Additive manufacturing embraced by early adopters

Tuesday February 26, 2013
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
The additive manufacturing systems market for industrial applications has made a strong recovery since the recession in 2009, according to a new report by ARC Advisory Group. In 2012, the market reached a milestone in overall revenues for machinery and services, as shipments surpassed $1 billion. The study also found that market dynamics have been robust as acquisitions, channel expansion and numerous startups are staking a claim in a market that is clearly transitioning through the early adopter stage for industrial manufacturing at a rapid pace. The synergy of digital modeling with additive manufacturing is a driving force for adoption in the market that will sustain double-digit growth rates over the next five years.  Manufacturers seek a competitive advantage with additive manufacturing systems in an effort to overcome hurdles in traditional design processes.  The possibilities of designing complex structures, cost effectively, allows manufacturers to envisage concept designs previously cost prohibitive due to development constraints. “Due to the geometric freedom the technology affords and the absence of a penalty for designing more complex parts, additive manufacturing should create a powerful incentive for innovation,” said research analyst Scott Evans, the principal author of ARC’s “Additive Manufacturing Systems Global Market Research Study.” While most additive technologies using plastic build materials have existed for several decades, the development of additive manufacturing systems with the ability to fabricate metal parts and objects is a new development.  Many industries are attracted to valuable metals, such as titanium, as build materials.  That material is built up rather than cut away creates tremendous savings in materials costs.  The ability to actualize complex digital designs opens up new possibilities for industrial design.  It is now easier to create representations of entire systems, creating value throughout the entire design phase. Because of the unrestricted geometric freedom the technology affords, additive’s advantage is not only restricted to how it will streamline the current product design phase, but how it introduce designs not even considered yet. However, while both metal and plastic build materials have the potential to enhance production and even open up new design possibilities, they also come with a number of limitations.  Most systems are still too slow to justify producing anything but the most complicated designs.  Unless the fabricated object is of tremendous value and complexity, there is likely no economic justification to switch to additive.

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