight saved translates into improved aircraft performance.  

 

Additive Manufacturing thus allows the fabrication of complex aircraft parts, such as interior structures and engine parts, that are considerably lighter than their traditional counterparts, thereby improving the overall efficiency and manoeuvrability of the aircraft. 

 

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