As more people use additive manufacturing, they are discovering that working with metal in this technology comes with a few challenges. Safety issues, proper equipment and proper housing of metal additive systems are just a few of those challenges.
Service bureaus offer a number of advantages over doing it yourself. Here are five to consider:
- The complexity of working with metal materials
Companies and users have a longer history of working with polymers in additive systems than with metal. Plus, polymers don’t have the safety issues often required when working with metal powder.
Metal additive systems often involve understanding more process parameters to obtain a good result. Thus, service bureaus have several advantages for users—they’ve invested in acquiring deep knowledge about the metal additive process, they can offer supply chain efficiencies and they take on the high capital cost of buying these additive systems and maintaining them.
- Risk management
Metal 3D printing/additive manufacturing is the latest hot subject of the media, primarily because it is new compared to polymer 3D printing. Being relatively new, though, the risks are somewhat high. It can be better to engage with a service bureau here and let them manage the risk of buying these systems and making quality parts.
- ROI needs
Metal additive systems are not inexpensive, even the few desktop varieties. Eventually prices will drop, but until then, taking advantage of a service bureau saves time. In addition, metal can still be used for prototyping while a designer finalizes a design. Once the design is set, and it does not have any features that would prohibit it from being made by more traditional manufacturing methods, then your quantity needs will decide whether to continue with additive or shift to a more traditional manufacturing method.
- Part size and complexity
With additive manufacturing, the more experience a user has the better. Service bureaus usually have a great deal of experience, having seen, advised, and made many parts. Users will find that service bureaus understand different materials, process capabilities, and how complex features can change a design, which will help you achieve better results at lower cost.
- Industry expertise
Many service bureaus specialize in the needs of a particular industry, such as medical or aerospace. They can help you ensure your designs meet various industry standards and requirements, and offer appropriate manufacturing tracking.