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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

3D Printing and PLM

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3D PrintingWhile additive manufacturing has been around since the 1980s, the rapid evolution of 3D printing and associated materials has industrial companies and even individual consumers excited about the future of making things.

The original work on stereolithography (STL) was done in Japan in the 1970s, however, the term STL was coined in 1986 by Chuck Hull, who went on to found 3D Systems, a leader in additive manufacturing today. For many years the technology was used for prototyping, creating a physical form for parts that only lived on the drafting board or in the computer. The resins used in these early machines were both expensive and brittle, which helped in part to limit their applications.

Over the next 30 years, new processes and materials evolved to support a broader range of use cases, but the machines were still expensive and had small build envelopes. It is only in the last 10-15 years that machine cost has gone down significantly and, more importantly, the processes evolved to support ceramics and metals that could enable a much broader set of applications. Innovative manufacturing technology suppliers are combining additive manufacturing with traditional subtractive methods, like machining, to solve new problems that cannot be addressed with one method alone. For example, customers of Linear Mold & Engineering, a Michigan-based injection mold provider (Linear), were having quality problems with some complex molds. Using subtractive techniques alone limited Linear’s ability to place conformal cooling inserts in the molds to ensure quality at high throughput. Using additive manufacturing, Linear was able to rough out the molds putting channels and inserts where they are needed, and using subtractive means to finish them. Using this new approach, their customers reduced scrap and cycle times.

Consistent with the theme for this year’s Market & Industry Forum, It’s a Material(s) World: This Changes Everything, using these new techniques and materials can change everything. Design processes and tools need to evolve to help designers and engineers make better decisions. Simulation and analysis tools must be driven off new materials knowledge to ensure that parts and assemblies meet lifecycle requirements. Manufacturing engineering relies on standards, metrics, and parameters based on traditional manufacturing techniques. How to cost and implement new processes are essential to their adoption and effective use.

3D Takeaways

The leading PLM solution and service providers are rising to the challenges of this new manufacturing world and are creating tools, frameworks, and new business to meet these needs. Plan to join us for one of our Market & Industry Forums to learn more about how 3D printing impacts the PLM economy.

Stan Przybylinski

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