If you have been lucky enough to attend a manufacturing or engineering trade show recently, you will have noticed the almost bewildering array of equipment now available for additive manufacturing. It would seem a component of just about any size, shape or indeed colour can be printed now. So if you think this might be the answer to your prayers, where do you start? Is your product (or part) even suitable?
James Murphy in Manufacturing Tomorrow provides a nice summary of things to consider, with some clear examples. Whilst there are a number of potential production solutions, product design also needs to be considered in order to ensure the appropriate manufacturing technique can be used and – vitally- the part is truly the best it can be for its purpose.
So how to assess if a part is suitable for 3D printing? Here are some questions to ask; Is it a complicated part? Is it low volume? Is it high value? Is development and tooling time considerable? Would personalization or customisation improve it? If it is many parts could it be made from less?