7 Secrets to Success: Beginning Your AM Journey

4 min read

A series of 3D-printed parts being formed in a powder bed.

The additive manufacturing (AM) adoption journey is somewhat like a fingerprint; no two are ever the same. The possibilities can seem endless — as can the requirements. These seven tips can help you make sense of it all and get off to the best possible start.

1. Focus on value rather than cost

A successful AM journey starts with your mindset — and, as with all great stories, it starts at the beginning. It’s important to focus on using AM in a meaningful way right from the outset, which means beginning with your business case and asking the right questions: where can AM add value? Is it feasible? Would this application be better suited for another manufacturing method? In doing so, you begin by assessing the true value of your project, whereas before, you may have started with cost.

2. It takes a village — so listen to yours

Great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. Involving a diverse group of people from different parts of your organization can help you see things from a new perspective. Not only can this help make your own ideas better, but it can also help generate backing for your project that may otherwise be hard to secure.

3. Get familiar with designing for AM

There are many reasons to love additive manufacturing, but its design freedom is at the top of the list for many people. However, when you're just starting out and getting to know the technology, it's normal to design your new parts based on the production methods you're already familiar with, meaning you miss out on many of these perks.

That's why we recommend diving into the world of design for AM before you start, helping you discover all the possibilities that this design freedom offers. Integrated functionality, complexity for free, new shapes, and a whole lot more are there for you to take advantage of. By understanding how to use the technology to its fullest, you can ramp up your production from the very beginning.

4. Fail fast and often

They’re not mistakes but opportunities to learn. One of the many upsides to using AM is the ability to create fast iterations for fast learning, helping you get to a better solution quickly. It de-risks the process, as the cost of failure is low, and hugely accelerates the rate at which you build up your skills and knowledge.

5. Make it normal

The unknown can be offputting for many people, but familiarity is comforting — and the same is true for AM. When you bring AM into your company, try encouraging others to view it as just another way of making things — a complementary technology, not a replacement. It’ll help AM thinking spread within your organization, offering opportunities to learn and intensify your knowledge and skills. This will lower the cost of innovation and bring new ideas to the surface from across the workforce.

Consider actively shaping and accelerating this process by implementing informal, inexpensive workflows for sharing knowledge among partners.

6. Take advantage of the AM industry

Diving into additive manufacturing can feel intimidating, but it’s important to remember that you’re not in it alone. By understanding the support and services you can call upon, you don’t have to try and make sense of an incredibly complex field from a standing start.

What’s great is that you’re free to choose the services that best suit your needs, whether it’s overarching strategy consultancy, paid-for application development, or all manner of outsourced processes and services. The image below shows a few examples of the partnerships we have with our clients, but there’s a whole wide world to explore for you to create your own.

A blue three-tiered pyramid with white text indicating the types of partnerships Materialise has with its clients.

7. Dream big, start small

Make these four words your mantra, if you like — paint them on your wall, even. Dream big to really tap into the potential of AM, thinking beyond short-term, cost-driven objectives, but start small to give yourself time to learn, de-risk, and evolve alongside the technology. That’s the secret to a successful AM journey — even if no two are alike.

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