Manufacturing Today Issue - 223 April 2024 | Page 14



Considering alternative manufacturing methods can yield promising results

Advanced manufacturers must sometimes compromise the use of improved part designs or advanced materials to best accommodate their existing machining methods . But as Kirk Gino Abolafia of Voxel Innovations explains , as critical industries demand higher volumes of parts and increased usage of advanced materials , perhaps it ’ s time for manufacturers to consider alternative manufacturing technologies that can catch up with the evergrowing needs of the markets they serve .

Advanced manufacturers often rely on established , conventional manufacturing methods for their predictability , practicality , and profitability - however , this reliance can sometimes hinder crucial advancements to part designs , improvements of material removal rates , or new business opportunities and applications .
Specifically , improving part designs for critical industries can be especially challenging for manufacturers , as they must balance the usage of advanced materials , increasingly complex features , tighter tolerances , and smoother surface qualities . For example , aerospace manufacturers are seeking to lightweight aircraft components with exotic materials to improve fuel efficiency , and medical device manufacturers are increasingly miniaturizing implantable surgical devices to reduce patient discomfort . Although these advanced part designs can improve lives , their existence can also cause internal friction in advanced manufacturing companies between machinists , engineers , and upper management considering the challenging , or near-impossible , features that they must produce in high volumes using conventional material removal methods .