The 7 Categories of Additive Manufacturing
Before we go into more detail, what exactly is additive manufacturing? Additive manufacturing is the industrial name for 3D printing, a process controlled by a computer that creates 3D objects by depositing materials, layer by layer. As its name suggests, it is adding material to create an object.
The benefits of AM are extensive. It allows businesses to reduce waste, produce parts faster and help lower costs. By creating an object in a layer system, there is very little waste produced and the process runs based on a digital design from a CAD model.
1. VAT Photopolymerisation
Recognised as the most visually appealing AM method, it uses photopolymerisation to produce a 3D object. This is the process of exposing liquid polymers to Ultraviolet (UV) light in order to turn liquid into solids. Then, a 3D printer uses digital light processing technology, to project the image into a vat of liquid polymers one layer at a time. Draining the photopolymer resin and exposing it to UV light is repeated until the object is complete, with the vat drained revealing the 3D object.
2. Powder Bed Fusion
The powder bed fusion method uses either a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse material powder together. The process works by first applying a thin .1mm layer of material onto a build platform then using a laser, the powder is fused into place. This method of AM is relatively slow as it works in .1mm layers and can sometimes use more energy than other methods.
3. Material Jetting
This method is similar to that of a 2D inkjet printer. In this process, liquid materials such as wax, photopolymers and polymers are dropped down onto a work surface. Then a UV light cures the final object. This type of AM allows for full-colour and multicolor prints.
4. Binder Jetting
One of the more popular methods of AM as it is extremely cost effective and can readily optimise new technologies. This process requires two materials; a powder base material and a binder, which is usually in liquid form. A print head moves horizontally along the x and y axis, depositing alternating layers of the build material and the bind material.
5. Material Extrusion
Known as the most affordable method of additive manufacturing, this method can commonly be found in homes or office settings. The printer would run you up a few hundred pounds and is easily accessible being sold on sites like Amazon. In this process, material is deposited through a nozzle, where it is heated and built layer by layer. The nozzle can only move horizontally and the build platform moves up and down after each new layer.
6. Sheet Lamination
Sheet lamination is a process that can refer to ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) and laminated object manufacturing (LOM). Both processes are similar in that they use sheets or ribbons of metal which are bound together using ultrasonic welding.
7. Directed Energy Deposition
This process can also be referred to as laser-engineered net shaping or 3D laser cladding. However, the process is different to the rest as it is most commonly used to repair or add material to existing objects. The printing process uses material extrusion, however the nozzle can move freely along four or five axes
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.