If you have questions about additive manufacturing, the experts are here to help. From ASTM to ISO to countless additive manufacturers, there is an organization that can address your specific application.

Terry Wohlers is one of the foremost experts on additive manufacturing. With his Wohlers Report—the 2023 report came out in March—he offers insights that those in the industry have come to depend on.

New developments in additive manufacturing are emerging, he notes. "We’re seeing an appetite for large parts, and I think that’s really picked up over the last 12 months."

They are for the aerospace industry—obviously a source for large parts—but also the entertainment industry, such as movies, television, and theme parks. And the size of the market for large parts is significant.

"Investment is still strong," Wohlers says, whether from venture capital, acquisitions, or government agencies. "I’m talking not just the U.S. but worldwide, investment is strong for many types of companies." Overall the industry’s growth has shown a strong recovery from the pandemic, he notes.

Gaining Additive Insights

If you have questions about additive technology, you are not alone. Wohlers says he gets a range of questions from manufacturers about the technology. "It’s generally all over the place, but the theme is often to gain insight into future. Part of it is because that’s our business. We seek to understand the current state and where it’s headed in the future."

Wohlers Report 2023 includes a new section on the subject. This year’s report discusses how industry standards and quality overall are moving targets. "There’s room for improvement in quality from the machine manufacturers, although it varies from one company and machine to the next."

"For years, the report was more machine centric. We’ve really tried to shift more toward use cases and industrial examples of how companies are putting the technology to work. We think most readers care about how companies are using machines, materials, and software, and what works and what doesn’t. That’s important, we believe."

Committee F42 On Additive Manufacturing Technologies

"ASTM Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies was formed in 2009. F42 meets twice a year, usually in the Spring and Fall (US & non-US, respectively), with about 150+ members attending two days of technical meetings. The Committee has membership of more than 1,200 professionals in 38 countries and 8 technical subcommittees. All standards developed by F42 are published in the Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Volume 10.04."


Standards Ahead

NIST is working on additive research as well. According to NIST, "As the field matures, transitioning what is now more of an art into a science will be critical for expanding its use by industry. This transition depends on measurements and ultimately, standards. Through its core missions of measurement science research and standards development, NIST is working with U.S. industry to lead these changes."

These programs include: Engineering Laboratory’s Measurement Science for Additive Manufacturing (MSAM), the Material Measurement Laboratory, and The Physical Measurement Laboratory.

Wohlers noted that 49 additive manufacturing industry standards have been published to date from ASTM International’s F42 and ISO/TC 261 committees. The two worked together to co-develop and co-brand some of them, Wohlers noted. It doesn’t make sense for many of the same people to develop competing standards. About 70 work items related to additive manufacturing are currently under development by F42, he noted.

The importance of standards is well understood, for a range of industries.

As Ralph Resnick, founding director of America Makes and former president and CEO, National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, says on the ASTM site, "We need to be sure that whatever is going to be produced is going to be consistent, safe, and of high quality. We need to be able to formalize the rules and the ways that we make things with additive manufacturing and that’s why standards are so critical."

If you would like to learn more, visit https://amcoe.org/standards-activities.

While standards are important, there are a few other ways to set yourself up for additive manufacturing.

Determination is probably the best predictor of success, Wohlers says. "Some go down the additive manufacturing path, then throw up their hands, ‘Well we gave it a try.’ Others are determined to make it work."

Opportunities & Obstacles

As with anything, Wohlers noted that the additive manufacturing industry is faced with opportunities and obstacles. In terms of opportunities, Wohlers says manufacturers can "improve the performance of a product by designing it in a new way. Examples are jet engine parts from GE Aerospace. Some of the designs are more efficient and last longer, which are compelling reasons to doing it this way."

"New business models come about as a result of additive," Wohlers adds. An example is the custom-fit ski goggle product from Smith. "I have the product and it fits like a glove," he says. This is also possible for custom eyeglasses, footwear, and other personalized products.

Challenges exist as well. "In my opinion, cost is near the top," Wohlers says. "As you ramp up into higher quantities, you’re competing with conventional manufacturing. The cost of materials, machines, and a new workflow are factors determining whether you can build a business case. Build speed also influences cost. If you triple the speed of the machine, it’s almost like getting three machines for the price of one."

Designing to take advantage of additive manufacturing is a consideration that many companies overlook. Another obstacle, especially in aerospace and health care, is qualification/certification. "We now have industry standards, but the understanding and adoption of them are not as strong as they could be, and we need more of them. Other industries have hundreds of standards."

"These are among the top challenges," he says. Still, despite the challenges, for complex parts produced in small numbers—such as aerospace—the opportunities are there.

As Argonne National Laboratory puts it: "Additive manufacturing offers a new paradigm for engineering design and manufacturing by enabling unique macro-structural design of components and micro-structural design of the material."

This new paradigm might be the technology your organization is looking for.