Three Cutting Edge Manufacturing Methods That are Changing the Game

You might be excused for thinking that manufacturing is a static industry, given that some of the biggest players seem to have not changed their fundamental processes in decades (or longer), but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, manufacturing remains at the leading edge of technological change, and new and innovative manufacturing methods are being implemented across the industry.

Here are three cutting edge manufacturing methods that are helping the most forward-thinking companies gain an edge on their competition.

3D Printing

3D printing is not entirely new, and neither is it unheard of, with 3D printers of various sizes proliferating wildly in both the consumer and enterprise space. 3D printers work by adding material in layers based on the cross-sections of a 3D model generated in CAD or similar 3D modeling tool. Individuals can buy printers and 3D models to produce all manner of useful (and not-so-useful) objects, and makers around the globe have already distributed an incredible variety of designs.

When it comes to manufacturing, 3D printing has many uses, especially in quickly creating prototypes for visual aids or mockups, creating certain lightweight parts, and with certain very precise applications, like custom medical implants.

Additive Manufacturing

This term refers to the process of using hardware to deposit material in layers to create specific geometric shapes, guided by sophisticated 3D design tools. Three-dimensional objects are “grown” one fine layer at a time, each layer of melted material bonding to the previous one. Additive manufacturing is sometimes used interchangeably with 3D printing, but it’s more accurate to consider 3D printing a subset of additive manufacturing. Like with many technologies, it is not entirely new, but advancements in digital tools, material science, and computing in general have greatly increased its availability and applications.

The possibilities of additive manufacturing are substantial, and there are several sophisticated processes enabled by additive manufacturing:  

  • Material extrusion, the most common and well-known process, where spooled polymers are extruded through a heated nozzle on a moveable arm, building layers and shaping the final product
  • Vat polymerization, which creates an object in a vat of liquid resin photopolymer and utilizes UV light
  • Powder bed fusion, which uses lasers or beams to melt fine layers of material in three-dimensions.
  • Material and binder jetting, which functions something like an inkjet printer, but in three dimensions
  • Directed energy deposition, where a laser or beam melts wire or filament feedstock to shape the object in question

Composite Manufacturing 

This manufacturing method is the oldest of the three we’ve listed, as composites date back to the first days of brick-making, or wattle and daub houses, but though many composites are simple, there are others that are deeply complex, and new ones are being developed all the time. Among the advanced composites that make the modern world possible are carbon fiber, concrete, plywood, and fiberglass.

Advanced composite materials are more sophisticated versions of composites, characterized by high tensile strength or high elastic modulus compared to similar materials, and are especially useful in military or aerospace applications.

Manufacturing Methods to Change the Game

These three manufacturing methods are only a sampling of what’s available and the innovations that are being implemented by manufacturers the world over. The most notable advances are also often less about new technologies and more about implementing better processes and applying digital transformation and flexibility to existing products. 

Book a demo today and see for yourself how ION can help implement best manufacturing methods.