OEMs Enter a New Industrial Era
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in a number of industries have begun to move toward small series parts production using 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM). Led by the automotive industry, OEMs are starting to rethink their production methods because, for limited batches of smaller parts, 3D printing can be a much more efficient proposition.
“We are seeing cutting-edge companies like BMW with the Mini and Daimler Trucks starting to consider 3D printing for small series production,” says Dominique Giannotta, Sinterline® Program Leader. “Many OEMs are looking into what parts they could produce with 3D technology.”
There are three main criteria that OEMs must consider when they contemplate 3D printing of production parts.
- Size – the smaller the part, the more cost-effective it will be to print
- Complexity – the more complex the part, the more likely 3D printing will be a better option compared to traditional technologies like injection
- Quantity – 3D printing is ideal for smaller batches of customized or special series parts
However, to fully harness the advantages of 3D printing requires an overhaul of design processes, as well. Rather than merely applying an injection mold design to 3D printing, the part should be designed organically for this particular manufacturing process. This is where 3D printing opens up a new dimension of freedom of shape and complexity, beyond the limits of traditional manufacturing. Where a traditional design may require several different parts, for instance, these could be grouped into one 3D printed part.
This is a new industrial era that requires a mindset change for optimized design. This means completely reviewing the design processes with 3D printing capabilities in mind. OEMs have to identify what parts it makes sense to print, what ones to redesign, and what ones to integrate functionally, where three or four functions can be combined into one printed part.
“You have to think about design from a 3D perspective from the beginning,” says Giannotta. “At the same time, you need a robust production machine with wider range of high-performance polymers available, like PA6 from Sinterline®.”
Thanks to Sinterline®’s superior mechanical performance for SLS 3D printing, the team is pushing into other industries beyond automotive. “It’s opening up new ways of doing things for OEMs and is complementary to traditional manufacturing,” adds Giannotta.
More OEMs than ever are rethinking production processes and seizing the opportunities that 3D industrial printing opens up for them.
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