Beginner or Expert - What are your impressions of Additive Manufacturing?
Updated: Jun 9
What are the different perspectives of a beginner and an expert in Additive Manufacturing Technology?
Additive Manufacturing from a Beginner's Perspective
We can all remember setting up the first L-PBF machine in our company. We quickly start thinking about what the first parts will look like, in addition to accepting the machine and making sure it is fully operational.
"3D printing" has to be an automated plug-and-play process, actually that is what was said when we bought the printer. After successfully aligning the components and selecting the tricky supports, we should be ready to finally start the first job and to go to the machine. We quickly align the build plate and recoater, and then we can finally get started.
The laser is running, the recoater is moving, the first layers in the powder bed show no stripes, so it will fit perfectly and the quality of the parts will be great!
After successfully finishing the build (an absolute exception after starting the first build on an L-PBF machine!), the machine can finally be prepared for the next job and the printed parts can be sent to post-processing department. Initially, of course, you handle the parts yourself, because as an engineer you want to understand whether the technology delivers what it promises.
The difficulty to remove supports from the part, a slight offset in the part, and dimensional accuracy are still the most obvious issues that arise when processing your first parts.
After the supports are removed and the offsets in the part are polished, the density, surface roughness and mechanical properties are quickly checked and the parts are finished.
Additive manufacturing is pretty simple, isn't it?
So how does it look from an expert's point of view, are they really doing anything different? They need to understand exactly what to expect in the process and at the end of the day it might just be that beginner's need time to understand the technology, right?
Additive Manufacturing from an Expert's point of view
No, unfortunately it's not like that, even the experts sometimes wonder how the parts come out of the machine despite a perfect powder bed and a well designed support concept. Of course, the situation is different in process preparation, where the focus is usually not on enabling a single job, but on the customer's overall order.
In process preparation department, as many components as possible are placed on the build plate, and the focus is on productivity. We try to discuss the possible effects on the process in advance in the team, and to eliminate them directly. However, it is not always possible to take all effects into account, and sometimes you are still surprised at how the parts come out of the machine.
However, the search for the cause of the defect is very detailed. The machine is divided into controls, process and handling, and a targeted search is carried out to find the cause of the defect in the component.
Quality control is based on proven technologies. For example, GOM scans provide a quick first impression of the part's dimensional accuracy. Ultimately, the focus is on productivity as we want to make additive technology competitive with conventional technologies and quickly identify an "AM Only Advantage"!
So don't be frustrated if the first few jobs aren't satisfactory. The important thing is not to lose trust in the technology!
It has great potential, which is why we love coming to work every day!