Must-read Monday: Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is changing how manufacturing companies design parts, components, products, and structures. It is helping remove constraints and enabling new freedom and flexibility.

However, just because a part can be produced using additive manufacturing doesn’t mean that it should be. The key is to understand where and how to adopt additive manufacturing to reap business advantages. And this knowledge can be gained by either applying additive manufacturing on the job or by learning from industry experts.

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Overcoming the additive manufacturing talent gap

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, represents a paradigm shift in the manufacturing industry by introducing innovation in engineering design and production. It has shortened design and manufacturing processes by helping companies streamline prototyping activities, alter supply chains, and evolve end-product manufacturing. This innovation in materials and technologies with respect to additive manufacturing demand new skills and capabilities, both technical and managerial. According to the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 9 out of 10 manufacturers are struggling to find the required skilled workers. Moreover, 54 percent of manufacturers do not have a plan in place to address the skilled labor shortage which is impacting production, quality, innovation, and growth.

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Challenges in adopting additive manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is ever-changing. One of the key drivers of this change is the emergence of new advanced technologies like additive manufacturing which is leading organizations to rethink their manufacturing processes. Shorter value chains, building custom parts, and replacing complex assemblies by simpler 3D printed parts are some of the major benefits of additive manufacturing.

Moreover, previously building lighter but still robust parts by traditional methods was not possible. In addition to creating prototypes, additive manufacturing is now being adopted to manufacture functional parts as well.

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Safety concerns in additive manufacturing

With key adopting industries investing significantly in research and development projects, hardware, and expertise, the additive manufacturing (AM) market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.5% between 2012 and 2017 and reach nearly $3.5 billion by 2017 as per a report published by MarketsandMarkets. Even though additive manufacturing has been around for decades, with the reduction in the cost of additive manufacturing hardware in recent years, the technology is finally becoming readily available. This means that anyone can now create three-dimensional designs at home, on a machine, with little investment. No longer the stuff of science fiction, additive manufacturing is a new reality.

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Looking at the future: Additive Manufacturing

While it may be cliché to call additive manufacturing the manufacturing process of the future, there is no denying it has a near Star Trek level of futuristic mystique surrounding it. Products come into being from seemingly nothing with additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, with the whirl of an arm crane, flash of light, or the trace of a laser.

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