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December 04, 2013


Paul Reeves

Surely the key point here is that the digital manufacturing – from a CAD model to forming (in what ever the actual process) from the idealized geometric CAD data to real world physical artifacts – taking into account the non idealized physical material properties – is what matters. Delca, EdgeCam and the rest have experience which will feed into 3D printed models that require high accuracy. As with injection modeling with part shrinkage and tool/wear and heating & surface finish of machined parts – for 3D printing/AM to be really effective, will require tools such as simulation, accurate ‘machining beds’, rotary tables etc. additively manufactured parts also suffer from shrink/cooling and other non idealized issues especially as manufacturing resolution becomes tighter and more accurate parts can be produced. Let’s not forget that the 3D printers themselves (say the print heads) will depend on the accuracy of technologies dismissively called ‘traditional’. And the laying down of composite fibres probably owes as much to ‘traditional’ 5 Axis CNC machining as anything else.

In addition it is best to consider AM as part of a range of Digital technologies for final product manufacture, rather than always counter posing it to ‘subtractive technologies in a faux revolutionary manner. Also AM requires huge R&D efforts in materials and biology to realise its potential in the medical and other fields– probably in the Labs of companies such as BASF as much as software from the smarty pants ‘3D printing’ companies.

Agile and trendy 3D print companies are cool and deserve respect for pushing boundaries but why do articles such as this over inflate new trends and technologies – in the end they may well damage the new industry they are trying to promote by over selling.

Lets celebrate digital manufacturing and machining in all its forms rather that pit one technique and technology against the other, each can learn and they are a continuum anyway.

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