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Additive Manufacturing

Previously considered most beneficial for producing concept evaluation models, or as master patterns for traditional casting processes, high end 3D printing has now become a viable process for the later product development stages.

Where certain limitations may have been prohibitive in its early years, significant improvements in printing accuracy, build speed and the progress made with material properties mean that 3D printed parts can now be used in more accurate functional tests, and even for low volume manufacture.

Greater testing of representative parts reduces performance uncertainty and thus, lowers a manufacturer’s risk. Particular benefits are being seen by industries where lower quantity requirements will not allow the amortisation of tooling investment across the production run. In 2012 experts at the The Economist suggested that by 2016 around 50% of money spent on printing objects would be for final products in this way. Read the full article here.

Paragon is now one of few advanced technology providers offering services capable of generating models for such manufacturing applications, where parts are not only suitable for fit and function testing, but are actually used in the field. At this point, the simple 3D printing concept becomes Additive Manufacturing (AM), a term often used to encompass various manufacturing techniques using RP technology.

The most common Additive Manufacturing processes include:

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Working with powdered materials, a laser beam fuses powder particles together to reflect 3D data supplied. Paragon machines can produce parts in white Nylon 12 PA650 or PA615-GS (Glass Filled).

Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

In this process, parts are formed through the extrusion of thermoplastic material. Many entry-level machines today still rely on FDM, which originally gained a patent in the early 1990’s.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Where metal prototypes are required, DMLS is the most prominent additive manufacturing process and is suitable for producing parts in various metals, including stainless steel and aluminum.

Additive Manufacture offers many benefits over traditional production techniques, such as mass customisation at no additional process cost. Furthermore, products can be made locally with unparalleled levels of complexity that are both stronger and lighter than previously possible. The ability to create free form designs that are difficult to produce with traditional techniques, means that printed products can be designed to deliver maximum performance.

Alongside the benefits of lower costs and reduced lead times through the elimination of expensive tooling (often sourced overseas), industry is now also embracing the environmental benefits of a reduced carbon footprint. Where traditional machining is subtractive, material is only “Added” where required in an AM process.

As a sophisticated alternative to traditional production techniques, 3D printing technologies offered by Paragon are adding value to some of the largest companies in the World. Read our case studies here.

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