The story of how the future is created layer-upon-layer. The technology is called additive manufacturing.
The Additive Manufacturing Market
Additive manufacturing, 3D printing or rapid prototyping all mean the same. They refer to a technology by which items are manufactured layer by layer using materials such as plastic, metal, concrete or, some day, human tissue. The conventional methods are based on subtracting material. For customers it offers cost savings and flexibility in production.
Etteplan uses the term Additive Manufacturing and Optimization, AMO, as design and topology for objects typically needs to be optimized. Currently the industry as well as Etteplan are focusing on metal and plastic 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing is not a new phenomenon. Its roots can be traced all the way back to the 1980s. In recent years, however, it has garnered a lot of attention in the media due to the development and spread of 3D printers and related manufacturing methods. Demand has also been boosted by broader phenomena, such as digitalization and the Internet of Things (IoT).
The advantages of this manufacturing method have also been recognized in industry: additive manufacturing helps avoid the pitfalls of traditional production, as 3D printing technology makes it possible to manufacture a single unit of a product designed according to customer needs, if necessary. Additive manufacturing creates cost savings and flexibility in production by eliminating the need to manufacture products in large batches.
In traditional manufacturing methods, manufacturing often starts with a large piece of material and the desired product is created by removing material from where it is not needed. Additive manufacturing uses the reverse approach, with material only being added where it is needed. This minimizes the amount of wasted material.
As the additive manufacturing model becomes more widely used, production chains will change. A product can be engineered in one location and sent to be printed where it is needed, even on the other side of the world. Manufacturing products directly in response to customer needs reduces logistics and warehousing costs. Production may also shift back to developed countries, creating new jobs.
The role of engineering will become more important
3D printing technology is developing at a tremendous speed and it is possible that a significant share of all products will be manufactured using this technology in the coming years. The phenomenon will also shift the focus as the industry will have a demand for new types of highly trained experts. Etteplan can provide diverse multidisciplinary consulting for Additive Manufacturing and Optimization throughout the production process as well as strong contacts with manufacturers.
Additive manufacturing also influences engineering. The engineering of new products is no longer hampered by the restrictions inherent in old production methods. This revolutionary manufacturing method also makes it possible to combine multiple components into a larger whole, or even seek design inspiration from shapes seen in nature.