As metal 3D printing gains popularity throughout the manufacturing industry, many are beginning to...
Metal 3D printing — you’re aware of it, but you’re unsure whether it’ll work for your company and if you can secure buy-in from management. To help answer some of your questions, we’ve explored the advantages of 3D printing industrial parts and the opportunities it can present.
- Ability to Create Complex Parts
- Increased Reliability
- Quicker Lead Times
- Fabrication of Obsolete Parts
- Reduced Downtime
- Greater Potential for Cost Savings
- Is Metal 3D Printing the Answer?
- Looking to Learn More About the Metal 3D Printing Process?
Ability To Create Complex PArts
The main advantage of metal 3D printing is it can produce complex parts with intricate geometries that would otherwise be impossible to make using conventional methods like milling, turning or casting.
Metal 3D printing eliminates most design restrictions, making it easy to produce hollow structures or complex features such as overhangs. This is because parts are built in layers and material is applied only where it is needed.
In addition to this, with metal 3D printing it is possible to print multiple designs on a single production run, without significantly increasing costs. This makes it an ideal method for customised part production.
With greater design freedom comes the possibility to produce parts that perform better and last longer. For example, impellers and nozzles with optimised flow profiles or assembly housings made of lightweight structures.
This is an advantage that has been realised and utilised by many businesses in different industries. Aerospace has harnessed the potential of metal 3D printing to produce crucial parts such as fuel injectors, impellers and stators, and automotive has long used 3D printing for prototyping and is now used for final part production.
Metal 3D printing allows for the production of complex parts with optimised designs that last longer. This is especially important for industrial applications where the failure of a single component can result in significant downtime costs. By increasing the product life of a single component, it is possible to improve the reliability of an entire system.
The ArcelorMittal maintenance team uses metal 3D printing to deploy optimised solutions across their production sites. In doing so, the technology has enabled them to minimise downtime, reduce defects and improve productivity.
Quicker LEad Times
Long lead times can be a great concern for many industries. They can result in longer periods of unplanned downtime, additional working capital tied up in spare part inventories and increased storage costs.
Metal 3D printing minimises this risk by having faster lead times than many traditional manufacturing methods – specifically for small batch production. Metal 3D printed parts can be designed, produced and delivered in a couple of weeks instead of months. This results in shorter lead times for critical parts, meaning production equipment can continue operating and generating income.
It also reduces the need for spare part inventory and storage, as businesses can be confident they have quick access to any parts as and when they’re needed.
Fabrication of Obsolete PArts
Metal 3D printing can almost eliminate this challenge. The process works by creating a 3D model from an original part or a 2D drawing, meaning obsolete parts can be replicated quickly and easily.
This increases the lifespan of industrial equipment and machinery, but it can improve the reliability and functionality of this equipment by optimising the parts too. This leads to a reduction in equipment replacement, maintenance spend and increased performance, which all present greater operational cost savings.
As we’ve previously mentioned, reduced downtime is one of the major benefits of 3D printing industrial parts. This is due to several factors such as shorter lead times and the ability to manufacture optimised parts using metal 3D printing.
All of this leads to reduced downtime and costs for businesses. Faster manufacturing lead times mean parts can be delivered quickly and operations can resume. Optimised parts enable increased reliability and reduced number of equipment failures. The production of obsolete parts means the lifespan of production equipment can be extended .
Greater Potential For COst Savings
A main priority for many businesses is the opportunity for cost savings. The above points present the potential for cost savings, strengthening the overall case for utilising metal 3D printing.
Let’s start with faster lead times — this delivers potential cost savings by reducing inventory costs and downtime risk.
Maintenance and part replacement savings are created through reliability improvements, thanks to the ability to create optimised parts, which reduces failure risk.
Finally, other operational savings can be realised through the production of bespoke solutions that reduce production defects and increase efficiencies, in part driven by the opportunity to redesign parts during the metal 3D printing process.
Is Metal 3D Printing the Answer?
In short, there are many benefits metal 3D printing presents for the production of industrial parts. However, it isn’t a one size fits all solution. The effectiveness of metal 3D printing depends on the types of parts needed, the technology used and the mechanical properties required.
Metal 3D printing is never supposed to completely replace traditional manufacturing techniques. There are positives and negatives to both and the idea is they work in unison to provide greater efficiencies, operational performance and cost savings for businesses.
Working with an experienced provider will help you establish if metal 3D printing works for you and the opportunities it could present for your business.
Looking to Learn More About the Metal 3D Printing PRocess?
In our latest guide, we have all the answers. Simply download Transforming Heavy Industry Through Metal 3D Printing by clicking the link below. You can find out all there is to know about metal 3D printing, the technologies, the lead times and the implementation options.