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Metal Printing: Friend or Foe? W

hat is the future of metalcasting? Tis is a great question. Tis is a ques- tion that should allow you to put your

heels up on your desk, lean back and just ponder for the entire afternoon. Maybe your mind

darts to robotics to eliminate labor. Maybe images of outer space or the planet Mars come to mind as the new frontiers for a greenfield facility. Or maybe your mind thinks of additive manufacturing and the ability to produce infinitely complex metal components without the use of tooling or maybe even a mold.

Having just

returned from the AFS Metalcasting Congress in Co- lumbus, Ohio, last month, I saw the industry’s opportunities with additive on display both on the exhibition floor and in the education sessions. Over the last sev- eral years, the conversations in metalcasting have shifted from “what is additive” to “how do I de- sign this component for additive” as the industry has shifted from learning about the opportunities to capitalizing on them. Tis brings us to the feature article, “Sparking

Change? Advances in Direct Metal Printing,” on p. 24 that examines the segment of additive manufac- turing referred to as direct metal printing. Tis is a process in which metal components are built layer by layer in additive manufacturing machines. “Right now, it’s moving from a prototyping past

to a production future,” said Tim Caffey, senior con- sultant for Wohlers Associates. “It’s in the process of growing up.” When I first learned about the development of

this process several years ago, my first reaction was fear. If this competitor advances enough, it will put an end to the metalcasting industry. But then I took a step back and analyzed the stakeholders involved.

“Metalcasting has the opportunity to embrace this

technology and make it another instrument in its toolbox.”

Metalcasting has the opportunity to embrace this technology and make it another in- strument in its toolbox. Metalcasters are the experts at manu- facturing complex metal com- ponents, so you should provide your customers a manufac- turing portfolio that offers opportunities— with and without hard tooling, for prototypes and production, and with and without lead times. Tis doesn’t necessar- ily mean you pur- chase a machine for your operation;

it could mean finding a partner that of- fers the service and ensuring you have a knowledge of what it can truly provide in terms of component properties and production rates. “A lot of people have this misun- derstanding of additive manufacturing, that it’s going to be a technology that will displace many of the traditional

manufacturing processes,” said Andrew Snow, EOS of North America. “But it’s the exact opposite… We don’t see this as a threatening technology… It’s a complementary piece of equipment that’s another tool on the factory floor.” In today’s marketplace, it is critical to be

a solutions provider for your customer—that resource they turn to for any metal component information. While the future of metalcasting is to be determined, decisions are being made today by your customers and competitors to start to shape it.

Alfred T. Spada, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

If you have any comments about this editorial or any other item that appears in Modern Casting, email me at


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