Exploring the Many Paths to Adoption of Advanced Metal AM

July 18, 2022

Are you looking to leverage metal additive manufacturing (AM) for one core part, or do you merely want to dip your toes into the capabilities of the technology? Either way, investing millions of dollars in printers and infrastructure for large-scale metal 3D printing can seem like a dramatic proposition.

The reality, however, is a lot less scary. Advanced metal AM systems, like the Velo3D end-to-end solution, provides an agile path to adoption. This is true for companies that want to get started with the technology all the way through to companies looking to scale AM for full production runs.

The good news is there are several ways to leverage the Velo3D end-to-end metal AM solution—as well as a multitude of contract manufacturers available worldwide—to make the technology work for you.

Let’s discuss the different paths to utilizing Velo3D and dispel some common misconceptions along the way.

Interested in Metal AM? Begin By Transitioning a Single Part

Metal AM has taken off in recent years in response to the inefficiencies of more established methods of part production. Manufacturing through welding, machining, and casting can cause companies to wait months for replacement parts or even longer to bring new parts into their operations.

While these inefficiencies are nothing new, they have been exacerbated by recent supply chain slowdowns.

Putting a part through the metal AM process—in close collaboration with experts in the field—can set a company up for success immediately, and for years down the road.

When a company approaches a partner like Velo3D, our goal isn’t to sell a printer and be done with the transaction. Quite the opposite.

One of the benefits to choosing Velo3D is that there is no large-scale investment required, “no purchase necessary”, in a system.

If you need a part produced, simply leverage our global contract manufacturing (CM) network. This trusted network of advanced metal AM experts are equipped with qualified, calibrated machines to print your required parts.

We always say that the success of Velo3D is centered around our client’s success, which means successfully printed parts on any Velo3D Sapphire printer, regardless of its location.

When a part goes through the metal AM process, we work with a company and their engineers to explore existing part designs, educating and guiding them on how to optimize their geometries with part function in mind and keeping them within the bounds of what is possible for printing.

In this process we’re able to find potential avenues for part consolidation or other ways to increase efficiency in performance.

It’s important to note that this consultation is a complimentary service from us to you.

Once this consultation is done, ideally what’s left is a better-educated customer with an improved part design that can then be printed on any Velo3D Sapphire.

We also explore the business implications of transitioning a part to AM; if it doesn’t make sense to print the part from a cost perspective, we wouldn’t recommend transitioning that part.

For more details on transitioning parts, please download our Transitioning Critical Parts to Metal 3D Printing Whitepaper.

Here is where the process really shines from a production standpoint. Our team works in close collaboration with you and our global network of contract manufacturers, vetting CM availability, capability, and RFPs to find the ideal production roadmap for our clients.

With the right CM and part design in place, production can be taken from prototype and test print all the way through full production.

Globally Scaling Current AM Parts

In the past, metal AM was often used as a means of prototyping parts to land on the best design. The design would then transition over to more traditional forms of manufacturing for full-scale production. With metal AM systems like Velo3D, developed in the last decade, however, the ability to rapidly and easily scale was a foundational imperative.

With Velo3D, once a company arrives at an optimized design and all material considerations are made, a part can then be transitioned for full-scale production.

There are multiple advancements that have been made with Velo3D metal AM to enable this repeatability and scalability, including:

  • Common process parameters across the fleet: designed and vetted by material and process experts within Velo3D to produce high-end, previously unattainable geometries.
  • The Golden Print File: a self-contained, independent set of print instructions that can become part of the product lifecycle management revision control system which enables a part to be printed on any Velo3D system, anywhere in the world.
  • Automated machine calibrations: designed into the Sapphire family of printers from the start, this fleet-level calibration can be executed without Velo3D field service engineers or external hardware intervention which keeps the entire fleet well aligned and consistent.
  • Assure process monitoring: 900+ sensors monitor the AM process throughout the entire build with a summarized build report ensuring the process ran as intended throughout the build.

Again, by leveraging a global network of CMs, any part prepared for printing on Velo3D technology can be printed anywhere in the world with lead times drastically lower than traditional manufacturing methods.

For companies with a global footprint, transitioning a part to metal AM can dramatically reduce supply chain challenges across operations.

Bringing AM Operations In-House

A global CM network is an incredible asset to have, particularly for companies that want to source core parts in different parts of the world, on demand.

For companies that want to experiment and explore more of what an advanced metal AM solution has to offer, or to bring production capabilities in-house, there is also the option of investing in a Velo3D solution of your own.

With a wide range of printers available, from the standard Sapphire all the way up to the new Sapphire XC 1MZ, with its large-volume, production-scale printing capability, there is a Velo3D solution ready to meet your needs.

One thing to remember is that purchasing a Velo3D solution isn’t the beginning and end of the relationship. Much like the complimentary consultation process of transitioning a part, our team is available to aid in unlocking its capabilities and ensuring your success.

Investing in a full end-to-end solution may not be the right decision for every company, but for the companies that do it can be transformational to operations from prototyping to full-scale production.

There is No One Right Way to Adopt Metal AM

The benefit of an end-to-end metal AM solution like Velo3D’s is its agility and flexibility. While these paths to AM adoption offer a cross-section of how the transition could work, they’re merely a jumping off point.

Some of our most successful customers choose to own a system for development or proving out initial designs but continue to rely on our global CM network for scaling certain production jobs or overflow capacity.

The capabilities of advanced metal AM are truly revolutionary for parts manufacturing. And, with experienced partners like Velo3D helping shepherd the process and make the most of it for your unique needs, there is no wrong way to explore those capabilities.

For more information on the possibilities the Velo3D system can unlock, get in touch with one of our expert engineers today.

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About the Author

Amir Iliaifar

Director of Content

Amir Iliaifar is the Director of Content at Velo3D where he oversees the production and distribution of Velo3D’s global digital content marketing initiatives. Prior to joining the company, Amir worked for a leading professional drone manufacturer, several SaaS companies, and as an automotive tech journalist. He holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.