In the sixth installment of 3Din30, our LinkedIn Live series, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bob Markley, Executive Vice President of ADDMAN Engineering. As an innovator within the contract manufacturing space, Markley brings a unique perspective when discussing the future of manufacturing and why it’s important to leverage all available tools to find the right one for the job.
Bob originally founded 3rd Dimension Industrial 3D Printing in 2013 which was acquired by ADDMAN in 2021. In its current state, ADDMAN offers a wide array of production techniques, leveraging laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) metal additive manufacturing, polymer and composite printing, CNC and CMM, and traditional metallurgical manufacturing.
Finding the Right Tool for the Job
As we look back on various production techniques used in the past, we see a constant theme. Contract manufacturers specialize in certain manufacturing approaches and then guide customers to “Design for Manufacturing” to fit their skill sets. Today, as the options for production expand, we can see gaps in this approach.
CMs who put the onus on the client to adapt a design to CM limitations, prevent significant gains in performance and increase the time to market.
Having the right tool for the job today, means expanding into multiple production technologies that synergistically support one another to provide the customer with the best part for the job.
CMs like ADDMAN are embracing this formula by taking a holistic approach to part production. With more than 10 machines on their production floor ranging from traditional metallurgy to an end-to-end metal additive manufacturing solution, such as VELO3D, clients are able to achieve the optimal outcomes for their parts without compromise at any phase of the process.
Where Additive Manufacturing Fits into the Equation
When it comes to cost, metal AM can be higher for parts that can be manufactured using more traditional methods. “As a general rule, we typically say, ‘If you can machine it, machine it,’” Markley says.
Yet there are certain drawbacks to traditional manufacturing that can make it a less-than-ideal solution for specific scenarios.
Casting, for example, has extremely long lead times for parts. For a client looking for multiple castings, Markley says, it could take months or even years before they have a finished part.
With metal AM, turnaround and post-processing times can be drastically reduced. CNC machining is limited by drill bit access which makes cuts out of the line of sight difficult.
Metal AM with its layer-by-layer process, is better suited for complex geometries and small run, specialized parts.
“We’re typically looking at things that can’t be made any other way,” Markley says. “One of the areas where we’ve seen the [VELO3D] system excel is on parts with low overhangs and complex internal channels. We look at space industries. We look at rocket thrusters. We look at shrouded impellers for oil and gas. It takes what AM is capable of and expands that envelope. It’s so cool to see the process and see what it allows from an engineering perspective.”
One of the added benefits of metal AM, particularly with VELO3D, is the level of process control and quality assurance that comes along with it. By integrating pre-production, production, and post-production quality control, VELO3D creates newfound levels of confidence in the build quality of AM parts.
“The way I’ve seen it in the past, is the hardware comes first,” Markley says. “With the way the [VELO3D] system is set up and the way the process flows, it’s a software-driven solution that’s enabled by the hardware. And that seems to be a complete mindset shift.”
Where Metal AM is Headed
Though metal AM is one of the newer tools in the toolbox for engineers and CMs, we’re just scratching the surface of its potential. The years of research and development that have gone into the technology surrounding metal AM is beginning to yield results for countless industries looking to address performance or manufacturing pain points.
“We’ve shown that we’re not making trinkets anymore,” Markley says. “We’re making real, functional parts.”
Other Topics Discussed:
- How far metal AM has come with respect to regulation and parts validation
- Different applications for metal AM, and how it’s currently being used in the market
- What post-processing looks like in a metal AM system
- Advice for those who are new to additive manufacturing
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