Increasingly, additive manufacturing technologies are being used to make finished, series production parts. With “rapid manufacturing” (RM), it becomes feasible to decentralize manufacturing operations and produce parts more quickly, less expensively, and with far more flexibility. Even the manufacture of custom parts becomes a practical option. With this approach, it is possible to manufacture parts—from CAD data to finished production parts—in two days.
F1 air duct produced on a laser
sintering machine from 3D Systems
Without the constraints imposed by tooling, designers are given the freedom to create new designs that before were impossible or impractical to manufacture. This method of manufacturing presents a dramatically different way of thinking and the future implications are staggering. True just-in-time manufacturing becomes a reality because companies can produce parts, as they are needed, rather than in large batches as they are done today.