3-D printing of metal objects is the next big breakthrough in additive manufacturing. The emerging production technology, combined with advanced design software, holds the promise of an industrial transformation as disruptive as the adoption of cast iron, steel and aluminum over the past two centuries. The ability to print metal objects is still in its infancy. But it’s growing up quickly, allowing for lighter and more complex designs than with traditional methods.
The Wall Street Journal has a great story discussing the key benefits of additive manufacturing with metals, which produces parts with only the necessary materials. As companies have finally begun to incorporate 3-D metal printing into their processes, the manufacturing world is poised for a big change.
But fulfilling that promise will entail abandoning preconceptions about engineering, design and management, says Prof. Beuth, a 20-year veteran of the field whose department at the university is a research leader. “It’s a learning experience” for everyone involved, he says.
An open mind is needed because the process of 3-D printing allows for an entirely new approach to manufacturing.
Because of the limitations of the molds and machine tools traditionally used to make metal parts, engineers have gotten used to designing based on what’s possible to produce—which often falls well short of the ideal product. Now, with 3-D printing, they can come much closer to that ideal.