Challenges regarding additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing has brought a revolution in the way products are designed, manufactured, and distributed to end users. This technology is continuously being redefined and customized to a wide application spectrum such as automotive, aerospace, engineering, architecture, electronic, medicine, and other industries.

With rapid growth of additive manufacturing, companies are developing innovative business models to keep up with changing demands while maintaining quality and operational effectiveness. Digitization is forcing manufacturers to reinvent their supply chains to fully realize the benefits of advanced manufacturing.

Lack of knowledge, inexperience, scalability of parts, volume of production, reliability of material and other challenges are still not resolved. That is the main reason why 3DP technologies are not yet widely adopted by companies.

In this article the main barriers and challenges of additive manufacturing technologies perceived by companies will be described.

Challenges

There are 3 major challenges that SMEs perceive when thinking about adopting AM technology.

Three major challenges of SMEs adopting AM technology

Business challenges include:

  • Key Performance Index (KPIs): Determining whether the technology will be able to contribute to KPIs such as productivity.
  • Price: Any assessment must consider whether the volume and type of products being manufactured, justify the transition.
  • Value/benefits: Customization of products requires to precisely determine customer’s preferences.
  • Intellectual property: Copyright of the printed parts in respect of authorization of those who hold rights in that object, is a main challenge. There are already some answers to these aspect through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). 1

Technological challenges include:

  • Product size: The largest metals printing machine has a volume of construction of 800x400x500. This limits the size of products in manufacturing and productivity of systems.
  • Production volume: The user of AM technologies is also dealing with the challenge of small build volume and is one of the main disadvantages of the 3DP technology.
  • Production speed: Additive manufacturing also faces speed of production challenges, which limits mass-production potential.
  • Materials: The material selection of 3DP systems is quite limited and a large majority of those systems process only a single material at a time.
  • Product quality: There are some technical deficiencies within additive manufacturing that impact its ability to create reliable parts on a consistent basis possibly with zero defects. The same settings of printers can result differences in the production of the same products.

Internal processes:

  • Process changes: Companies need to change the way they design and manufacture their products and have to adopt their manufacture process.
  • Integration: Todays end to end additive manufacturing production processes are characterized by many separated process steps requiring skilled manual labour and complex planning processes.
  • Knowledge, experience: Additive manufacturing requires new knowledge, approaches, and designs. To successfully turn toward additive manufacturing a well-trained, capable and skilled workforce is required.

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Anna Krišková
University of Žilina
Business development consultant
Project proposals
Entrepreneurship
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1 https://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2017/01/article_0006.html
Published on the 02.03.2020