3D Printing/ Additive Manufacturing

Does Additive Equal Innovation for your Company?

Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
March 5, 2024
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Additive Manufacturing revolutionizes the manufacturing industry, enabling companies to produce intricate designs and reimagine traditional processes, as seen in this case of a luxury watchmaker's 3D-printed titanium woven mesh watch band.

Additive Manufacturing is one of several Industry 4.0 technologies taking the manufacturing industry by storm. Most commonly, companies are implementing this technology to produce tools, fixtures, and spare parts for machinery. However, the advantages of this technology extend far beyond being able to affordably produce low-volume tools or parts in-house. Today, companies are envisioning—and producing—designs that wouldn’t be possible with traditional, subtractive manufacturing methods. The question today is no longer “Can I transition production of Widget X to additive manufacturing?” but instead “How does additive’s potential change how I design Widget X?”

The flexibilities of additive manufacturing result from both the production materials and the overall manufacturing process. Additive manufacturing, as its name implies, adds layers of material to create a design instead of cutting or molding the design out of a larger piece. While this process can be more time-intensive for large-scale production, it enables the creation of complex internal geometries and other features that enable designers to reimagine parts and components from the earliest stages of fabrication.

In one example, a luxury watchmaker harnessed the flexibility of fabric and the strength of titanium by developing a 3D-printed titanium woven mesh watch band. While the company had previously created a similar-appearing band using a complex and cumbersome machine that wove individual strands of steel into a mesh-like pattern, the new process permitted a design that better adapted to consumer needs. In addition to producing a lighter product more quickly and with less waste, the additive production process allowed for an intricate weave of microscopic “teeth” and directional clasps that made the watch band flexible enough to fit over a wearer’s hand yet tight enough to secure the watch to the wrist. This feature led to better reviews and perceived performance among the brand’s customer base and reinforced their positive view of additive manufacturing as an asset to their operations.

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Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan's small and medium-sized businesses to compete and grow. Today, we are celebrating 30 years of building super highways of competitive success for our clients, where there were once only slow and lonely dirt roads. Now, we stand ready to face the future with bountiful optimism, focused purpose, strong determination, legions of support staff and inspired creativity.

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