Editorial


 

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3D Metal Printing Catalyzing the Next Industrial Revolution

By: Brad Kuvin

Friday, March 11, 2016
 

In his “History of the Aerospace Industry,” author Glenn Bugos says this: “Aerospace has inflamed the imaginations of youth around the world, inspired new schools of industrial design…consumed the major amount of research and development funds across many fields…and evoked new forms of production.”

What could be more fitting than for us to make the aircraft and aerospace industry the centerpiece of this inaugural issue of 3D Metal Printing? Welcome—we’re confident that you’ll find the information contained herein as timely and as interesting as we did in putting it together.

While still in their relatively infant stage, the technologies behind the 3D metal-printing processes are mature well beyond their years. Significant improvements to automation equipment—motors, drives, sensors, controls and the like— have helped to move metal printing from the lab to the manufacturing floor in record time and at an accelerating pace. This in addition to continued developments in the areas of powder and wire metallurgy, and enhancements made to laser and electron-beam processing equipment.

The pace of adoption has been staggering. But don’t take it just from me. Take a gander at The Wohlers Report, issued annually by industry guru Terry Wohlers—a regular columnist of this magazine—and you’ll learn all you need to about the rapidly maturing 3D metal-printing industry.

Clearly the aerospace industry has been the early adopter of 3D metal printing, There are very few if any examples of parts that must withstand more extreme conditions—stress, corrosion and heat—than those found in aircraft engines. At the same time, engine designers continue to push for increased performance while pursuing lightweighting opportunities.

Hence the newest queen of the ball, additive manufacturing. As you’ll learn in an article in this issue on designing for metal printing, the geometrical freedom the 3D metal-printing process provides is something designers have never seen before. Designers are using their newfound geometric freedom to contrive “out-of-the-box” part designs that yield notable performance improvements while at the same time saving expensive material.

This drive to improve aircraft-engine performance is nothing new; Pratt & Whitney and other jet-engine manufacturers long have led the industry in R&D efforts. In fact, Bugos refers to engine development as “disruptive new technology.” That’s a fortuitous choice of words, since “disruptive” is a common descriptor of additive manufacturing, and specifically 3D metal printing.

The point: Just as new engines propel aircraft to greater speeds and altitudes, and then require aircraft companies to keep pace by developing new structures, so must engineers come to understand the new industrial revolution catalyzed by 3D metal printing.

Want to keep up? Read 3D Metal Printing. Enjoy.

 

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Reader Comments

Posted by: thhale on 8/26/2016 6:38:12 AM
A very nice article. It seems that 3d printing will bring a great revolution in aerospace industries. 3d printing is also used in power generation and marine industries for both, prototype and production requirement too. I heard somewhere that companies like Exone, http://www.atlanticprecision.com/ provide similar services.

 

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