Being able to additively manufacture parts has been a great addition to manufacturing. 3-D printing metal parts is a unique fabrication technique that can add value to the manufacturing process in a few ways.
The cost per part is consistent at low and high volumes of production. Most fabrication methods get cheaper on a cost per part basis when the volume is increased. Casting, machining, and forming are some of the methods that are cheaper when producing at high volumes. Metal 3-D printing can eliminate this problem by utilizing a mostly automated process resulting in far less overhead cost. With minimal extra labor in printing the first part over the 1,000th and using the same amount of materials on every part, this can lock part cost regardless of the quantity.
Most parts manufactured are designed to be a simple as possible so it is economical. Complex parts can require more work in programming and more advanced machines to do the fabrication as well as more time overall. Metal 3-D printing costs are driven by part size and not complexity, however. With small preparations, more complex designs can be accomplished for less with this method.
3-D printers are able to make parts outside of the limits of conventional machinery. They are capable of fabricating parts that also simply cannot be made using other platforms. These can range from ultra-complex to process optimized injection molds. 3-D printed metal is able to have complex curves, shapes, and cavities.
While there is still a vast need for conventional metalworking techniques, the future of technology is ever-growing and increasingly helpful in a lot of areas. 3-D printing metal parts has many benefits and can be extremely useful for a number of applications when more complex parts are needed. The scale on which these parts can be printed is yet to be fully realized.
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