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
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.
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.