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Lowering the entry barrier to metal 3D printing

Everyone is excited about the possibilities afforded by 3D printing right now. The ability to produce complex and even customised components directly from a CAD file without any need for expensive tooling is really attractive. And yet whilst additive manufacturing is used extensively for prototyping and tooling development, very few companies are using it to make parts in series production.

But additive manufacturing (AM) has the potential to make innovative products with spectacular gains in performance and efficiency: offering not just production cost savings, but also benefits during the lifetime of use of the product. Industries such as aerospace, medical, automotive, oil & gas, mould & die and consumer products can all benefit from light weight components that are optimised or adapted for their application, freed from conventional production constraints.

So why aren't there more AM products out there? Well, when adopting any disruptive new manufacturing technology, firms go through a rigorous assessment process to understand the potential benefits, and to prove the reliability and capability of the production process. The investment in time, resources and equipment to achieve this can be significant.

At the TCT show in Birmingham, Renishaw announced a new global network of Solutions Centres which will lower this entry barrier by providing cost-effective access to machinery, facilities and AM expertise. Equipped with the latest AM machines and staffed with knowledgeable engineers, the Solutions Centres will provide a confidential development environment in which firms can explore the benefits that additive manufacturing can bring to their products, and quickly build their knowledge and confidence in AM as a production technology.

Each Solutions Centre will feature Incubator Cells – private development facilities containing an AM machine, design workstation and all the ancillary equipment needed to design, build and refine a new product design. As the product and process design matures, Renishaw will also provide Pre-Production capacity where the productivity and capability of the AM process can be established. We will provide support in the form of operators and applications engineers, as well as access to a range of machining, finishing, treatment and metrology processes.