When will additive manufacturing make sense for the job shop?
Emerging technologies are printing large metal parts now
Additive manufacturing (AM) is still young. Proponents continue to improve the processes, expand workable materials, and develop new deposition techniques. All have, or will have, the ability to enhance and complement traditional manufacturing processes well beyond the generally accepted use for rapid prototyping. As the process matures and the costs come down, AM will take its place as a production option on job shop floors.
Current capabilities make AM a fit in some shops today. Necessities like custom tooling and fixtures can be 3-D printed. For example, AM-printed plastic press brake tooling can be strong enough to complete a short run of complex bends. Or custom fixtures can be produced to hold parts for intricate weldments.