March 08, 2021
It’s no exaggeration to say that additive manufacturing (AM) has revolutionized the way products are designed, manufactured and distributed.
Freed from the limitations associated with traditional production processes, AM has moved from prototype to production of final parts and continues to open exciting opportunities around localized production, digital inventories and on-demand manufacturing.
Yet, despite the technology’s many benefits, post-production remains an expensive and labor-intensive process that presents a major hurdle for companies looking to scale their AM operations. We caught up with Stefan Rink, CEO of AM-Flow, who talked about how advances in post-processing software and hardware mean that’s finally about to change, and how that, in turn, will enable the 3D printing to finally become a fully digital solution. , fully connected part of the factory of the future.
Can you start by giving our readers a quick overview of who AM-Flow is and what the company does?
We provide an end-to-end digital manufacturing solution that enables 3D printing producers to automate AM post-processing. Or, to put it another way, we enable companies to create a truly automated 3D printing workflow. 3D printing is a highly automated process, right up until the print leaves the machine. After that, everything else, from picking and sorting to packing, is done manually. It’s very inefficient, expensive, and leaves processes vulnerable to human error. Our solutions enable companies to meet these challenges and, we believe, will finally enable 3D printing to deliver on its promise of the past decade.
It seems logical. Yet many companies have been using 3D printing, whether to produce prototypes or end-use parts, for years. Why are they only thinking about post-production now?
Most AM production environments grew organically. Companies focused on printing technology, adding new printers and expanding their use of materials as needed, rather than focusing on the overall production process. We predict that the use of 3D printing will only increase, and as it does, labor costs will increase exponentially. This is simply not viable for companies looking to increase 3D printing production, and so they need to find a way to automate the process. We therefore expect companies to abandon their investments primarily in printing technology to invest in the overall workflow.
Read the full article in the March issue of DPA.