CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

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CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

CANADA'S LEADING INFORMATION SOURCE FOR THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY

Should you bring Additive Manufacturing in-house or outsource it?

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More manufacturers are beginning to identify opportunities to integrate AM into their operations. As they do so, however, many are faced with a deceptively difficult question: whether to “make or buy” AM capability. PHOTO courtesy Burloak Technologies

As additive manufacturing (AM) continues to prove its worth across a multitude of industries and applications, a growing number of manufacturers are assessing how to incorporate AM into their overall operating strategy. Does it make more sense to build AM parts in-house or to partner with an external AM provider?

Burloak Technologies explores the pros and cons of each option in a new report Make Vs Buy E Book | Burloak Technologies (samuel.com). Here are the highlights from the outsourcing perspective:

PROS

No up-front investment

Unlike with in-house AM investments, an external provider allows manufacturers to lower their financial risk by offering a range of machines, technologies and expertise, so you’re not starting from scratch but from experience. Having a strong team behind you can be particularly advantageous. After all, Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) isn’t something team members can learn overnight—it can take years to master the optimization of different materials, geometries and capabilities. Collaborating with a provider committed to making ongoing investments in this ever-evolving technology works in your favor too, as AM requires not only up-front purchases but ongoing financial commitments as well.

A greater range of AM technologies

The right AM partner should have multiple AM technologies, offering manufacturers a level of flexibility they simply can’t achieve in-house. Because AM isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, these companies make sure the right technology is used for the right application, so as to truly optimize the use of this manufacturing method and get the properties a manufacturer requires.

A broad array of materials and testing capabilities

Not only does the right AM provider offer expert knowledge about the potential and limitations of specific materials, but they have more experience printing a wide variety of materials. Additionally, some providers, like Burloak, have materials testing laboratories—allowing them to conduct extensive testing to properly qualify a particular material. These labs employ materials engineers who are experts at what they do and ensure the metal powder has the exact characteristics a manufacturer is looking for.

Leading expertise

Because AM providers specialize in all facets of AM, they’re more inclined to attract the industry’s top professionals. This makes it possible for manufacturers to access top-tier AM knowledge without having to invest in expensive training or recruitment programs.

End-to-end AM solutions

With in-house investments, many companies gain access to the necessary machinery, but still have to pay for additional services such as materials testing, CNC machining, surface finishing, heat treatment and quality assurance. With the right AM partner, all these services are conducted under one roof, so you don’t have to worry about sourcing additional providers.

Significant time savings

If a long-time provider specializes in AM, you can rest assured they’ve seen it all—and are willing to leverage that knowledge. As a result, previous experience can prove invaluable, allowing you to save time and resources and avoid learning from your own mistakes.

CONS

Third-party margins

As with all third-party vendors, AM partners charge a fee for their equipment and expertise. In most cases, this is well worth the cost—unless you’re willing to invest in a full-service solution, continually optimize in-house processes, update technologies for years to come and hire dedicated AM experts (or train existing experts to become proficient in AM technologies).

Scheduling

When you work with an external provider, you must account for an additional party’s schedule. Because you’re relying on technology that isn’t within your facility, it may take more time for a printed part to arrive. On the plus side, these lead times are typically still shorter than those of conventional manufacturing providers because AM reduces the number of steps required to build a final part. Additionally, vertically[1]integrated suppliers can complete everything in one place—including things like surface treatment, heat treatment and machining—which can save time, since many in-house AM operations must still outsource these steps.

Privacy

To mitigate potential privacy breaches, it’s important to work with an AM partner that prioritizes privacy and security. A best-in-class provider should restrict access to all proprietary information, forbid video and photography, store all files on highly secure networks and servers, require employees to achieve security clearances and implement other measures so privacy is no longer a concern.

Next, we will present the pros and cons of bringing AM in-house, as outlined in the Burloak Technologies report.

For the full report go to: Make Vs Buy E Book | Burloak Technologies (samuel.com)

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