With nearly 10,000 fabricated parts, Desktop Metal has collected data and use cases based on more than 1,000 customer benchmarks to get an inside look at how customers use metal parts made with its Studio System. Customers, including John Zink, Alpha Precision Group (APG) and Master Drilling, share their experiences with the Studio System technology and provide key applications – some expected and some literally game-changing. Each of these parts has shown drastic cost reduction – some by as much as 90% relative to machining and selective laser melting (SLM) – as well as speed in fabrication, producing parts in days instead of weeks or months.
Here are a few examples:
#1 Functional prototyping – 45%
Metal 3D printing allows engineers to test not just form and fit but also function. Functional prototyping calls for parts that adhere to specific thermal and chemical requirements. In addition, an overwhelming majority of customers say producing prototypes in the same materials needed for mass production is critical to compressing product development cycles. Metal 3D printing eliminates the backlog and lead times of other manufacturing technologies, such as CNC machining or casting.
An example product is the UHT Atomizer, manufactured by John Zink Hamworthy Combustion. The atomizer is typically installed in a combustion engine used on steam propulsion boilers on LNG tankers to atomize steam or air. Unlike many of the parts that the company designs and manufactures, this fuel nozzle can only be fabricated using additive manufacturing. Printed with the Studio System, the nozzle was radically redesigned to function in a more fuel-efficient manner than those produced through traditional metalworking means.
“The Studio System is a total mindset shift for our engineers,” said Jason Harjo, design manager at John Zink Hamworthy Combustion. “It’s opening up new ways to think about design, and seeing these incredible ideas come forward as our mental models shift around what’s physically possible is really rewarding to see. The system is dropping our prototyping costs and turn times down to a point where we can really let our engineers loose to experiment and find truly innovative solutions to our customers’ problems.”
#2 Manufacturing jigs, fixtures and tooling – 40%
3D printing manufacturing jigs, workholding fixtures, and tooling is the second highest use to date for this technology. With jigs and fixtures at 25% of the early Studio System applications, and tooling at 15%, metal 3D printing is starting to be broadly adopted in manufacturing environments.
Manufacturing tooling – such as injection molding inserts, extrusion dies, metal stamping tools – can be expensive, difficult, and time-consuming to machine due to the complex geometry, material properties and machinability. In-house metal 3D printing helps manufacturing engineers shorten tooling lead times, iterate tool designs faster, and quickly replace worn out tooling. And, rapid tooling allows parts suppliers to bid on shorter runs – allowing them to deliver value at the beginning of a product life cycle, as well as in the after-market. Studio System customers have shared that metal 3D printing now makes it possible to produce tooling faster, at a lower cost-per-part, and on-demand.
“With the Studio System, we’ve seen immediate value,” said Nate Higgins, Business Unit Manager for Alpha Precision Group (APG), a leading international provider of highly-engineered components, metal fabrication specializing in powder metal, metal injection molding (MIM), and valve assemblies. “One example is a fixture used for high density stainless steel sensor bosses, which pushes a thread checker into a part on the manufacturing line. It is a wear item, so it needs to stand up to repeated use. With the Studio System, we can produce this part ourselves at 83% cost savings as compared to traditional manufacturing, and in just days instead of weeks or months, meaning we’re never waiting for the part and can keep the line running at all times. The Studio System is enabling us to constantly ask ourselves how can we do this better, resulting in significant time and cost savings.”
#3 Low volume manufacturing for end-use parts – 15%
Traditional manufacturing methods—such as casting or CNC machining—are prohibitive for low volume production due to high costs of initial tooling, machining setups, and lead times. Users of the Studio System say the technology enables low volume production of custom parts, aftermarket and replacement parts, and pilot runs prior to mass production.
Master Drilling, a global leader in mining equipment drilling solutions, recognized the potential of 3D printing – starting with prototypes to aid design optimization. With the Studio System, Master Drilling is exploring metal 3D printing as an alternative to reductive manufacturing for producing replacement parts on demand.
“In our business, it is critical to eliminate equipment down time,” said Hein Maree, Technical Manager at Master Drilling. “For critical components such as the sun and planetary gears used in the transmission gearboxes of our mine boring machinery, it can take three months to get the gear from a foundry. With the Studio System, we are looking to cut that by over 80%. Being able to print, sinter, and heat treat in a matter of weeks is be a game changer for us.”
Desktop Metal, Inc.