The Cost Benefit of Additive Manufacturing Technologies
When new technology comes on the scene, there are early adopters who embrace the technology for its novelty and potential benefits. On the other extreme are the cautious later adopters. These are the individuals who prefer to wait for a proven entity, one that demonstrates and justifies its existence. In the consumer world this is illustrated by those who are willing to stand in line for a new iPhone or a new pair of shoes. Individuals with the desire to stand in line and be the first are the early adopters; everyone else who finds the whole thing a little bit crazy fall into the other categories.
Assessing Adaptive Technology
The call of additive manufacturing as the saving grace of the manufacturing industry has long been a minority call in the industry. Widespread adoption of the 3-D technology continues to sit in neutral as most manufacturers assess if investment in the technology is enough to justify its overall costs. In light of the wait-and-see attitude, the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) began its own cost-benefit analysis of the technology in Northeast Ohio earlier in the year. The Cleveland-based group launched a cluster development study in February with the goal of assessing the needs and capabilities of additive manufacturing in the area.
Considering a Wider Reach
Already being an advocate for the use of additive technology, MAGNET looked for ways to demonstrate other uses for the technology. One of these applications is in sheet metal stamping firms, according to an article in Ohio.com. Dave Pierson, senior product development manager at MAGNET, found the 3-D technology able to reduce the time it takes to make a part, potentially creating new markets for manufacturers of sheet metal stamping. Other uses include manufacturing tools designed to make parts.
Complementary Not Replacement
One of the most important elements in these types of cost-benefit analysis is few manufacturers are willing to throw out all existing technology for new options. In most cases, there are examples where so-called new and old technologies can work in conjunction to offer benefits such as increased speed to market. Others see this as a time for demonstration and a way to get ahead of the learning curve, finding new ways to benefit customers. This reasoned outlook dovetails well with an expanding manufacturing industry that’s increasingly linked to service and greater customer inputs, something that’s long been an emphasis for small- and medium-sized manufactures in Ohio.
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