Reasons to 3D Print Metal Parts:
Building the Case
If you are involved in designing or making metal parts, then you’ll already be aware of some of the possibilities and freedoms of Metal 3D Printing. You might even have thought about using additive manufacturing methods for a project. So what’s stopping you? Maybe you’re struggling to make a strong case for it internally or the benefits don’t add up for you yet. In the following, we’re making our case for 3D printing metal parts — to help you make yours.
First of all, Metal 3D Printing is ready now – both in terms of the materials and properties that can be achieved and the design, build and process control software available. At the same time, subcontracting or 3D Printing as a service provides access to a wide range of print technologies and materials, so you don’t immediately have to commit to a machine or a specific method.
Barriers to using 3D Printing are manifold and some are amplified for metal applications, where traditional methods are deeply engrained. Yet, as we’ll see, this is also where key benefits of additive manufacturing methods can have the biggest impact.
Save time: wait hours or days, not weeks and months
An obvious, widely known advantage of additive manufacturing in general is that you can go from design to finished part faster. A lot of this is down to time saved on tooling.
No part-specific tools are needed for 3D Printing and the closest you get to a part-specific fixture is the support structures that are generated as part of the printing process.
All this enables lead times of days, rather than weeks. InMotion, the team behind an ambitious electric racing car project for Le Mans 2019, was able to design and make a new lightweight suspension wishbone from Titanium in under a week.
Regardless of what it is you’re printing, advances in processing software for 3D Printing mean that many of the more time-consuming aspects of setting up and preparing a build are now automated or otherwise optimized, enabling highly efficient 3D Printing processes.
Time is of course money, so savings from reduced downtime, faster routes to product and improved production agility all add up. But 3D printing metal parts can have an even more direct financial impact.
Protect your competitive edge
All of the above will contribute to maintaining your competitive edge as a manufacturer, designer or innovator, but 3D Printing also offers new opportunities to differentiate your offering. Additive manufacturing shakes up all previous notions of economies of scale. Due to the low start-up costs, it becomes economical to produce in small batches, on demand or mass-customized, serving niches that in the past have been too costly to serve. New things are possible.
Both the potential for new business models or product strategies and the design freedoms of 3D Printing require a new, different way of thinking. In the same way as we’ve learned to design for milling, turning and casting, we have to learn to think additive. However, you can accelerate your learning by starting small and sharing the success stories across your team or organization. This will ensure that additive manufacturing becomes a natural part of your toolbox.
Metal 3D Printing is on the cusp of going mainstream. Stay ahead of the curve and build your case for printing metal.
Subscribe to receive design tips, news, and cases about Metal 3D Printing.
Discover more about 3D-printed metal and its ideal applications
The key to successful 3D printing of metal parts is identifying the right applications. Do that and watch your metal production become faster, leaner and more innovation-receptive.