What about the main advantages of moving toward AM?
Additive Manufacturing is indeed something different compared to Rapid Prototyping. Frequently I hear about the advantages in terms of rapidity to get a mock-up of the Project. Indeed with AM the project manager now has the chance to completely reshape the Project, overcoming previous technical difficulties to create the device. This is a tremendous advantage that let to optimize not only the project functionalities but also the way that it is generated on the production line. Therefore the great advantage of adopting AM techniques, as we are aiming in the AMICE framework, is to be able to re-create the Project instead of printing devices as they were done before with other manufacturing techniques.
What about the final functional properties of AM devices?
This is another important item to be stressed. The final mechanical and functional properties of parts created by AM will be significantly different compared to those devices created with the classic manufacturing technologies. This is mainly due to the different micro and often also nanostructure of the material adopted for the AM processes. At micro level the internal stresses will be significantly different compared to classic processes, as well as the morphological structures due to different energy dissipation routes occurred during the deposition process. By the nanostructure view point the powder quality, as well the chemical composition, grain shape, dimension and virgin-to-reused-powder ratio are only some of the fundamental features able to characterize the final properties.
How do we have to optimize the AM features in the production chain?
It is indeed extremely important to adopt this technique as an advantage for the production chain and not as a completely stand-alone technology not integrated in the production flux. The main advantage is to make much more flexible, for small production rates, the production rates and their eventual transformation along the project life. Indeed this is something that has to face with the warehousing activity, as well as the delivery issues of the brand. The main advantage will take place redefining the previous production schemes based upon the “Ford” as well as “Toyota” and other production schemes focused on a classical supply-chain production frameworks. This task is one of the most important target of AMICE Project, that aims to create a solid awareness in SME about the effective AM advantages.
What about the regulatory affairs applied to AM devices?
This indeed is one of the most important topics in order to make the market to positively accept the AM devices. Technical Normative Committees like ASTM F42 and ISO TC 261 are fundamental to define the overall quality of processes, equipment, feedstock and applications of AM. New technical rules compare every year and to speed up the overall creation process a tight collaboration among University, Research Center and Industries will be fundamental, following what has been created for example with the America Makes Consortium. Our task with AMICE is to make also evident that the regulatory apparatus is fundamental and we try to recall it every time we could do it.
How the biomedical field is taking advantage of AM?
This is another extremely interesting application field. Almost all the medical applications are showing interest in these AM technologies. In Orthopedic as well as Dental and Maxillofacial issues polymer and composite printing technologies are gaining importance moving toward the target of a personalized medicine, where each prosthesis fit exactly with the patient need.