LOS ANGELES Additive manufacturing has its uses, but so far they are primarily in rapid prototyping rather than full-scale output, Precision Castparts Corp.s (PCCs) top executive said.
While there has been "quite a bit of hype" about 3-D printing and similar additive processes, it nevertheless "has a place" in manufacturing, Mark Donegan, PCCs chairman and chief executive officer, said during the Portland, Ore.-based metals producer and manufacturers quarterly earnings call last week.
"But when you start getting a defined process, tooling starts to become the way to go, and we get out of additive manufacturing as quickly as possible," he said.
Pittsburgh-based RTI International Metals Inc. has spent $23 million to acquire Directed Manufacturing Inc., an Austin, Texas, specialist in 3-D printing technologies whose products include aerospace airfoils, rakes, guide vanes and injection nozzles, fasteners, surgical tools, medical implants and injection mold inserts (amm.com, Jan. 23).
In September, Donegan and other PCC executives said during an investment conference that PCC has been using forms of additive manufacturing such as 3-D printing and stereolithography to make complex shapes as part of its rapid prototyping activities. These processes save the aerospace supply chain manufacturer "a lot of time before we cut metal to make tools," they said.
Donegan pointed out last week that despite all the publicity that additive manufacturing has garnered recently, PCC has been using some form of the process for "a number of years."
It is a way of initially presenting "different shapes (and) configurations" of parts to PCCs customersa highly "reiterative" processwithout the investment of making tooling. But once the configuration is fixed, tooling is more efficient and cost competitive, he said.