Why choose metal additive manufacturing?

Businesses that make things that rely on machines for production need to keep up with the latest innovations in technology because the world of manufacturing is constantly evolving, and in order to stay competitive, companies must be willing to adapt and embrace the newest technologies. One group of technologies that have emerged over the past two decades, and in recent years has taken the world by storm is metal additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. However, many sub-contract manufacturing, fabrication, or machining companies in the UK have been reluctant to try these new technologies. This could be due to misunderstanding the capabilities, the belief that it is too expensive or simply not mature enough for everyday use. When there is any disruption to the usual way of doing something there will always be nah sayers and disbelievers, and in equal measure those that don’t take the time to learn enough to make a truly informed decision. In the case of additive manufacturing, there has certainly been no difference, and it has perhaps taken far longer to become popular compared to past innovations in manufacturing technology. But the truth is, metal additive manufacturing offers many advantages that could benefit companies in numerous ways compared to traditional manufacturing methods. 


Metal additive manufacturing is not as expensive as many people think. The cost of 3D printing has been decreasing over the last five years, and it has become more accessible for businesses to invest in this technology. By making such an investment in metal additive manufacturing, companies can save money on the consumption cost of materials, reduce waste with an associated reduction in waste management, and improve productivity. Another significant cost benefit is the ability to create complex geometries that would be either impossible, or process intensive, to achieve with traditional methods. This means that designers can create parts with more efficient shapes and better performance, requiring less production steps to achieve them. Additionally, metal additive manufacturing can reduce lead times and allow for faster product development cycles, as parts can be produced in a matter of hours or days rather than weeks or months. This goes hand in hand with the ability to produce small batches or even one-off parts without the need for expensive tooling or moulds. This means that manufacturers can offer more specialised products and services without incurring significant upfront costs. This is particularly relevant for companies in the UK, which is home to a very large number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are only utilising traditional manufacturing methods. 

A B C 

Metal additive manufacturing may not be as simple as learning the alphabet. 

Someone Somewhere

Stop right there!

It takes a child several years to learn the alphabet and then be able to use that to form words and produce sentences. It’s not a simple task at all. In contrast, additive manufacturing is not as difficult to use as many people believe and it can be learned relatively quickly. While it does take some time to learn how to fully utilise the technology, once mastered, it can be a very efficient way of producing a wider variety of parts. The reason behind this is that additive manufacturing does not rely heavily on manual skills or operation of equipment which is the result of the development of modern software technology. For instance, metal additive manufacturing allows for the simultaneous creation of parts with very different geometries without any additional training being required. Furthermore, the simplification of additive manufacturing is also being accelerated by the raise in the use of artificial intelligence and its combination with machine learning. 

Not so New 

Metal additive manufacturing is not necessarily the new technology that it is made out to be. In fact, in some cases the technology has been around for several decades, and it is only in how it has been applied that is new. Certain processes, that may not have been mainstream manufacturing technologies have been steadily improving and this has made them more adaptable to new ways of applying the technology. It follows that it is possible to visualise nearly all the new additive manufacturing process in terms of some very conventional production processes. For instance, take Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), the process of building parts by continuously welding a wire feedstock onto itself. As with any form of MIG or TIG welding a wire or metal rod is consumed to form the weld, and in WAAM the innovation has come from software that allows whole 3D objects to be produced by depositing the weld on top of something, instead of just joining two parts or repairing a small region. Even Laser Powder Bed Fusion, by far the most popular form of metal additive manufacturing, is nothing more than continuous laser welding being operated at a much finer scale, and utilising a different form of feedstock, powdered metal.

In the end

It is already more than two decades since these innovations in manufacturing technology were introduced. In that time the sector has come a long way, and the technologies are now widely used in various industries, including aerospace, energy creation, storage and recovery, automotive, and medical. By embracing this technology, businesses in the UK can modernise, be more competitive and offer their customers their best products. Metal additive manufacturing is technology that businesses in the UK, and particularly in the East of England, should be seriously considering. It offers many advantages, including cost savings, reduced waste, improved productivity, and greater design flexibility. While it may take some time to learn the technology, the benefits of investing in this technology far outweigh the costs. As the sector continues to grow and evolve, those who adopt metal additive manufacturing now will be better positioned to stay ahead of the competition in the years to come.