Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, April 22, 2024

Direct Digital Manufacturing Continues to Gain Steam 

<img style="float: left;" src="http://media2.hpcwire.com/dmr/02-plane.jpg" alt="" width="95" height="42" border="0" />Synonymous with the more commonly known term, additive manufacturing, direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is becoming an option for manufacturers that need to produce parts as quickly as possible.

Synonymous with the more commonly known term, additive manufacturing, direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is becoming an option for manufacturers that need to produce parts as quickly as possible.

Peter W. Singer, Brookings Defense Researcher, and Larry Schuette, U.S. Navy Office of Innovation Director, define DDM as “the fabrication of components in a seamless manner from computer design to actual part in hand,” employing “3D computer-aided design files to drive the computer-controlled fabrication of parts.”

In this type of manufacturing, an object is created from a digital model when layers of a material – usually plastic, metals, or composites – are applied on top of one another. DDM is becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing realm as a way to create models and prototypes. However, researchers are finding that the technology is capable of much more

The publisher of the additive manufacturing industry’s annual market report, Wohlers Associates, estimated profits from the field at over $2.2 billion last year, which was a 28.6 percent compound annual growth rate over 2011. What’s fascinating about those numbers is that they did not come from just the production of models and prototypes—more than 28 percent were attributed to the production of parts for final products. 

Rapid Processing Solutions Inc. (Rapid PSI) is one company that has taken advantage of the growing DDM field. Kelly Manufacturing Co. needed 500 housings for an aviation instrument and relied on Rapid PSI to fill the time-consuming and expensive order. Through DDM, Rapid PSI was able to complete the order in three days and produced the parts from a lightweight thermoplastic. 

“We liked the idea that there was no need for retooling, so it was easy to switch to the new material and process,” said Justin Kelly, Kelly Manufacturing President. Kelly also mentioned that costs were reduced by 5 percent per-piece as well.

Another time that this was seen was when The Wagner Companies, a manufacturer of products for metal fabricators, needed 100 copies of a plastic hinge. While it would normally have cost the company $10,000 for tooling, the hinges were eventually manufactured for one-tenth of that cost. MasterGraphics was able to print a prototype to show The Wagner Companies that a printed part was strong enough to use. Not only did it pass their test, The Wagner Companies bought all 100 of them. MasterGraphics was able to complete the order in a matter of days. 

“There is no cost for complexity. There is no cost for customizability,” Solid Concepts, an additive manufacturer, states in a white paper. “These benefits weigh into the previous needs of mass production: You don’t have to produce thousands of parts to make the cost of manufacturing reasonable.” 

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