Make the right call when it comes to AM methods and materials.
By Tom Klemens
If your company has not already made the leap into additive manufacturing (AM) to solve production challenges, market predictions indicate you soon might. However, although prices have dropped as the technology has matured, any investment in 3D printing is still significant and needs to be thoroughly considered.
Different 3D printing processes have been developed to print with different materials—polymers, metals, ceramics, hybrids and others—in forms including but not limited to liquid droplets, wire and powder.
ASTM International identifies seven classifications of AM technology, ranging from different types of fusion to extrusion and vat polymerization. That simple categorization, however, belies an underlying complexity, according to Todd Grimm, an AM industry consultant for nearly two decades who also has written extensively on the topic.
“Under each one of those categories there can be one, two, three or even four major interpretations of what that process classification means,” he says. “And then, under that you can have one to 100 or more companies with their own machines and their own interpretations on that. So, like a tree, the industry branches out very quickly.”
Taking the right approach
Although AM may provide an elegant solution to any number of challenges, there are more parameters to consider in selecting the right approach.
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