At the recent Ceramics Expo in Cleveland, one of the popular topics focused on the use of ceramics as a build material in additive manufacturing. Ceramic materials suit a range of industries from aerospace to medical.
But even in the ceramics industry, vendors are frustrated by the difficulty of gaining more users of additive technology. Noted Dr. Johannes Homa of Lithoz GmbH, a manufacturer of ceramic additive manufacturing machines, potential users of additive list several reasons for not adopting this technology. These rather persistent reasons are:
–It’s difficult to imagine future applications
–Users want to use the same materials they use with subtractive and injection molding technology.
–They want to use the same design practices.
–They don’t want additive to change how they design.
–They want to continue to use established pathways of product design and development.
–They want to use additive to mass-produce established products.
In other words, they want this technology to behave just like subtractive and injection molding technology.
What is the point of that?
Isn’t the point of additive the ability to do what could not be done before? (Examples, cooling channels within a product, lighter weight objects, combined assemblies, and so on.)
Isn’t the point of additive the ability to do these complex designs at a lower cost than could be done with subtractive and injection molding?
Clearly, change is difficult.
As Homa noted, humans are good at copying, not so good at creating. That’s a sad comment.
The dominant thinking in the additive industry is that lack of adoption is more an issue of education. The above reasons indicate it might be something else—resistance to change.
The vendors at the Ceramics Expo still see a lot of potential with additive manufacturing. But the question is, do we wait for the next generation of engineers for greater adoption? Or is there something else that can be done to persuade potential users to explore thinking differently?