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3D Printing at the Machine Shop

Posted by Anne Winslow on Oct 29, 2014 4:53:00 PM

While it's possible to manufacture metal parts using 3D printing, the technology lags behind its polymer counterparts.  With that in mind, do you agree with this statement from Local Motors, posted at IMTS 2014? Will 3D printing change our minds about the future of manufacturing?



Weeks later, we're still talking about Local Motors and the Strati that took shape at IMTS 2014 in Chicago. Local Motors posted that their intentions were to change the way people think about the future of manufacturing (above). What did this carbon fiber and thermoplastic car mean for those of us who make a living in metal?

Plastics Play Well With Others

Local_Motors_car_in_progressFor starters, the Local Motors build highlighted how new technologies can be integrated with traditional techniques like CNC milling. Machine shops can also use polymer-based 3D printing as an intermediate step on the way to a final metal part. The August issue of MetalForming Magazine shows how 3D printing with thermoplastics is being used to make tools and form blocks for sheet hydroforming. When used in combination, the process provides major time and cost savings versus press-brake forming, and allows machines shops to accept small orders and still turn a profit.


Better and More Affordable Metal 3D Printing

3D printing using metals has been possible for more than a decade, though high initial costs and concerns about the quality of finished products have hampered widespread adoption. Still, equipment sales increased in 2013, and startups like MatterFab are working to build less expensive machines that would be accessible to a wider audience.  Meanwhile, both corporations and think tanks are working to advance the alloys and metal powders that the machines use to create metal parts.

Do you agree that 3D printing will change our minds about the future of manufacturing?  If so, how would it impact your business?

If you are thinking about replacing current equipment in your shop with new technologies like 3D printing, please contact us to find out how we can turn your existing machines into cash.