It is an exciting time to be alive as new technologies emerge.

Layering objects and Additive Manufacturing, in general, aren’t new technologies, but ‘rapid prototyping,’ as it used to be called, is a laughably inadequate term today.

Technological advances in Additive Manufacturing are accelerating rapidly. 

It will not take long for businesses to transition to Additive Manufacturing.

If they miss the moment an item becomes ripe for AM – that is when it suddenly makes more business sense to manufacture with Additive Manufacturing  – it’s costing them money.

Thousands of parts can be found in the inventories of companies.

The question is, how will they determine which of those items lend themselves to AM instead of conventional manufacturing?

Exactly how does an item become AM ready?

● When there is a reduced need for a certain part

● If advanced additive technologies have become more affordable (e.g. cheaper machines)

● loss of a supplier

Imagine ten years ago there was a small metal part being fabricated for a high-end automobile. An estimated 150,000 units were manufactured every year. The sales of this particular car gradually declined over the last five years until it was no longer produced. Demand for the metal part fell from tens of thousands per year to just a few hundred. Since the part was not regularly produced, the aftermarket per-unit cost increased significantly. 

Meanwhile, metal 3D printing technology throughput had dramatically increased: By switching from Desktop Metal to Single Binder Jet, for instance, you could achieve a 400% speed increase.

While it would still be expensive to produce with Additive Manufacturing, it’s a bargain compared with the cost of reviving an old production line.

Keeping up with the best practices in manufacturing in the 2020s means knowing when Additive Manufacturing becomes ‘a steal’.

Regardless, companies can still take advantage of the market by correcting courses at any time.

Additive Manufacturing technologies continue to improve in efficiency, and as a result, savings keep growing.

As a result of this, more and more parts can be produced with Additive Manufacturing.

Therefore, Additive Manufacturing suitability is determined by a combination of factors. Supply-chain economics, product demand, logistics costs, and technology development all play a role in determining the AM business case for each potential part.

If your company has a large inventory, there are multiple ways to stay informed whenever an item is ready for Additive Manufacturing:

One of the best ways to know when to switch to additive technologies is to have a strong in-house Additive Manufacturing team. It’s likely that they will be aware of changes in the machine and/or material costs that may affect each item’s ability to be manufactured with Additive Manufacturing. They can spot trends in demand and forecast likely shifts in demand for certain items in advance, and they can spot trends and changes in demand before they happen.  As orders come in and out, they will also be able to spot weaknesses in your supplier network.

 For spotting new Additive Manufacturing cases, inventory management, and repair engineers are also important sources of information. As their knowledge of Additive Manufacturing increases, you can expect a higher level of suitability for submitted parts.

Keeping up with the times

Adding value through Additive Manufacturing has never been so important as it is right now. As Additive Manufacturing machines become more affordable, business cases become more clear, industrial materials become more common, and processes become more standardized, we are seeing a convergence of factors.

Additive Manufacturing success requires a strong AM team and uninfluenced communication about business cases within your organization. Mixed with workflow software that simplifies categorization and qualification, you are assured to shift the right parts to Additive Manufacturing just when they are needed.