According to a market research carried out by Reportlinker, 3D metal printing has proven itself on the additive manufacturing process and must still be developed in order to reach its full potential. Indeed, this technique of manufacturing is so unlike “other manufacturing processes that whole new qualification methodologies must be developed to enable certification in these critical applications.” For Richard Grylls, SLM Solutions NA, Inc., “the parts that are already in production have been the result of years of labor to prove that the manufacturing process is capable — this must change to ‘months of labor,’ and eventually ‘weeks of labor,’ for the full capability of metal AM to be realized.”

Furthermore, the manufacturing process can produce multiple parts consistently across machines, operators, and manufacturing facilities which require improved process monitoring and measurement tools.

Other researches are being carried out concerning dimensional and thermal metrology methods for real-time, closed-loop control of AM processes. In other terms, an increasing number of metal AM system vendors have introduced process monitoring options for their equipment.

Concrete examples

FIT AG has recently installed computer tomography (CT) to its in-house QA department. FIT is able to increase process stability for its manufacturing systems via non-contact and non-destructive measurement and analysis of inner structures.

Renishaw and Dassault Systèmes signed a commercial agreement regarding process control software. Both companies aim at offering end-to-end solutions for innovative manufacturing and support the managed integration of AM into the production workspace.

Renishaw’s AM400 metal 3D printer build chamber

If these developments reach their potential, we will realize an unprecedented impact of 3D printing in industries. In 2016, BCC Research estimated total sales of 3-D metal printers, metal feedstocks, related software and services at about $995 million, or approximately 27% of the global 3-D printing market. “At this rate, the market could be worth more than $4.7 billion by 2021.”

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