Additive manufacturing (AM), also termed 3D printing, represents a significant breakthrough in industrial production. The process involves taking a Computer Aided Design (CAD) sketch, extracting the 3D digital information and then applying layer after layer of powdered metal to build the desired product.
AM is fast, accurate and resource-efficient – any waste metal can be collected, recycled and used again at a later point. The technique has been applied in the development of Formula 1 car components, bike chassis and jewellery. However, the application is not restricted to metal-based products. The same technique can be deployed using liquids and sheet materials for example. AM is almost limitless – it has been projected that, in the future, it will be used to create body parts from human cells.
Given the technical and digital nature of the application, computing platforms are inherently crucial to achieving builds with millimetric-precision. More specifically, accuracy and performance are highly reliant on the quality of images displayed onscreen, as well as the overall processing power of supporting computers. Specifying platforms with suitably powerful graphics cards and processors ensures the necessary performance requirements are fully met.
Computers should be optimised for reliability to provide the overall application with the best chance of success across extended timeframes. This can be achieved through the selection of components capable of 24/7 operation, providing end-users with reassurance that the system has been specified and designed for reliability.
AM solutions must be able to keep up with continual advancements in technology to harness their full application potential. Future-proofing is a way of supporting this need. By specifying a full range of expandability options, computers are capable of taking and using new technologies to their advantage as and when they become available.
The application has far from fulfilled its potential. As the technique becomes more widely used and its capabilities increase, the computing needs of AM will alter. Agility in the design, development and deployment of computers is highly important in supporting the growth of the application and providing manufacturers of AM solutions with platforms that help to optimise accuracy and performance.
You can learn about the range of other automation applications that we cater for on the automation sector page.