What are the applications of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing as a future-oriented manufacturing process

  1. Basics of additive manufacturing
  2. Areas of application and advantages of additive manufacturing processes
  3. Potential of additive manufacturing
  4. Implementation and costs of 3D manufacturing

Basics of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, which is commonly referred to as 3D manufacturing or additive manufacturing, is becoming increasingly important in industry. These manufacturing processes are used in particular in prototype construction, for components with a high degree of customization or components with a complicated geometry. But the extent to which additive manufacturing is used is also growing in the manufacture of end products.

At additive manufacturing processes a component is created by adding material. A special feature of the generative manufacturing process is that the manufacturing process takes place without tools and without molding directly on the basis of 3D CAD data. Compared to conventional manufacturing processes, this increases manufacturing flexibility. Different materials can be processed with different additive manufacturing processes - such as plastics, synthetic resins, ceramics and metals.

How does additive manufacturing work? In additive manufacturing, a component is created using a 3D CAD file. There are processes in which the component to be produced is manufactured directly in all three spatial directions. As a rule, however, production takes place in layers by first producing one level of the component. The three-dimensional component is created by adding further layers in the third spatial direction. Melting or chemical hardening processes create cohesion of the material before the next layer is applied.

Areas of application and advantages of additive manufacturing processes

Generative manufacturing processes are used in particular in areas where small quantities, a complicated geometry and a high degree of customization are required. This is the case in toolmaking, in the aerospace industry or with medical products. In aviation, for example, internal structures can reduce weight. For these areas, additive manufacturing processes offer some advantages, such as tool-free and shapeless production, the possibility of creating complex geometries, flexible production, the possibility of manufacturing very small structures, the potential to save material and reduce weight. Overall, the generative manufacturing processes also offer opportunities for the automation of production. However, additive manufacturing processes also have some disadvantages. On the one hand, these are necessary post-processing steps if a high surface quality or compliance with tolerances is required, and on the other hand, long process times, since the component is usually produced layer by layer.

The generative manufacturing processes are not equally suitable for all applications. In the area of ​​standardized mass production, conventional manufacturing processes are preferable to additive manufacturing. If tolerances have to be adhered to for components or a certain surface quality has to be achieved, post-processing is usually necessary with the 3D manufacturing process.

There are various generative manufacturing processes such as stereolithography, laser beam melting, laser sintering, electron beam melting, fused layer modeling and digital light processing, which can process different materials and which are therefore also suitable for different applications.

Potential of additive manufacturing

The special ones Advantages of 3D manufacturing lies in the fact that, unlike conventional manufacturing processes, production takes place without tools and without a mold. The desired geometry is generated directly from 3D CAD data. This enables rapid prototyping, end products (rapid manufacturing) and tools and molds (rapid tooling), and increases flexibility in production.
It is also possible to manufacture different components on one machine - possibly even at the same time. Since the production takes place without tools, the parts to be produced can be individualized without any effort.

The additive manufacturing processes are used in particular in the aerospace industry, the medical field (prosthetics), the automotive industry and toolmaking, since these industries place demands on the components that favor additive manufacturing. By 3D manufacturing process geometries can be created that cannot be created with conventional manufacturing processes or can only be created with great effort. These depend on the additive manufacturing process selected - for example, internal and conformal cooling channels, undercuts, internal structures, different wall thicknesses, free-form surfaces or structures in very small sizes.

A Another advantage of additive manufacturing is that the manufacturing process is automated. The production process does not require an employee to operate the machine. Only the preparation of the machine and the removal of the component, as well as any subsequent treatment, must be done manually.

Implementation and costs of 3D manufacturing

Depending on which additive manufacturing process is to be used, there are large ones Price differences between the systems for the respective additive manufacturing process. The costs for an industrial-grade FLM printer (Fused Layer Modeling printer) are in the range of € 15,000, whereas a laser sintering or laser melting system costs more than € 100,000. Depending on the size of the installation space, such a system can also be significantly more expensive.

It is therefore in order to choose the right plant important to knowfor which application the 3D production should be used. It should also be taken into account which running costs arise when operating an additive manufacturing plant. Since additive manufacturing is not equally suitable for all components, the Selection of componentsthat can be produced by additive manufacturing, an aspect to which special attention must be paid. If the purchase of your own production system for additive manufacturing is not worthwhile, components can also be manufactured by service providers (3D printing shops).

The IPH, which offers various services in the field of additive manufacturing, can support the selection of suitable processes, solutions and suitable components. Extensive external expertise can therefore provide optimal advice for the Selection and implementation of additive manufacturing processes or 3D solutions guaranteed. An independent provider like IPH can help evaluate, select, optimize and implement additive manufacturing technologies.

In addition, as a service provider, the IPH can also give its support and provide comprehensive advice in the evaluation and optimization of existing generative manufacturing processes. The offer of the IPH in the field of 3D manufacturing is based on the latest know-how from research and technology development.

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