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Welsh Manufacturers Should be Leveraging the Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

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Gethin Roberts, Managing Director of product design specialist ITERATE, talks to Business News Wales about Additive Manufacturing and the benefits this offers to the manufacturing sector in Wales.

While the term ‘3D Printing’ has been sensationalised in recent years, the technology behind 3D Printing has been around for years. This comes under the umbrella of ‘Additive Manufacturing’; an area of manufacturing that offers exciting possibilities for future product development.

So, ‘what does Additive Manufacturing’ mean?  

Subtypes of Additive Manufacturing include 3D Printing, but also Rapid Prototyping and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).  In essence, Additive Manufacturing is a process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material. Below is a breakdown of a few areas in which such a process is utilised.

3D Printing – From encouraging innovation in industries such as construction and healthcare to people printing miniature versions of their pets; 3D Printing is well and truly on-trend. As the pioneering subtype of Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing is defined as ‘ the fabrication of objects through the deposition of a material using a print head, nozzle or other printer technology”.

Rapid Prototyping – Though the word 3D Printing has become synonymous with Additive Manufacturing, Rapid Prototyping also falls under the term.  Referring to the process of creating functional components and moulds, Rapid Prototyping is a collection of techniques used to fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD) data.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – Another common technique is SLS; one that sees small plastic, ceramic or glass particles fused together using heat. The heat comes from a laser; allowing the material to bond and form a three-dimensional object.

How can Welsh manufacturers benefit from Additive approaches?

The benefits to using Additive Manufacturing processes over traditional techniques are plentiful. Below we have listed just a few:

  • Less waste– Most manufacturers are striving to be ‘greener’. Through Additive Manufacturing techniques, this is very much possible. One of the many great things about the technique is that you only use the materials you need, meaning that if there is any waste, it would be minimal.
  • Minimal skills required– Such technologies are being experimented with in primary schools, meaning junior and training manufacturing professionals can explore the benefits of building products with little training.
  • Minimal lead time– One of the biggest issues in manufacturing is getting to market, with timing being everything. Through Additive methods, manufactures can decrease lead time. Once the part is printed, engineers can start the testing process, not having to wait months on end for a prototype or part to arrive.

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