What is the key feature your fellow engineers are looking for in their additive manufacturing / 3D printing systems?
It’s no longer system purchase price.
At the recent RAPID 2014 show in Detroit, most of the users I spoke with named materials as the number one decision influencing feature they where evaluating 3DP / AM systems on. (Granted, this is not a scientific survey, but it was interesting to note how often materials rather that price came up in discussions.) Key concerns include–what materials the machines work with; what materials can they work with; and the mechanical properties of available materials.
As nearly as possible, engineers continue to look for materials they are familiar with. One of the drawbacks of this view, however, is some materials specific to AM processes are mechanically superior to familiar materials; metal AM materials are proving this point. Check with your vendor or a local service provider, but metal AM materials can deliver better mechanical properties.
This focus on materials is a sign of greater acceptance on the part of engineers. We’re moving from learning about the machines themselves, and going deeper into uses as well as materials.
As has been mentioned before, materials will be a major key as to just how accepted and how often 3DP / AM systems are used in any application.
And while materials are taking center stage, a couple of other system features are now rising to top of mind status. These include part finish, build time, build table size, and total cost to build (including material cost and finishing costs.)