Is additive manufacturing about to hit a tipping point?

Additive manufacturing could be on the verge of breaking through as a mainstream production process, according to a recent survey.

Renishaw AM Parts: Renishaw’s Marc Saunders will talk about metal additive manufacturing as a production process
At Subcon 2017, Renishaw’s Marc Saunders will talk about metal additive manufacturing as a production process.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents said that they already use additive manufacturing for production components, and a clear majority (85%) said they expected to do so within the next five years.

Just a year ago, only 21% said they would use additive manufacturing for production components in the next five years and 35% said they might.

This trend is opening up a new market for subcontract manufacturing services, with a third of respondents stating that they would use an external supplier to produce these components.

Of those companies that already have components produced by additive manufacturing, 37% use an external supplier.

The research was conducted by Subcon 2017, which runs alongside the Advanced Manufacturing Show and The Engineer Design and Innovation Show at the Birmingham NEC from 6 – 8 June.

The disruptive transition that additive manufacturing promises in component production is a featured topic in the two free-to-attend conference streams that run alongside the three shows.

Speakers include: Marc Saunders of Renishaw, Prof Richard Hague of Nottingham University, Andreas Langfeld of Stratasys, Paul Adams of Vendigital, and Desi Bacheva of HiETA.

Additive manufacturing is undergoing a revolution as it moves from the model and tooling shop and onto the factory floor, according to Marc Saunders, allowing firms to create innovative new products that deliver increased performance in use and which couldn’t be produced conventionally.

Saunders will explore the drivers behind this transition and the increased demands that series production places on additive manufacturing to deliver predictable, consistent parts. He will also look at the chains of linked processes and tools that are needed to create an integrated manufacturing process with additive at its heart, and the controls that must be employed to make it a mainstream manufacturing process.

Paul Adams will take a strategic perspective in his presentation entitled Additive, Brexit and Aerospace Supply Chains.

He commented: “Advancing low-cost competition is disrupting global supply chains and investment in 3D printing and other novel manufacturing technology has become mission-critical for manufacturers in the aerospace and automotive sectors, but a clear investment strategy is essential.”