To put these examples in context, Rogers outlined five levels of complexity for AM parts:
- Level 0 – Jigs and Fixtures
- Level 1 – Components
- Level 2 – Subsystems
- Level 3 – Functional Integration
- Level 4 – Advanced Functionalities (self-assembly, embedded functional electronics, etc.)
Rogers was adamant that every manufacturer—from giants like GE to SMEs—should be experimenting with Level 0 in order to get into what he described as the additive manufacturing mindset. “Just like lean manufacturing is a mindset change, additive is a mindset change as well,” Rogers said.
Here are seven examples that Rogers discussed:
1. Casting Molds
2. Prototype Parts for Production
3. Sub-Scale Turbine Blade Mold
4. Dishwasher Components
5. Housing for Compressor Inlet Temperature Sensor
6. Heat Exchangers
7. ATP Engine
The Future of Additive Manufacturing
Rogers is certainly optimistic about the prospects for additive manufacturing, particularly in the medical and dental industry, the aerospace industry and even the automotive industry. However, he’s also realistic about the place of 3D printing technology in manufacturing as a whole.
“Of the parts that we’ve made at our additive manufacturing center,” said Rogers “85 percent have required traditional manufacturing technologies, like machining.”
So, although additive is growing at a rapid pace—two years ago, GE had one additive production part; last year, it was four; this year it will be 30 and next year 100—it’s not going to supplant traditional manufacturing entirely.
However, that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the sweeping changes additive technology will bring about, even if you’re a small job shop. To that point, Rogers offered the following advice to SMEs: “Don’t go after direct parts: start with the lower levels and if you’re successful, ask your customers about more complex applications.”