The next generation of manufacturing is rapidly upon, if you will excuse the pun. Rapid prototyping and 3D metal printing is about to get considerably faster and cheaper, if you believe the hype surrounding manufacturing startup Desktop Metal, which just got another $115 million in funding, I might add.
Until now, traditional 3D metal printers relied on lasers to melt metal powders so they could be “printed” into complex shapes, which not only limited what alloys could be used in those situations, but it was also fairly time intensive.
Using what it calls “microwave enhanced sintering” though, Desktop Metal can print with virtually any kind of metal (including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper), and do it at a much faster rate – 100x faster than other additive manufacturing processes, if you believe them.
The whole Desktop Metal printing process is pretty interesting, and it involves the 3D printer putting down layers of metal and ceramic polymers to create the shape of the part (and the supporting structures necessary to make that shape).
The printed object is then put into a furnace that binds the metal and cooks off the polymer, leaving the finished metal piece.
We have already talked at length about what additive manufacturing can mean for the general public, and the motorcycle industry in particular.
In a nutshell though, additive manufacturing can change the way not only manufacturers build and design their motorcycles, but it also has the potential to change how motorcycle dealerships stock and order hard-parts, and how consumers modify and customize their machines.
A $5 billion dollar industry already, additive manufacturing is still only a small part of the trillion dollar manufacturing business worldwide…but that is surely about to change.