Visit a manufacturing industry trade show and you will see brightly colored parts on display on the 3D printing vendors’ stands. The vendors compete to create the most intricate parts, the more complex the better, and best of all if the parts couldn’t have been made before additive manufacturing existed.

I was recently at a trade show and was looking at a tiny metal part which could not have been made by any other means than additive manufacturing. The vendor’s representative pointed out to me the tiny holes he tells me go “all the way through.” I ask him what I thought was a reasonable question: “How do you know they go all the way through?” His reply: “Because the holes were in the CAD”— not a good answer for someone asking the question from an inspection perspective!

It is widely accepted that if 3D printed parts are going to compete with other technologies they must be able to compete on price, material properties and material integrity, but what is often overlooked is that the parts will need to meet the same dimensional integrity standards considered normal by manufacturers using other methods.

 

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