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The advantages of Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM)

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article image Various production materials can be used in the FDM process, including ABS, polycarbonates (pictured), polyphenylsulfones and blends
According to Dermid McKinley, Managing Director, Tasman Machinery , additive manufacturing is increasingly being used as a method of direct digital manufacturing (DDM).

Leading 3D printing technology provider Stratasys this year celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Dimension line of 3D printers, which is distributed by Tasman Machinery in Australia. Stratasys brought 3D printing technology to a broad audience and accelerated the trend of 3D printer use in the market with positive effects on local manufacturing.

A key result of the increasing use of AM techniques is the potential to reverse the trend to outsource manufacturing to low-cost countries in order to avoid high labour and tooling costs. Companies can help reverse this outsourcing trend by purchasing a DDM machine or 3D printer, which would give them a fixed cost base, reduce labour intensity and remove high tooling costs and time, potentially negating the incentive to outsource.

Though not suited for every application, the AM or Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) technology developed by Stratasys is worth considering for applications with one or more of attributes such as low production volume, high design complexity, high probability of change and high start-up investment.

Low Production Volume

DDM is appropriate for parts produced in quantities of less than 3,000 per year, making the technology useful in applications for jigs, fixtures and other tools used in the assembly process.

High Design Complexity

DDM is equally suitable for simple as well as complex jobs with greater cost and time advantages when parts have complex shapes, intricate designs or numerous features. Building material up layer-by-layer to complete the part eliminates problems such as creating internal cavities and complicated 3D contours.

High Probability of Change

DDM allows freedom to redesign at will unlike traditional subtractive manufacturing processes where design changes can be expensive and time-consuming. There is no additional cost for rework or retooling, and there is no interruption in production schedules.

High Start-up Investment

With no tooling costs, and a waiting period for the first production parts amounting to only a few hours or a few days at most, DDM is preferred over all subtractive manufacturing processes involving substantial investment of labour, time and money for toolpath creation, fixtures, moulds and machinery.

Key advantages of direct digital manufacturing in manufacturing:

  • Complex parts can be produced without the need for highly skilled labour
  • Parts can be produced as needed, eliminating the need for stock
  • Part design can be based on function rather than manufacturing constraints
  • Design changes can be implemented immediately at minimal cost
  • Custom products can be produced to match customer requirements

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