First introduced in the 1980s, Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has gained momentum in providing benefits to manufacturers who want to produce small numbers of complex parts.
A 2018 report by ATKearney for HP showed that the UK was 5th in terms of adoption of Additive Manufacturing and could be 3rd within 5 years. The AM market certainly looks set to grow significantly, with Statista reporting the value of the additive manufacturing or 3D printing sector will reach $20.5 billion by 2020.
Some companies are still on the fence about AM, unconvinced that it is indeed the future of manufacturing. If this is you – we’ve listed the 8 major benefits additive manufacturing can offer:

1. Affordable
The cost of equipment has been fairly high historically for most companies, but new technology has made the cost of entry to AM production much more affordable with equipment costing from around 3-4000 USD for industrial-spec machinery.
And because AM offers the capacity to reduce the amount of capital needed to scale a business without making significant changes going forward, it’s possible for manufacturers to increase the speed and profitability of their operations.

2. Training
Of course, there’s no point having the equipment if your employees can’t use it, and the perceived cost and scarcity associated with AM training to upskill workforces has put many manufacturers off embracing it. However, there is now a wide variety of training programmes on offer for designers and manufacturers – from grassroots to advanced levels.
This includes training on the tools and technology behind AM, technical training to allow employees to utilise AM, and training on material handling and post-production processes.

3. Reduces Waste
Instead of removing material, AM works by adding material layer by layer so that only what is required gets used. Consequently, additive manufacturing can reduce material costs and waste by as much as 90 per cent.
Additionally, many items produced by AM methods are being used to replace traditional throw-away items. For example, Croft Filters produce reusable metal AM filters which are being used to replace the traditional filters which have a limited shelf life.

4. Design Freedom
AM manufacturing offers the sort of design innovation that businesses could once only dream about.
It brings creative freedom to the forefront without the constraints of time or cost to allow for innovation to flourish. Moving away from static designs enables engineers to produce multiple versions of a design in a cost-effective process.

5. Customisation
AM offers the opportunity for manufacturers to provide a bespoke service, customising designs for individual clients.
Widely used across many sectors including oil and gas, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and the automotive industries, 3D printing can be harnessed to produce items tailored to specific needs, and with short production runs.

6. Assisting with Prototyping
The capacity offered by AM enables the manufacturer to print several prototypes before committing to production, therefore leaving less room for error in the overall process.
Additionally, changes to the original spec can be made digitally, reducing the expense of traditional design modifications.

7. Lower Energy Costs
Using less material inevitably means reducing your energy costs overall.
In addition to this, the ability to re-manufacture parts using AM processes allows those previous throw-away products to be reconditioned using only a percentage of the energy it would require to manufacture a whole new part.
For example, instead of disposable filters in industrial applications, it’s now possible to manufacture a reusable metal filter, providing investment in something that can stand the test of time and continue to deliver long-term results. In addition to reducing environmental impact, this also minimises expensive downtime to shut down essential machinery to replace filters.

8. Quicker to Market
The speed with which a business can get its product to market is often critical in securing repeat orders.
Additive manufacturing reduces production lead time dramatically. Not only does it make production quicker, but businesses do not have to spend time researching to justify tooling investments or waiting for tooling to be produced. The difference can be that instead of taking months to get to market, it can take a matter of days.
Conclusion
The availability and accessibility of 3D printing tools are making it easier for companies from all backgrounds to unlock the benefits of additive manufacturing.
With on-demand ordering and no need to carry large quantities of stock, the future is looking bright for companies prepared to embrace AM and enjoy the many benefits it offers.