Today's graduate engineers regard Additive Manufacturing (AM), a conventional path to production. Existing designers will warm to AM as the technology's advantages grow ever-more evident. With material properties ranging from heavy elastic to light-weight high tensile; today's designers are gifted with the opportunity to convert a great idea into a functional reality, with little effort.
Potential opportunity also lives in the ideas left-over from past projects that failed to be realised for no other reason than a cost impediment, at a time when mass production was the only financially feasible option.
3D print technology allows an idea initially designed for one purpose, to be repurposed as if specifically purposed.
We investigate ideas before their time!
Designed initially to restrain complex cargo requiring a tensile capacity of 20 ton, this forged and precision machined component fell short of the minimum volume needed to justify the investment.
International transport standards require routine engineering inspection and testing certification, which only added to a potential project cost blowout.
Now, this general-purpose monkey grip device can be 3D printed to a lesser tensile specification, and so an order of one now equals a sale of one.
Melbourne Australia 2005. This part was initially designed for an injection moulding process. Thread tapping (not shown) was expected to be an additional operation incorporated into the assembly process to save tooling costs.
Estimations for tooling costs came back in the tens of thousands, and so, a guaranteed minimum order quantity was required to justify the spend.
A stereolithography prototype was estimated at $300+. The structural integrity of objects created by the materials inherent in the stereolithography process could not compare to conventional production standards and the design techniques thereof.
And finally, the conventional legal burdens of that age involving patents and trademark protections only strengthened the arguments against cost justification. Corporates owned the consumer market!
Additive Manufacture was not a realistic possibility, and a mass-production fit-out required a leap of faith. But that was then.
Today in 2020 , it's a different story! An order of one equals a sale of one.