Additive manufacturing can at first appear intimidating or unwieldy, with a reputation for being a slow, expensive process capable of only near-net-shape accuracies. However, innovations in metal 3D printing are yielding parts much more in line with desired use cases for slow-to-adopt industries such as mold and die, where precision is critical.
One of the largest drivers of cost and lead time for AM parts has been the need for extensive post processing to achieve desired tolerance. New patents issued in 2018 offer a glimpse into the future of AM, where stress relief takes place in-process to greatly improve overall part tolerance and reduce secondary operations. These innovations are especially pertinent in conjunction with hybrid technologies, where printing, stress relief, and finish machining can take place in a fully automated fashion.
Case studies are reviewed showing unprecedented 15µm tolerances across a mid-sized mold tool with conformal cooling, as well as the broader impact on the value chain for organizations engaging in additive manufacturing. Beyond the immediate impact on present 3D printing applications, new stress relief technologies have significant implications for future development of laser additive processes and development of new materials previously limited by cracking and distortion during the build process. From start to finish, audiences will learn about current problems and limitations in AM, new patents issued that are likely to overcome these problems, the expected impact on part quality, cost, and workflow, implications for the value chain of present AM-based businesses, and longer-term implications for new material development.