Addition and Subtraction

The battlefield of the very near future could be quite a different place indeed.  At least as far as logistics and materiel supply is concerned.  I imagine it will be even more profound for the Navy, who have a stable working platform (stable by our standards!)

Where once, a battle was fought only as far as the supply chain could stretch, and every spare part imaginable was carried, it will soon get to a point that all that will be required is the generic raw material, and the ability to fabricate any required part in the field.

The age of one-off part creation is upon us.  It may still be in its infancy, but RP (rapid prototyping) and RM (rapid manufacture), in the form of 3D printing is about to become an unbelievable growth industry over the next 6-10 years.  Even the Formula 1 is taking it very seriously.  They already use 3D printing for prototyping parts for their vehicles, but it won’t take long before the cars themselves have 3D printed components on them, especially where it comes to recovering from an accident.  Cars are occasionally knocked out of the big event due to a crash during practice, and the inability to get the required spare.  This costs the team a fortune in lost exposure, lost advertising, let alone potentially lost championship points.

3D printing is a form of AM – additive manufacturing, where raw material is processed and added to build the required component, layer by layer.  This is no longer restricted to plastics either, with companies now able to utilise titanium 3D printers.  This results in products that goes far beyond prototyping and concept models, and results in fully functional products, some which cannot be made by any other method, with moveable components in seemingly impossible locations.  Impossible if traditional fabrication methods were used.

So where 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process, CNC routing is a subtractive process.  You start with a block of raw material, and carve away everything you don’t want.  Each have their advantages, and CNC machining has now been around for decades, so is a very mature process.

Soon, both additive and subtractive computer manufacturing in my workshop.  The Redback CNC will give me the subtractive process, (in spades), and a soon-to-arrive 3D printer will let me start to become familiar with additive manufacturing.  The rolls of filament arrived during the week, so hopefully the 3D printer is not too far behind!

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