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Additive Manufacturing: Trends in Acceptance, Needs and R&D

October 8, 2015 | Category: Materials and Processes

AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology, as a service to its members, participates in researching,compiling and disseminating market intelligence within the manufacturing technology sector. The next step in this endeavor is Tech Trends, an initial document created by AMT to better support awareness of current and trending manufacturing technologies.

Additive Manufacturing: Trends in Acceptance, Needs and R&D

By: Tim Shinbara
VP—Manufacturing Technology, AMT

AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology, as a service to its members, participates in researching, compiling and disseminating market intelligence within the manufacturing technology sector. The next step in this endeavor is Tech Trends, an initial document created by AMT to better support awareness of current and trending manufacturing technologies. It includes the latest trends in technology advancement for acceptance, industry needs and areas of manufacturing technology being investigated.

Additive manufacturing is discussed in the Tech Trends document in each of these three major categories: Industrial Acceptance; Industry Needs and Challenges; and Research and Development. Each of these sections represents a discrete increment of time. Industrial Acceptance is current state; Industry Needs and Challenges is short- to medium-term; and Research and Development represents medium- to long-term.

Current industrial acceptance has increased over the years through several means. Increased use of polymer-based machines, especially those using extrusion, has been amplified by the coalescing maker movement awareness campaign. This campaign continues to accelerate awareness of the design space made available to a new generation of makers and producers. From this design mindset, solutions for noncritical components are being developed with increased occurrence for metal-based technologies. Greater confidence through the use of noncritical components in production and final products has led to FDA-approved materials and processes such as Ti-6Al-4V and PAEK-family polymers using powder-bed fusion. China’s Food and Drug Administration has also recently approved such medical applications as well. With this increase in acceptance, there are needs and challenges still present to further broaden the use of additive.

Looking to the short- to medium-term opportunities, Tech Trends uncovered several needs and challenges in the industry. Available materials have become an area of interest. Commercially available materials are still primarily sourced from other sector supply chains and are not optimized for additive-based processes. Ceramics for both biocompatibility and high-heat applications are a challenge. Improved equipment process repeatability and certification are areas also identifed. Additive is still considered a process-sensitive capability with a very narrow processing window that varies between materials, processes and equipment. Without sufficient design allowable data, the design and stress communities are unsuited to exploit the potential advantages of additive manufacturing. Validation of design tools (fnite element, computational fluid dynamic analysis, etc.) is necessary to obtain the reliability and repeatability often required for use in production environments, which yields a high dependence on empirically based testing, qualification and certification. The need for standards was also identified, specifically for equipment availability and performance specification. Metrology is the next challenge. In-process metrology is challenged by most enclosed and environmental conditions. There is still a challenge to transition from development to production with additive-optimized design without an increased understanding of the process-structure-property relationship as built with additive materials and techniques.

Research and development has focused efforts in material development, process monitoring and control, design, multi-material, predictive modeling, surface finishes, and micro and nano-scale printing. Material companies are initiating programs to further develop materials for direct use within the additive community.

Ceramics and metals have gained accelerated interest in the basic research community and a few families are maturing through technology and manufacturing readiness levels (TRL/MRL). Research projects are also focused on in situ process monitoring ranging from direct thermal monitoring of melt pools to indirect monitoring of process controls. Research is being directed at better prediction tools in order to realize a more AM-optimized product. New mathematical theories are being applied to AM to better manage the multi-physics model that is inherent in almost all AM-based process-structure-property relationships. Hybrid material systems are being explored for increased functionality rather than just weight savings or increased mechanical properties. Predictive models are being studied in the areas of powder properties, thermal distortion and surface preparations. Other areas trending in research and development are micro additive using ultra-short laser pulses and nano-scale using aerodynamically focused nano-particle (AFN).

There is significant growth with the use of additive manufacturing. Industry is looking to make this technology more competitive and improve augmentation to standard production techniques. Research and development continues to broaden the horizon of additive for the future and success seems to be apparent where pathways to strong business cases reside.

For more information, visit AMTonline.org/techtrends.