Many conventional manufacturing methods, such as CNC machining, use tools to cut and carve material into the desired shape and size. These traditional techniques are subtractive in nature since they start from a block of raw material, and material is removed as necessary to reach the final product. On the other hand, as the name implies, additive manufacturing technologies start from nothing and add layer by layer of material to create the final product. AM employs CAD software to control the deposit of material, layer upon the previous layer, to fabricate the desired 3-dimensional product. As the product cools, the layers are bonded together to form a strong, durable product. Additive manufacturing methods can be used with a range of raw materials including plastics, ceramics, and metals.
There are various AM processes on the market such as material extrusion, powder bed fusion, and jetting, but 3D printing is the most widely known method. In fact, the terms additive manufacturing and 3D printing are often used interchangeably but there is a key distinction: 3D printing is one of several fabrication technologies under the umbrella of additive manufacturing.
AM is part of the digitalization of manufacturing that is often referred to as Industry 4.0. AM technologies have advanced significantly in recent years and are transforming the way many manufacturers operate. AM, specifically 3D printing, is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. today and conditions are ripe for innovation. The true potential for AM and 3D printing lies in the new opportunities for creativity that it provides – and not what forms of manufacturing it will replace.
5 Advantages of Additive Manufacturing
Additive manufacturing offers many advantages over traditional manufacturing techniques, and many manufacturers are turning to this method to reap the benefits. Below are 5 key advantages of additive manufacturing.
- Faster Cycle Times: additive manufacturing methods are known for their speed. 3D printing only needs a new CAD input in order to manufacture a new product and does not require retooling or machine changes – resulting in significant time savings. Additionally, 3D printed parts are one single piece and do not require secondary operations, further reducing lead times. For these reasons, 3D printing is a cost-effective option that allows designers to rapidly prototype and test new ideas.
- Less Waste: traditional, subtractive manufacturing naturally generates waste since manufacturers start with a large block of raw material and remove material to reach the desired shape and size. For example, during CNC machining the metal waste must be collected, cleaned and recycled, costing OEMs both time and money. Conversely, additive manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing, generate significantly less waste than traditional manufacturing, and in some cases, waste can be entirely eliminated.
- More Nimble Production: traditional manufacturing, such as CNC machining or injection molding, requires tooling that is difficult to modify once production is initiated. However, additive manufacturing is able to innovate and tweak designs during the production phase by simply changing the CAD input to accommodate customer feedback or other design improvements – with no tooling changes required. 3D printing also saves OEMs time and money as tooling is typically time-consuming and costly to fabricate.
- More Design Flexibility: AM products are 100% customizable. Additive manufacturing provides designers with more creativity and flexibility in part designs in order to experiment with different shapes and weights to address market demands. For example, AM is proving itself an excellent solution for parts used in tight spaces such as airplane cabins that require unique shapes and lighter weights. Additionally, 3D printing is becoming the go-to fabrication method for prosthetics due to its ease of customization and ability to create intricate and complex parts.
- Optimized Inventory: additive manufacturing techniques, like 3D printing, allow manufacturers to fabricate parts on-demand rather than stock piling spares in a warehouse – resulting in lower storage, inventory, and transportation costs.
For over 30 years, ProMed has specialized in producing small, intricately designed silicone and plastic components, combined with value-added services and subassembly capabilities to support both life-saving and life enhancing devices. In alignment with these focused services, ProMed Pharma provides complete manufacturing, assembly, and testing support for drug delivery and combination devices.
We work together with our customers from concept to completion by providing design for manufacturability input, material selection, tooling/fixturing, process development, manufacturing and value-added services that result in cost-effective solutions and superior quality.