Digital manufacturing is rapidly changing the fundamentals of how products are developed, scaled and manufactured. By digitizing traditional manufacturing methods, including injection molding and CNC machining, and leveraging newer technologies, like 3-D printing, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), companies are optimizing their supply chains, reducing development cycles, increasing efficiencies, and driving down costs. The Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to gain traction and is completely changing the economics of manufacturing, for those willing to embrace the change that is.
Digital manufacturing is enabled by multiple manufacturing methods, but one area that has really grown has been industrial 3-D printing. Over the past decade, additive manufacturing technologies have really grown from hobbyist applications to industrial-grade equipment capable of producing engineering-grade, end-use components.
Additive manufacturing not only enables the creation of new products but is also influencing design. For example, if an engineer had complete design freedom for a plastic injention mould, how might he or she design it to accomplish the cooling step and reduce overall costs for the manufactured product? Redesigning the interior channels to cool the plastic more effectively might enable them to make a smaller mould and reduce process and material costs. They might also look to 3-D printing to consolidate and reduce the number of components and individual processes involved in their creation. Therefore, the real benefit of additive is really in the design freedom and assembly reduction, which unlocks tremendous opportunities in designing what previously was just un-manufacturable.