Additive Manufacturing’s Role in Appliance Design
A look at the trends in additive manufacturing.
Our appliances work together to lend us a helping hand with our day to day tasks, but have you ever thought about what forces collaborated to create those appliances? Additive manufacturing and additive enabled technologies have been continually flourishing with trends and advancements in both technologies for years. Today, through trends and industry growth, they accompany each other on the venture that is appliance design and manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing originally began with stereolithography (SLA) in the 1980s. This innovative advancement of manufacturing enabled the production of parts from CAD files. Parts created were used for concept models, design validation, design guidance and preproduction samples. Shortly to follow came selective laser sintering (SLS) and fuse deposition modeling (FDM), while additional processes assisted with design limitations and costs that manufacturing originally faced, there were still constraints. As for applications such as appliances, surface finish, material properties and accuracy were still impediments that needed to be resolved in early additive manufacturing.
In an attempt to support the unity of additive manufacturing and additive enabled technologies, finishing technologies were used as tools to work around issues and produce parts. Secondary tooling and finishing operations allowed additive enabled technologies to assist in the improvement of low volume production. Room temperature vulcanization (RTV) tools and aluminum injection tools made their mark in the world of additive manufacturing. RTV molds allowed for tools to produce castings which reduced costs as opposed to producing them via an additive manufacturing process such as SLA. The casting process was also effective to getting quick turnaround time. In addition, aluminum tools were then being used over traditional steel tools. While steel tools can produce more runs of a part, aluminum was now more cost effective in prototyping. However, these technologies still needed to work around issues to effectively pair with additive manufacturing processes to become what it is today. Additive enabled technologies still needed to reduce cost to grow as a realistic technique and while most materials could be mimicked, the material properties produced were only a simulation.
Additive manufacturing continued to develop with improved materials and faster speeds. This decreased some of the need for excessive use of secondary tooling and enabled faster response to design changes. Today secondary tooling is used to improve the product that is being developed. As material properties were previously lacking, experts responded by creating the advanced materials we work with today. It is not uncommon for materials to range from dense rigids to flexible elastomeric materials. We now have the ability to work with materials that have high temperature resistance as well. These high-performance materials moved technology forward by being able to give better performance evaluation information which again expanded some of the applications materials can be used in.
An injection molded laundry detergent holder for industrial washing machines in shown here.
As well as advanced materials, additive manufacturing processes have also become more elaborate and effective. Companies with new, innovative apparatuses such as Carbon, Formlabs, Roboze and Makerbot became game changers in the world of 3D printing. They facilitated a method to produce end use, production quality parts out of the newfound materials with advanced properties. Additive manufacturing has now become an essential tool in conjunction with additive enabled technologies to create parts.
Additive enabled technologies advanced as awareness of low volume production began to rise. As materials were once a setback, new advanced materials now facilitated capabilities to produce better parts in shorter amounts of time. Silicon molding technologies became more widespread and additive manufactured tools were now being used for direct tool production. This allowed for an even greater price reduction. Technologies such as the introduction of high speed machining expedited the response for getting parts out of production materials and for the tools produced to decrease in price. As applications grew, it became a viable option for additive manufacturing and additive enabled technologies to work together.
The fundamental goal has always been to create an end use part—for appliances and every industry. The development of additive manufacturing and additive enabled technologies progressed separately but resulted in a simultaneous, cohesive cooperation. The challenges throughout the course of the years illuminated the opportunities to further push the boundaries of these technologies. Today we ask ourselves: where do these current trends in additive manufacturing fail? We ask this question to persevere in the endeavors to advance additive manufacturing to produce the future of applications in appliance design. Additive manufacturing is definitely a part of the future and the prospect of the future is always exciting...