Most Common Misconceptions about Additive Manufacturing

13 October 2021

Introduction

Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a modern fabrication process that can use a wide range of materials (metals, polymers, composite, ceramic and more) to create products layer- bylayer from a digita lfile. AM proposes a novel paradigm for design, manufacturing, and business models based on design freedom, localized value chains, and waste production and material consumption reduction.

Having been an important prototyping tool for decades, the technology is becoming a viable solution for manufacturing applications. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of misconceptions about the technology, which brought different stakeholders to underestimate or exaggerate the capabilities of AM. For this reason, CECIMO has decided to clarify some of the most common misconceptions regarding AM.

 

1. AM will replace conventional manufacturing

AM will not be used to replace but to complement and enhance other manufacturing technologies. AM is an excellent tool in any manufacturing toolbox as it is able to revolutionize the way products are designed, manufactured, and distributed to end-users. In Europe, the AM market and its ecosystem grows steadily every year. According to the CECIMO market trends survey, the AM total business and AM exports registered positive balances in all categories (products and parts, machines, materials and services), which outline a growth scenario for AM business in the domestic and foreign markets. Furthermore, the European Patent Office's 2020 report shows that European Union (EU) countries account for 47% of the total number of AM-related patent applications.

The industry has evolved from prototyping to functional part manufacturing (with different degrees of maturity achieved) in various sectors such as aerospace, health energy, industrial equipment and tooling, and construction. These industries continue to introduce AM solutions in their industrial supply chains, creating use- cases that help make the technology's mainstream adoption increasingly feasible as time progresses. Like with any other manufacturing technologies, there are several factors to consider before adopting AM: type of application, costs, materials, availability of skilled workforce. In particular, the use of AM is usually recommended for:

• Components with long lead times (printing complex parts in less than 24 h)
• Creation of new material structures that can enhance the properties of the components being
fabricated, e.g. increased strength, stiffness, corrosion resistance)
• Increasing product efficiency at the design phase saving materials
• Customized and complex parts (conventional methods cannot produce the part, for example, for highly
complex, topology-optimized geometries)
• Materials that cannot be easily machined, like metal superalloys

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