Thursday, May 31, 2012

Additive Manufacturing of DMLS Parts

Why would we want to use Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) to additively manufacture metal components? 

I have several reasons and below I will explain them to you. 

  1. Reduce waste: Because DMLS builds parts directly from CAD data and doesn't cut the part with a mill from a block of material this allows you to reduce your waste costs giving your component the idea of being "green". The advantage to being a "green" process means that with little waste there is little cost. 
  2. No tooling costs: This is significant cost savings, in the past you would be limited to your design to build a tool and metal injection mold your part. Imagine you only have a few hundred parts to make and pay $20,000 dollars for your tool and be limited in your design, heck no, I don't want to imagine that....Thats because I love DMLS. 
  3. Freedom of design: Whats amazing about the process is the fact you can create channels within the part, this is great for conformal cooling for injection molding and or cooling of turbine blades in aerospace applications (considering most of those blades can get as hot as 1000 degrees c.). Also, depending on the component you may be able to put in undercuts that typically would be difficult to machine, this is great for the process because you can put several parts on one build tray and just walk away as they build (its not that simple as you need to remove supports etc.).
  4. Little to no inventory: We call this direct digital printing, this can save you thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars on inventory. Now you can print as needed, in the past it was pay for tooling then making thousands of parts. It is so much easier now, send a PO to the service provider and then wait a few days for your part to arrive (in some cases your service provider can send your parts direct to your customer). 
  5. Speed: Now with additive manufacturing of DMLS components you can receive a completed job in most cases within a week. I think we can all agree how speed is a huge advantage in today's market. 

Why are the 5 points above so great in the manufacturing industry? Its simple, you reduce cost, help automate processes and allow for design of manufacturability for direct metal laser sintering.

There have been several advocates of additive manufacturing of DMLS components as well as several companies who have already adopted this technology as their new manufacturing process. For instance; Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Stryker, BMW, GM, Bugati and GE, just to name a few. You can read about additive manufacturing in Industry Week magazine, Economist Magazine, People Magazine and many more. Additive manufacturing is going mainstream, will you jump on board or be left behind?

Tim Ruffner
V.P. NBD / Marketing Manager
GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services, Inc.
Phone: 847.615.8900

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