It was one of the hottest new applications for the gases industry prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 and it will remain so once the pandemic has passed, so what is additive manufacturing?
As a technology, additive manufacturing (AM) has existed for more than 30 years – but, the explosion in its industrial application has intensified in the past five years. It’s also been in the news in recent days as one of many means suggested to help meet medical equipment production demand in response to the growing health crisis caused by Covid-19.
Siemens revealed this week for example that it is making its AM Network, along with its 3D printers, available to the global medical community to speed design and production of medical components.
So what is it?
AM is the process of creating a product or component layer by layer, instead of using traditional moulding or ‘subtractive’ methods. These means, like using a drill or a lathe, essentially carve material away (subtractive) to create a designed structure, while AM adds layer upon layer of material (additive) to create the same structure.
As a result, it’s often described as mirroring nature, like the creation of coral reefs or honeycombs for example – and it’s leading a transformation in manufacturing technology. AM is now employed increasingly for the development of spare parts, small series production and tooling, and has seen the greatest uptake in industries where its relatively higher production costs can be outweighed by the advantages it delivers, particularly in highly innovative, leading-edge industries such as aerospace, defence, medical and automotive.
As well as creating a new wave in manufacturing, it’s created a new wave of growth for the gases industry, with the technology and the processes many pre and post-production treatments requiring a suite of industrial and specialty gases.
Here in the below video, gasworld explains what AM is, how it works, and why it’s such a high growth market for the gases industry. Click to learn more.