Designers head to RAPID for laser additive manufacturing knowledge

What started out as an interview with Kevin Ayers, industry manager of additive manufacturing and 3D printing of the SME, on the subject of presentations to be made at the upcoming RAPID Conference (May 18-21, 2015, in Long Beach, CA), morphed into a discussion on how to reach and educate designers to the wonders of additive manufacturing and specifically to learn of the benefits of laser additive manufacturing (LAM).

My interest in RAPID and LAM concerned the current status of the latter in the production of large structural components. It seems to me that the LAM process is making inroads in serial production of low-production-volume large components. We are all aware of its use in microprocessing applications, particularly in medical device manufacturing. And there have been some presentations on large parts, notably on the part of the Chinese on large-door-frame production for the aircraft being manufactured in that country. Kevin suggested that large-component AM manufacture is growing faster than I had thought, and he cited several papers at RAPID that will confirm this. "My concerns about cycle time for production needs and post-LAM processing as a cost consideration are being addressed," he stated.

My comments on the difficulty of educating designers to LAM advantages are also being addressed by the SME. Kevin led me to 2014 show attendance numbers, where a third of the attendees were from design and product engineering—many more than I expected—and an acknowledgement that management are looking at AM and LAM as a viable process that their designers need to be exposed to by attending educational events such as RAPID.

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