EDUCATIONAL AM: Should companies trust 3D Printing?

Metal printers are hitting the market for under $100,000 - increasing the return on investment for 3D printing. This also gives more companies the ability to purchase metal printers that can diversify revenue streams and increase flexibility.

Even with low cost, can companies trust the 3D printing market?

The aerospace and automotive industries have already seen the benefits of 3D printing metals. These industries will continue finding inventive ways to replace traditional process parts for 3D printed ones, automating the manufacturing of plane and car parts.

As costs are reduced for metal 3D printing, industries will diversify. Smaller to medium-sized companies will start to adopt the technology, offering parts and services. Personalization will increase the value in parts for nontraditional products like figurines or costumes for events like Comic Con. Lower cost has the opportunity to increase orders for companies offering 3D printing services, since it can be cost effective for specialized-product companies.

Multiple industries adopting this type of technology will gradually begin to impact the flow of raw materials.

So what are the two best ways companies can secure assurance in 3D printing?

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  1. Securing a supply chain

One concern with the growth in metal printing is the new supply chain competition. Many 3D printing metal processes use powdered metal. As this market is continues to grow, demand will increase on the powdered metal feedstock. Over time, I imagine securing a consistent feedstock could be more important than the actual printer. Without obtaining material within tight deadlines, the printer becomes obsolete. 

GKN's powders have not only been perfected over the years, they are the same materials used in other powdered metal applications like Metal Injection Moulding. We already produce large volumes of these precision powdered metals, and our years of experience provides the knowledge and distribution necessary to handle new disruptive technology.

  1. Producing high-quality metal

New technology can take years to work out kinks. Fortunately, whether choosing selective laser sintering or binder jetting material properties, the processes will be similar to traditional powder metallurgy (PM). It will be important to find a provider that offers high-end and high-quality metal to ensure these material properties.

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Unlike traditional PM, these molds and geometries can be more complex without adding cost. With PM processes tested for decades, there will be a smooth transition to the material in a 3D printing application. Important factors for future success are securing a powder distributor that is large enough to handle volume, has a quick distribution process, and has a high quality product.

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