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3 Metal Additive Manufacturing Applications: What Can You Use it For?

Many big industries are now using metal additive manufacturing technology to achieve cheaper, more lightweight products. And they’re succeeding in an expanding variety of applications.

This article covers the most common applications of additive manufacturing, along with the industries most benefiting from its success:

Additive Manufacturing Applications

The number of metal additive manufacturing uses continues to increase as the technology and materials continue to break new ground.

Some popular and cost-effective applications for metal additive manufacturing include:

  • Creating complex components
  • Prototyping
  • Mass production

Creating Complex Components

Metal additive manufacturing (AM) has the unique ability to produce extremely complex components that maintain their strength and usability.

With other manufacturing technologies, a complex design can result in:

  • A long wait time
  • High production cost
  • The need for expensive custom tooling creation

However, metal AM eliminates these issues and instead creates a complex part at no extra cost. Since component production happens in layers, it’s actually easier to create complex components that require less material (for example, a hollow component with several moving parts). This means less material is necessary to produce the shape, resulting in less waste as well.

Prototyping

Additive manufacturing is one of the fastest and cheapest paths to metal part prototyping. It’s what’s made metal AM popular ever since it first came into conception.

The ability to rapidly produce prototypes gives more time to consider and execute design changes based on the outcome of the previous attempt. Compared with other manufacturing processes, it doesn’t cost much to produce these functional prototypes.

Once you’re satisfied with how your component turns out, you can quickly pivot to mass production.

Mass Production

When 3D metal printing first became available, it was nowhere near ready to handle mass production. Fast-forward to today, and metal additive manufacturing is one of the cheapest ways to mass-produce certain products

Additive manufacturing is now a factor in many everyday items, such as sneakers, mascara brushes, and even cases for smartphones.

Industries Serviced by Metal Additive Manufacturing

The list of industrial applications of additive manufacturing only continues to grow across the globe.

Some of the biggest industries that metal additive manufacturing services include:

  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • Construction

Automotive

The automotive industry is the leader in metal additive manufacturing use. Metal 3D printing in the automotive industry boasts a market size that’s more than doubled since 2017.

Additive manufacturing applications in the automotive industry include:

With additive manufacturing’s ability to simplify the supply chain, along with producing strong parts with reduced weight, the automotive industry has increased its profit margin.

Aerospace

Additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry is driving innovation and is constantly evolving to replace existing processes. Not only does AM allow aircraft makers to have more design freedom, but it also reduces component weight and costs.

Additive-manufactured parts can be found in the aerospace industry far and wide, from the doors of an airplane to the seats, and even the table tray mechanisms.

Construction

Additive manufacturing in the construction industry has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. This is the result of how complex certain construction devices need to be to function properly.

With traditional manufacturing processes, this can get expensive when buying in bulk, especially with the amount of waste produced through CNC machining.

But the ability to produce complex shapes isn’t the only reason metal additive manufacturing has become a construction industry staple. In fact, the construction industry most benefits from AM in these three areas:

  • Automation of production
  • Design freedom
  • Potential for optimization

Closing Thoughts

Metal additive manufacturing is quickly becoming a go-to technology for several industries, especially as its list of capabilities continues to grow.

When you factor in the seemingly endless list of materials -- metal or otherwise -- available in additive manufacturing, the design flexibility is immense.

To learn more about additive manufacturing, or AM considerations specific to designing with metal, ask a question here.