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printers. What’s more, this category is no longer limited to mate- rial extrusion “FDM clones.” Several new low-cost photopolymer- based systems have followed Formlabs’ Form 1 into the market. The final foundation patent on laser sintering owned by the University of Texas at Austin will expire in June 2014. Similar to the expiration of FDM and stereolithography patents, this will likely result in another wave of 3D printers using the laser sintering process to make durable plastic parts. However, the process requires the management of fine powders and a precisely heated build chamber—challenges that may deter some startup developers from producing new laser sintering machines.


Where It’s All Going


In 2003, the use of AM for part pro- duction was a mere 3.9% of the indus- try’s total product and service revenues, according to our research. This important segment of the market has since grown to become nearly nine times larger. The pro- duction of parts by AM for final products is growing rapidly because the technol- ogy offers unique capabilities to reduce weight, consolidate many parts into one, and improve part usability and perfor- mance. When parts are designed—or redesigned—to take advantage of these unique capabilities, AM becomes a can- didate for production applications—even for relatively high production volumes, although it depends greatly on the size, type, and finish requirements of the part. The aerospace, medical, and dental industries were the first to take advan- tage of these unique capabilities, primar- ily because low production volumes of high-value parts make AM economically feasible. Final part production with AM is growing beyond this group of bespoke and low-volume industries, and will continue to expand into other industries for new, unanticipated applications. The


cost of materials, coupled with the size and speed of machines, will be among the primary drivers in the foreseeable future. The transition from prototyping to series production presents many challenges, especially in the highly regulated aerospace


You Can’t Improve ShopFloorConnect®


What You Don’t Measure Automates OEE Data


Collection from Any Machine.


ShopFloorConnect software is used by the discrete manufacturing, packaging, and food-and-beverage industries to automatically calculate OEE and show the downtime reasons from stamping presses, press-brakes, laser cutting machines, turret presses, machining centers, automated saws, welders, injection molders, paint lines, packaging and other machines. It is a turn-key solution that provides timely accurate data to improve your operation. ShopFloorConnect is scalable and flexible, and can be quickly implemented into any discrete manufacturing environment. It comes factory-configured to communicate directly over your LAN with the ShopFloorConnect Machine Interface (SMI). ShopFloorConnect provides a powerful report-generator as well as a browser-based viewer that displays machine status in real time.


For additional information about ShopFloorConnect, call us at 800-586-8324 (US and Canada), 978-268-2700, or visit us at www.ShopFloorConnect.com


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June 2014 | ManufacturingEngineeringMedia.com 67


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