Takeaways From Our Discussion at Atlantic Design and Manufacturing: 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal

I had the pleasure of participating in the 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal session and its panel discussion at the Atlantic Design and Manufacturing show this past Wednesday at the Javits Center in New York City. The discussion covered a wide range of metal 3D Printing topics, with a few specific discussions regarding design considerations, overall cost, and post-process requirements. For those of you who couldn't make it to the discussion, we will share a few of those thoughts here.

Cullen Speaking at 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal

Design for Metal 3D Printing

Additive design became a topic of increasing interest as 3D Printing broke away from strictly prototyping uses and into a manufacturing technology for functional applications such as tooling, spare parts, and production parts. I think a primary takeaway from that panel was the consensus that designs should begin with a particular machine and material combination in mind — as well as the broad concepts of additive to achieve an optimized part.

Practically speaking, every process undergoes its additive step and post-processing requirements in slightly different ways. Hence, understanding and incorporating those key considerations is particularly relevant to developing a good product. This can be challenging and may often require an expert's support. The session highlighted some exciting advances in topological optimization and generative design software, which can help you take full advantage of a 3D printers' capabilities. With that being said, there was also consensus that, currently, no software could deliver ready-made parts that were suitable to go straight to the printer. A degree of expert interaction with the designs was warranted.

Metal Additive and Costs

Obviously, metal 3D Printing is generally expensive and justifiably so. The leading technology in the metal additive space, powder bed fusion (PBF), is quite costly due to the requirement for highly refined powder and expensive underlying lasers with extraordinarily high optical requirements. However, an advancement of competing technologies in recent years has brought competition to PBF.

Metal binder jetting and extrusion technologies leverage less refined powders to deliver more cost-effective parts for certain geometries. These powders utilize sintering furnaces that, on the whole, lower costs compared to high-power lasers. A final group of additive processes scraps both furnaces and lasers altogether: sheet lamination, cold spray, and metal stirring. These technologies, though not as developed, potentially open the door to cost savings as well. There are also different hybrid solutions that can take rougher outputs from an additive process and achieve a degree of post-processing on the fly.

Cullen Speaking at 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal

Post-Processing Requirements

3D Printing is famously known for requiring a significant amount of post-processing, tied in part to laser powder bed fusion; but it's not unreasonable to say that post-processing requirements are prevalent across the metal 3D Printing industry. The big takeaway from this portion of the discussion was that designing for your particular process can be extraordinarily valuable in eliminating post-processing costs. If your design does not account for a particular additive process, then it will likely require the removal of support structures. Similarly, things like trapped powder can wreak havoc on a finishing station; avoidable with appropriate "design for manufacturing" thinking ahead of time.

So if you couldn't make it to the show or join us at the panel discussion, I hope it was helpful hearing some of the key inputs to how 3D Printing is going heavy metal. If you have other questions, don't hesitate to reach out, look around our site here, or leave comments in the section below.

-Cullen Hilkene, CEO

3Diligent at Javits Center Speaking Session: 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal

 

Today at 2:00 P.M. Eastern, our CEO Cullen Hilkene will be speaking at the Javits Center‘s 3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal panel. Among the topics included in the overall 3D Printing session will be how it is:

Highlighting this pervasive topic in medical manufacturing and beyond so you can walk away prepared for the changes ahead. You’ll find it all, including design software, hardware, services, post-printing manufacturing solutions, and more.

Our panel discussion, entitled “3D Printing Goes Heavy Metal” will explore:

Which materials hold the most promise while considering case studies from industries that are leading the adoption of metal printing.

Swing by if you are in New York, we hope you’ll come join the conversation and sync with us!

 

3Diligent at the World Economic Forum; The Challenges and Solutions for the Future of Additive

I had the distinct privilege of being invited to and attending a recent session at the World Economic Forum — Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. It was a remarkable experience for a handful of reasons; and I thought that I would take this opportunity to share a bit about the experience with our blog readers.

The World Economic Forum and 3Diligent

So for starters, I figure it best to establish what the World Economic Forum is, what it does, and what its goals are. Frankly, my understanding of the World Economic Forum prior to this event was largely that of a trade organization — it pulls together leaders from across the world of business. For that reason, I know that there seem to be annual protests at their event in Davos, Switzerland because the folks participating are in decision-maker positions. Upon arrival, I realized that the World Economic Forum is focused on advancing the standing of humankind. Obviously, they view trade as a key means of doing that. However, important to the purpose is understanding the way that new technologies are impacting the world, the disruption that it may potentially have on humanity, and articulating potential solutions so that governmental organizations — who are typically slower to act than businesses — can effectively govern and minimize adverse impacts.

Therefore, it was with this context that I was invited to the 3D Printing and Trade Logistics working session at the world economic forum's center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco earlier this week. We at 3Diligent were honored to be invited as a company that possesses significant visibility into the market and a very active day-to-day role in engaging with those companies and the manufacturing organizations that are making use of the technology.

3Diligent World Economic Forum Badge

What Will 3D Printing Headlines Look Like in 20-50 Years?

The first thing that we did at the World Economic Forum, after a few introductory remarks, was to think about headlines from 20-50 years in the future that might be related to 3D Printing. The ideas that the group landed on were really interesting…

Changing of the Guard

One set of thinkers anticipated a complete "changing of the guard" in terms of leadership in the aerospace industry — tied to upstart organizations who had advanced 3D Printing to a point where there planes were almost entirely 3D printed to provide unmatched fuel savings and price competitiveness in the transport market.

Bio 3D Printing to Prevent Remote, Fatal Accidents 

Another group of thinkers anticipated a hypothetical calamitous event in a National Park where an individual had lost an appendage. New arms, ears, or eyes could be printed on demand and airlifted to the site of the carnage so that they can make a rapid recovery — instead of what would have normally been almost certain death.

Bio 3D Printing for Survival in Extreme Environments

Yet another group of thinkers anticipated a colony of autonomous humanoid beings, derived from advanced Bio 3D Printing technologies, capable of living in the depths of the Marianas Trench — tens of thousands of feet underwater — due to adaptations that 3D printers were capable of providing to them.

In brief, some pretty crazy stuff — but "crazy" only in so far that this group of industry leaders felt that the stories were entirely plausible within the next 30 Years.

A Challenge Resulting from Future Developments

Next, we began considering some of the key challenges that such future developments would have on human society, as well as actions that could be taken to address those challenges. Our group listed out a healthy set of challenges, broadly tied to themes including the workforce, security, business models, ethical/moral, cross-border flows, and standardization.

Workforce Displacement from Robots and AI

By far the consensus concern was something that we hear regularly in this day and age, and it is the disruption to the workforce that the rise of robots and AI may bring about. The group, on the whole, was not extraordinary concerned about this displacement in the near-term. As the number of studies have called out, the rise of digital manufacturing is actually creating many more jobs than it is eliminating; and this is especially true for developed economies.

In places like the United States, Europe, and Japan, the possibility of eliminating a chunk of the "labor cost input" to a digitally manufactured part means that new levels of competitiveness are possible. These more expensive countries still suffer from the need to cover the cost of more expensive real estate on for their plants to sit on. However, the ability of 3D printers — especially to occupy very small spaces while still achieving near peak efficiency — is what mitigates this issue on some level.

Therefore, there is a higher likelihood that the market penetration of these machines has the effect of localizing or at least regionalizing manufacturing and restoring a lot of jobs. This obviously has the counterpoint of potentially preventing less-developed nations from coming up the curve that other countries have through serving as a source of low-cost manufacturing labor.

Consensus

I got the feeling in the room that the net good would outweigh the net harm, at least over the next couple decades. With that in mind, the consensus opinion was that governmental organizations and private organizations — as well as public-private partnerships — could do a lot in the very near future by investing in training and retraining programs to empower a new generation of digital manufacturing experts. The remarkable opportunities that digital manufacturing is opening up will only be realized if we have an educated workforce — capable of understanding and taking full advantage of these technologies.

In Summary

We dug in on each of the other major thematic areas, but I think that's enough for one blog. Perhaps we'll post them at a future date but for now, I'm interested to hear if anyone reading this article has their own perspective on the biggest challenges that the rise of digital manufacturing — and especially 3D printing — will bring about in the decades to come. If so, then what they view as the best solutions to addressing these future challenges.

3D Printing’s Emerging Impact on Architecture and Construction

A lot has been made of 3D Printing in architecture recently, as we discussed in our previous vlog entry. At 3Diligent, we were proud to play a part in the construction of Seattle's newest and second tallest tower, where 3D printed aluminum curtain wall nodes will help shape the face of this skyline-defining building. Shortly thereafter, headlines appeared about Icon Development's purchase of a 3D printer for buildings which will help them construct low-cost housing in Austin and around the world.

Farther afield, in the Netherlands and in China, bridges have been constructed using 3D printers to create unique and aesthetically intriguing additions to their pedestrian thoroughfares. In Dubai, the first 3D printed office building is up and operational. And in the Philippines, the first 3D printed hotel has been commissioned.

So what does it all mean? Is the future of construction 3D printed? Are elements of construction untouchable by 3D printers, no matter how long we wait? We will unpack some of these questions in the paragraphs that follow.

Dramatic Geometries Made Easier

One thing that has defined the architectural industry, for effectively its entire existence, is the desire to create statements with buildings. 3D Printing offers a new and remarkably adept tool at achieving this end. With regards to the Rainier Tower project and the related curtain walls developed by Walters and Wolf, to achieve the unique aesthetic they desired, 3D Printing was the preferred technology of choice. With metal powder bed 3D Printing (MPBF), Walters and Wolf felt as though the consistency of the printed parts and the strategic flexibility it offered was superior to investment casting.  While casting has been around for a lot longer, it couldn't deliver in quite the same way across 140 unique geometries the way that our powder bed fusion printers could.

If you roll it all up, the highly complex nodes and the different geometries that additive manufacturing was able to directly facilitate in a relatively cost-effective fashion made it a great choice for the task at hand. This will come to reflect a broader trend in architecture. While the existing mass production infrastructure for large-scale steel beams and girders should continue to provide the structural basis for our tall buildings for some time to come, aesthetic elements that provide uniqueness and intrigue to architectural statement pieces are truly made feasible by 3D Printing in a way that previously wasn't either possible or plausible, given the economics and limitations of other traditional manufacturing processes.

Organic Geometries Will Appear with Greater Frequency

Another phenomenon that we regularly see a 3Diligent is that 3D Printing has helped enable organic geometries that are otherwise extraordinarily challenging to fabricate with traditional technologies. Notable among these are gradually-arcing designs that draw inspiration from the curved shapes that we see all over nature. 3D Printing opens the door to more of these geometry types, empowering more buildings with gradually sloping organic shapes as you might see in a Calatrava design or a Guggenheim Museum. You'll note that virtually every 3D printed building takes advantage of this feature, as it effectively adds no incremental cost to the building's construction itself.  Your ability to hang paintings, however, might hit a snag.  To reference a classic hammer seeking a nail story, perhaps this is the dream nail that the curved TV screen hammer has been looking for all these years!

CAD Software's Unique Creations Can Be Easily Visualized and Transmitted to 3D Printing Processes

The last area that we see 3D Printing being used in architecture - and this is the longest tenured use case - is in modeling applications.  In recent years, architects have increasingly moved toward designing in CAD software.  This provides them much greater flexibility than a drawing board to make design edits.  Further, it provides customers 3-dimensional renderings of the spaces they have dreamed up.

These CAD design files are readily transferable to 3D Printers.  So when architects wish to not simply take clients on a virtual journey, but to provide them a tangible model, 3D Printing provides architects a ready means to do exactly that.  Such prints can be produced in full color to fully realize the space.  In doing so, certain experiential aspects can be accounted for in a way that may not be truly possible with digital rendering - or without having a computer and screen handy.

3Diligent's Take: 3D Printing in Architecture and Construction

The ability to create unique, dramatic architectural elements more easily and cost effectively, to build new organic buildings from the ground up, and to realize full-color and to-scale models demonstrates three key ways in which 3D Printing is affecting architecture and construction today.  As more headlines like Rainier Square and the ICON houses capture the attention of the masses, we expect to see further exploration of what is achievable with 3D Printing, and additive manufacturing will soon become a key input to any architectural endeavor, especially those developments where the developers and architects want to make a statement.

Vlog Series: 3Diligent Hot Takes on 3D Printing in Architecture and Construction

 

With this vlog installment we will examine 3D Printing in the architecture and construction industries. We ourselves saw the viability of this application in our collaboration with Walters and Wolf on the new look of the Rainier Square Tower, but that is just one sector that is benefiting from 3D Printing technology. The three main areas where 3D Printing is making big strides in the architecture and the construction industries are:

1. Creating Custom Elements

2. Constructing New Edifices

3. Producing Tangible Architectural Models

 

Keep an eye out for our follow up blog and future videos!

 

3Diligent Announces Its Manufacturing Network Has Expanded to Nearly 250 Locations Across Six Continents

Company’s Breadth of 3D Printing, Machining, Casting and Injection Molding Technologies Enable On-Demand Custom Part Fulfillment Globally

El Segundo, Calif. – April 29, 2019 – 3Diligent announced today it has now qualified and networked digital manufacturing facilities on six continents. Its network of nearly 250 contract manufacturing partners spans more than a dozen countries and 1,200 machines.

This milestone means 3Diligent is able to offer faster and more cost effective support to customers seeking a single partner for their global custom part manufacturing needs. Through its dynamic utilization of regional manufacturing facilities near the final delivery address, 3Diligent can cut down on delivery time and shipping costs. Perhaps more importantly for large businesses, 3Diligent can also provide a single platform through which to track and manage digital manufacturing activity across the enterprise.

“The promise and power of digital manufacturing – especially 3D Printing – lies in its ability to quickly and easily get the same part made in different places using the same 3D design file,” said 3Diligent CEO Cullen Hilkene. “We are proud to have qualified and networked expert manufacturing partners around the world who are capable of making this vision of the future a reality.”

The trend toward “distributed digital manufacturing” is accelerating as more companies consider Computer Aided Design (CAD) driven technologies like 3D Printing and CNC Machining to enable on-demand spare parts and even production runs. The “supply web” is emerging as a way to utilize these digital manufacturing technologies to increase agility and flexibility within a company’s supply chain.

“3Diligent provides companies a partner and ready-made fabrication network to deliver around the globe for their customers and their own internal operations,” said Hilkene. “This powerful combination of cutting edge equipment, material breadth, geographic coverage, and consistent quality makes 3Diligent a category of one among distributed digital manufacturing companies.”

Companies can use the 3Diligent RFQ process to access its nearly 30 available manufacturing processes, including 3D Printing / additive manufacturing, machining, casting, and injection molding. A full list of capabilities is available here – https://www.3diligent.com/online-machine-shop/.

3Diligent has delivered digital manufacturing services from prototype through production for a wide variety of industries including industrial products, automotive, medical device, aerospace, energy and design firms. A notable recent project involved the 3D Printing of unique aluminum curtain wall nodes for Walters & Wolf to help deliver the iconic exterior look and feel of the upcoming Rainier Square Tower in Seattle.

For more information on 3Diligent’s capabilities and to submit your request for quote (RFQ), visit https://www.3diligent.com.

About 3Diligent
3Diligent is an innovative rapid manufacturing services provider offering CAD/CAM-based fabrication services such as 3D Printing, CNC machining, casting, and injection molding. 3Diligent launched in 2014 to provide businesses deterred by the cost and obsolescence risk of 3D printer ownership a single source for faster, more convenient, and more affordable additive manufacturing services. It has since evolved to offer additional digital manufacturing services to support its customers from prototype through production and aftermarket stages. 3Diligent uses data science to analyze customer requests for quote (RFQs) and identify optimal solutions across its network of qualified providers. 3Diligent’s next-generation approach to rapid manufacturing allows customers to simplify their procurement and outstanding manufacturers to get more out of their capital investments. 3Diligent counts companies from Fortune 500 enterprises to startups among its customers. For more information, visit http://www.3Diligent.com/.

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Additive’s Impact on Manufacturing Pt. 2: How 3D Printing Will Change Manufacturing in the Future

In our previous blog post, we examined how 3D printers affect how we design, how quickly products get to market, how we make tools, and how we fix things. But is that the extent to which additive manufacturing will be felt? The answer is a decided no. Additive is already opening doors to bigger impacts down the road. In today's post we will spell out how 3D Printing will change manufacturing in the future.

3D Printing Will Change the Definition of High Performance Parts

Photo courtesy of cnet.com.

During the last post, we highlighted how 3D Printing is affecting the way that we design. This impact has largely centered around how quickly we can develop new products and arrive at better designs. Overwhelmingly, designs are still in this phase, orienting around legacy manufacturing technologies. In particular, parts are designed for casting or injection molding as the expected means of mass production. That is beginning to change with improved speeds and decreased costs of 3D Printing. Up to this point, 3D printers have been fighting a game with one hand tied behind their back. Uniquely capable of achieving geometries that are otherwise impossible, 3D printers have largely been allocated against printing designs that are readily made with other technologies. And as a function of that, 3D printers are rarely the current choice for mass production. That may be changing.

Photo courtesy of techcrunch.com

Since machines are getting faster and more cost-effective, designers and procurement managers are considering whether 3D Printing will change manufacturing in terms of scalability. For production runs in the thousands or tens of thousands, this may be the case; especially if the designs were created with 3D Printing in mind. Take for instance the GE fuel nozzle. It serves as a benchmark example of how a company was able to create a better performing product and fabricate it more cost-effectively through the use of additive manufacturing. At this moment, the examples of those high performance additive parts are largely limited to the aerospace and medical sectors. However, we have every reason to believe that the industrial, energy, consumer products, and automotive markets are right on course to embrace additive similarly. Recent announcements from Ford and Gillette reinforce this notion.

3D Printing Will Change Supply Chain Management

Another key way in which 3D Printing will change manufacturing in the months, years, and decades to come is in how we will manage our supply chain. As companies unlock the design potential of 3D Printing with higher performance parts that take full advantage of additive manufacturing ability to create organic shapes, lattice structures, gradient alloys, or unique material formulations, the only viable option for fabricating these parts will be 3D Printing. Once that occurs, the structure of the traditional supply chain will fall apart. No longer will it be practical to have fabrication take place in far-away, low-cost countries when there is virtually no labor input to the parts. The cost combined with the delay of maritime shipping will bring fabrication much closer to the end customer. As a result, fabrication of end-use parts or sub-assemblies may occur at forward locations in the supply chain: the distributor, retail, or even consumer level. We refer to this as the supply web.

Instead of a relatively direct chain that connects a product from a low-cost center of mass production - to a semi local distribution center - to a local retail location - to an end consumer, fabrication may instead take place at any step along that path. A geographic overlay of how parts feed into this production flow looks more like a web than a chain. This will have a profound impact on the way companies manage their own supply chain. Their traditional partners may not be suited for a supply web world and they may need to entertain new partners who are prepared for this paradigm. Additionally, companies may increasingly consider managing their own fleets of 3D printers. Doing so may provide them an opportunity to potentially create cost savings for their end products.

3D Printing Will Change How We Keep Inventory

As noted previously, 3D Printing will change the way we look at supply chain. For companies that fully utilize 3D Printing's ability for localized manufacturing, inventory management practices will fundamentally change as well. Unlike a traditional manufacturing environment where asset production order is established and a certain amount of safety stock is kept of a given SKU, 3D Printing will instead allow for on-demand fabrication of parts as demand signals dictate. Gone will be the days of requiring huge advanced commitments to quantity since the parts can be fabricated on demand. Again, one of the core challenges to this is simply how many machines are available to fulfill the program. That is why distributed fabrication solutions such as 3Diligent may be an intriguing partner to companies, given the relatively elastic supply of a distributed fabrication solution.

3D Printing Will Change the Way We Customize Products

A final way in which 3D Printing will fundamentally change manufacturing is in how we customize products. Customization is already a main focus of current manufacturing methods. However, the product itself is not truly customized for the customer. Rather, the combination of parts is customized. Take for instance a personalized elbow or knee brace. In the current paradigm, each component is set to a size of small, medium, or large; and the most extensive customization may be in combining those constituent parts. Another customization may be in picking a particular color or material.  This is not true customization.

3D Printing will facilitate truly customized products at a massive scale. In this future state, an individual's unique body geometry can be scanned and fabricated on demand to fit those exact dimensions in ways not currently possible. Personalization of that part may extend beyond the shape and into the color or design imprinted upon it. We point here to the most extreme case where every customer has his or her own unique SKU. But the likelihood exists that there are many gradients between the current state of customization today and that full massively bespoke reality as well. As we touched on in our previous discussion, the rapid iteration cycles that 3D Printing facilitates also mean that different product designs can be tried out in different markets and many additional SKU's can be effectively supported. We believe 3D Printing will change customization by moving towards digital media or advertising. Products will be put into market relatively affordably for customers to react to and the ones that succeed can gain greater traction in market.

Summary: 3D Printing Has Even Bigger Impacts on Manufacturing to Come

In our previous blog post we called out the ways that 3D printing has already changed the world of manufacturing. And while those changes are significant, we think the changes still to come are even more impactful to manufacturing as we know it. The changes to come are massive, including improving the performance of parts through enabling entirely new geometries and material combinations, changing the way our supply chain is structured, impacting the way we think about just-in-time inventory, and lastly in the way that we customize parts to individual desires.  It's going to be a fun trip, and at 3Diligent, we're excited to be your sherpas for that journey.

Additives’s Impact on Manufacturing Pt. 1: How 3D Printing Is Changing Manufacturing Today

Over the last decade, 3D Printing has garnered many headlines. Whether it's the hype around consumer 3D Printing or the massive impact on the industrial community, a substantial amount of ink has been dedicated to the technology. 3D Printing changes manufacturing through the way we design, make production parts, and support products in the aftermarket. In this blog post, in conjunction with CMTC and the NIST MEP Network, we will spell out a variety of ways that additive is changing manufacturing today. Also, keep an eye out for an upcoming post where we will discuss how additive stands to further change manufacturing in the future.

3D Printing Changes How Fast Products Get to Market

A direct result of 3D Printing's impact on design processes is the rate at which new products can be developed. Instead of having to wait for tooling for a given design, designers can simply print onsite or send a CAD file to a service bureau and get parts in hours or days. Previously, waiting for weeks, months, or even years was the norm. This has a comprehensive effect on the overall product development life cycle. Decisions on final part designs can be reached much faster because the amount of time required for effective design is compressed.

3D Printing Changes How Effectively We Design

3D Printing grew up as a prototyping technology. It offered a faster way to go from an idea to a tangible model than previously imaginable.  By allowing for designs to be drafted in a computer program and then printed once a viable design is reached, the time to market for new designs was condensed massively - sometimes by an order of magnitude.  In conjunction with this speed, 3D printing has also helped better products come to market.  By allowing for fast iteration on tangible designs, design flaws and bad ergonomics that might have taken months (and a lot of additional investment in tooling) to identify can be spotted sooner, and fixes incorporated into the design.  As a result, the general quality of parts is improved by designers’ ability to explore more designs in a shorter period of time, arriving at a better final design.

3D Printing Changes the Way We Make Tools

A lot of attention has been focused on how 3D Printing helps us create end-use parts through prototyping. Now, increased attention has been paid to how 3D printers are fabricating actual end-use parts for select applications. However, one of the first uses outside of prototyping was tool creation. Around a decade ago, the range of polymers available for 3D Printing expanded significantly. This happened in conjunction with the emergence of extrusion and powder bed 3D Printing systems, which processed true thermoplastics rather than thermoset resins like vat photopolymerization (a.k.a. SLA) machines.

Once engineering thermoplastics like ABS, polycarbonate, and polyetherimide became available, managers and engineers began considering if 3D Printing could solve unique practical challenges that they encountered on a daily basis. These shop floor applications extended well beyond fit or form models, such as creating custom jigs, fixtures, or end arm effectors to allow for better handling of items. 3D printers are capable of economically fabricating these often unique geometries that would never be suitable for mass production. In this way, 3D Printing changed how manufacturing supports people on the shop floor as well as the ones designing and fabricating end use parts.

3D Printing Changes the Way We Fix Things

Another way that 3D Printing changes manufacturing today is in how we fix things. 3D Printing allows for on-demand fabrication of replacement parts. Naturally, this is not always necessary. Sometimes a replacement part is readily available at Lowe's, Home Depot, Grainger or McMaster-Carr, to name a few. But sometimes those parts are difficult to come by, especially for products out of production. If your collector car from the 1950s breaks down, it can sometimes make sense to print replacement parts rather than attempt to hunt them down in the global marketplace.

This is even more pronounced if a 50-year-old part breaks down on your assembly line and the holdup is costing revenue every minute. Or perhaps you are in a forward-deployed location and your aircraft cannot fly without printing a replacement part straight away. In any of these circumstances, the ability to 3D print stopgap solutions is significant, and with the rapid advancement we have experienced in printing quality, these “short-term solutions” may soon become “long-term” ones.

Summary: Additive is Changing Manufacturing in Many Ways and More is to Come

As we explained in this post, additive manufacturing has fundamentally changed the way we manufacture things. From design to tooling to replacement parts, additive manufacturing is a game changer. And its impact is just beginning to be felt, as the speed and capability of machines has just passed a tipping point.  You may note that we hardly touched the topic of actual production parts, which we view as still just breaching the tip of the iceberg at the moment, but that’s soon to change. Read our next blog post when we talk about how additive manufacturing will come to further impact manufacturing in the years to come.

Walters & Wolf Engages 3Diligent to Manufacture Exterior Wall Components That Contribute to Unique Look of Seattle’s Upcoming Rainier Square Tower

3Diligent Worked with Walters & Wolf from Prototype Through Production; Provided 3D Printing of 140 Unique Aluminum Nodes in Varying Dimensions

El Segundo, Calif. – March 6, 20193Diligent announced today that Walters & Wolf, a commercial cladding company, engaged 3Diligent to manufacture 140 unique exterior curtain wall nodes that Walters & Wolf designed to deliver the iconic exterior look and feel of the upcoming Rainier Square Tower in Seattle.

Expected to be finished in 2020, the new Rainier Square Tower will become Seattle’s second-tallest building. The structure will be a 58-story tower with a unique sloping appearance. With a step back on each building floor, the cladding system for each floor will have a different angle and require complex geometries to fit together perfectly.

Walters & Wolf worked with 3Diligent from prototype through production to produce 140 unique nodes with varying dimensions up to nearly a cubic foot in size. As geometries changed throughout the building’s design, 3Diligent leveraged its deep metal 3D Printing expertise to ensure each unique geometry met Walters & Wolf’s exacting specifications.

“From an operations standpoint, we were impressed with 3Diligent’s consistency in delivery of highly accurate and complex parts in a timely fashion that was in sync with the production schedule we established early on,” said Tony Parker, Project Executive at Walters & Wolf.  “At the end of the day, 3Diligent upheld their end of the bargain – they simply did what they said they would do.”

3D Printing of Challenging Geometries

NBBJ rendering by Atchain

Each piece of the curtain wall needed to be custom fabricated to meet the unique geometry of that section of the building. Walters & Wolf determined the best approach would be to create v-shaped nodes that ranged in size that would bring together square cut parts of the curtain wall. After experimenting with a variety of manufacturing processes and having some vendors say they couldn’t complete the work, Walters & Wolf turned to 3Diligent.

3Diligent presented two manufacturing processes – investment casting and 3D Printing - and delivered first articles from the different processes. These were assembled into curtain wall units and sent for performance mock-up testing. After testing, Walters & Wolf selected 3D Printing as their preferred path forward.

“We were honored when Walters & Wolf engaged 3Diligent as its manufacturing partner for this project,” said Cullen Hilkene, CEO of 3Diligent. “Both the tower and these specific parts represent the sort of innovation that 3Diligent strives to enable every day.  It was great collaborating with Walters & Wolf on such a compelling project and look forward to seeing the completed tower in 2020!”

To download the full case study highlighting Walters & Wolf’s work with 3Diligent, visit this case study's page.

About 3Diligent

3Diligent is an innovative digital manufacturing services provider offering CAD/CAM-based fabrication services such as 3D Printing, CNC machining, casting, and injection molding.  3Diligent launched in 2014 to provide businesses seeking a more convenient and efficient way to utilize cutting edge digital manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing.  3Diligent uses the right combination of in-house engineering expertise and data science-driven algorithms to assess, price, and fulfill customer requests with its global manufacturing network.  3Diligent counts companies from Fortune 500 enterprises to startups among its customers.

For more information on 3Diligent and its capabilities, visit https://www.3diligent.com.

3Diligent at MD&M West 2019; Panel Discussion About Metal vs. Plastic 3D Printing

Next Tuesday, I will be heading to Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West to speak in a panel about the key differences and benefits of 3D printing in metal versus plastics.

Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West is billed as:

Where serious professionals find the technologies, education, and connections to stay ahead in the global medical manufacturing community. In addition to more than 1,900 cutting-edge suppliers showcasing the latest solutions in contract manufacturing, manufacturing equipment, automation, R&D, medical device components, materials, plastics, and more, MD&M West hosts the largest three-day medtech conference in North America.

Our panel discussion, entitled “The Key Differences & Benefits in Printing with Metal vs. Plastics” takes place on Tuesday, February 5 from 9:15 AM- 10:00 AM in hall 208B. The session is billed as follows:

As the use of 3D printers in manufacturing gets more mainstream, the question remains: what is the best material for your application? This panel will drill down into the different types of materials currently being used in AM — such as steel, aluminum, titanium, nitinol, carbon fiber, PLA, ABS, PVA — and explain the key differences and benefits in printing with them. Discussion topics include lightweighting, merging multiple parts into fewer components, reducing tooling costs, producing less waste, and greater design freedom.

We hope you’ll come join the conversation!

-Cullen