Balancing the Speed and Technology of Additive Manufacturing with the Mature and Methodical Thermal Processing Industry
Additive manufacturing is a disruptive technology with the potential to lower cost, increase speed and create parts once thought to be too complex and intricate to manufacture by conventional methods. In addition, metal 3D printed parts are often lighter in weight and use fewer raw materials, making them more environmentally sustainable. For these reasons, companies of all sizes in a multitude of industries, as well as universities, R&D cooperatives, and governmental agencies, are investigating the possibilities for incorporating this advanced technology.
Manufacturers from aviation and aerospace, to automotive, to medical devices, can now begin 3D printing production metal parts using a variety of processes. However, metal printed parts typically require post-processing operations in a furnace to bring components to their final dimensions and properties.
This can be accomplished with a variety of furnace designs, so finding the right one is an important step. Multiple variables must be considered, including the print technology, the part design, size and material, and the volume of parts to be produced.
New 3D printing equipment companies looking to enter the metal additive industry may be unfamiliar with the science of heat treatment. Other manufacturing companies or commercial heat treaters may be experienced with heat treatment of metal parts but have no familiarity with 3D printing. This paper covers the relationship between the fast-moving industry that is 3D printing with the more mature and methodical industry of traditional thermal processing.