Advice on Rapid manufacturing (RM)
The excitement about Rapid Manufacturing relates to the radical impact it will have, especially on low volume production requirements. As the additive processes continue to make advances in this area, there is a growing acknowledgement that something revolutionary is afoot. This will not just be back to the drawing board, but back to school. A rewriting of the rule book as we know it, with the potential to realise previously unconsidered functionality. It will be an exciting time for anyone involved, but not one without hazards; a time when that crazy off the wall idea might just have become a possibility; a time to realise that competitive edge that has been missing for so long. We have to go there, we have to look, we have to evaluate and we have to find today's limits so that we can further develop.
For today there is no doubt that carefully selected components can, with the right quality controls, be produced in reasonable volumes using these processes. It is not a panacea and is positively dangerous to those without a detailed comprehension of the issues involved.
Interestingly, it is the process heritage that is one of the drawbacks. The association is frequently one of lack of commitment, low quality and an unstable design that leads manufacturers to remain silent about their achievements. In reality they are helping to break new ground and demonstrating a true desire to move their product forward.
The issues of surface finish, quality control and aesthetics can all be addressed. The economics for the optimised design can stand scrutiny but it takes commitment and a desire to look at the system engineering issues, not just 'like for like' part replacement.
The old adage, 'design for manufacture' is still just as valid, except today it could be a radically different form of manufacture with a very different set of rules and cost benefit analysis to support it.If you have a project that you believe to be suitable for Rapid Manufacture, please contact Plunkett Associates directly.