Where is additive manufacturing heading? This is the question we wanted to answer on March 1st and 2nd at the “Additive Manufacturing” in Berlin. In the following we will present the central topics of discussion.
Process reliability in 3D printing
A major obstacle that mechanical engineers and developers face in 3D printing is the process reliability of the printing process. How can I ensure that a component complies with the quality requirements, although it is printed? How can I ensure that the same result is obtained at different locations and in different printers? This requirement of reproducibility in 3D printing is currently not sufficiently fulfilled. But what are the decisive criteria for process reliability? This was heavily discussed in Berlin, with a focus on two features:
New filaments for 3D printing
The filament market continues to grow. There are possibilities for certification and clear differentiators in quality. The main task is to keep track of and to have an eye on the further developments in the relevant areas. For example, an increasing number of filaments with plastic-metal compounds are reaching the market. Are these relevant and suitable for the components in mind? Furthermore, the number of plastics with low Shore hardness that are approved for 3D printing is also rising. Could there be components that can become worthwhile printing thanks to a new filament? These are the questions that concern the market.
The market needs real machine hardware for 3D printing
In more provocative terms: The market still lacks a printer that fully meets the reproducibility requirements. We at FEINTECHNIK Rittmeyer also consider this the greatest potential for development, since the gap between expectations and reality is most clearly discernible in this area. Yes, all companies want to print on-demand and, ideally, on-site, in order to save storage costs. Yes, all companies want to produce in a faster and more flexible manner. But “printing” is often too expensive, takes too long or the print quality is insufficient.
The argument of printing costs is not valid when printing plastics using the FDM procedure. From a price viewpoint, 3D printer units are considerably cheaper than, for example, CNC machines. You can find an example of a cost calculation in our article “Potential savings in 3D printing“. Many filaments are also very affordable and of a high quality these days. In terms of speed and quality, it is essential to select the right printer.
According to the consensual option of experts, it is, however, significantly more difficult to identify those print parts, for which 3D printing is worthwhile.
A nice example was provided by the Deutsche Bahn: Components can be classified as “clones”, “mutants” and “aliens”.
- Clones are those parts that can be produced in a 1:1 manner in a 3D printer compared to traditional manufacturing solutions. For example our 3D-printed finger protection.
- Mutants are those parts, for which the part must initially be optimized for 3D printing.
- Aliens are components that are not modified, but rather developed from scratch for 3D printing, thus presenting entirely new concepts.
Which parts can be printed in 3D?
The question of its “meaningfulness” must be answered for every individual part. It is important to consider the following parameters:
- Material requirements
- Size of the production series
- Cost-effectiveness analysis
In the end every component must at least match the part manufactured by traditional means in terms of functionality while also passing the cost-effectiveness analysis. Here, it is advisable to use the full cost approach for components, since the savings are often only evident for the overall process.
3D printers for mechanical engineering
With our objective of developing a process-reliable 3D printer for mechanical engineering we were a good fit for the field in Berlin. With the beri-boy we were able to produce a 3D printer for the industry that meets the requirements with respect to reproducibility and flexibility for high-quality materials in a profitable and worthwhile manner. But, of course, there is also room for improvement for us. We want to commercialize the first water-cooled dual hotend and to certify further plastics. Together with our partners in the field of filaments and services we want to convince more customers about the significance of 3D printing for mechanical engineering.
We look forward to welcoming you on board!