In recent years, the design firm Gresham Smith has seen the introduction of additive manufacturing into its industrial-sector work. “We have several clients that are using additive manufacturing to make production tools,” says David Verner, RA, Executive Vice President in the firm’s Industrial market.
Additive manufacturing (AM)—the process of fabricating parts and components from 3D model data—has emerged as a multi-billion-dollar business with considerable runway to grow.
“Almost all of our manufacturing clients are using additive manufacturing in their R&D operations,” says George Halkias, a Senior Principal with Stantec. A few of those clients have already layered aspects of AM onto their commercial processes.
Ware Malcomb has also seen increased demand for industrial facilities with additive manufacturing capabilities, especially in automotive and aviation fields that produce 3D-printed metal parts, says Michael Bennett, a Principal. He notes that among the specialized needs to support this technology are enhanced power, specific gases, and tank farms.
Additive manufacturing comes to the production line
Verner says that, in some cases, Gresham Smith’s team members are designing tools based on input from production-line workers. For example, it designed a replacement O-ring that once cost its client $20 per piece to produce. The client, says Verner, can now make that O-ring via onsite AM for less than 50 cents each. For replacement parts and tools described, the identified annual cost savings for this client is now almost $1 million.
Gresham Smith currently has under construction an AM R&D/contract manufacturing facility it designed. That site, says Verner, will build prototypes of parts and products from various materials, including titanium. The goal is to be able to build one or 100 items on demand cost effectively, he says.
Related content: Additive manufacturing heads to the jobsite
Clayco is a member of an executive committee that is exploring ways to bring AM to more industrial jobsites. The committee includes a real estate developer, designers, and AM companies. “We are analyzing the business model and preparing to implement AM onsite in a beta-test scale,” says Anthony J. Johnson, an Executive Vice President with Clayco.
Burns & McDonnell has developed an “additive playbook,” says Wade Anderson, Senior Project Manager, to help one of its clients identify key considerations that might influence design and construction, such as material storage and handling, cross contamination of materials, hazardous material requirements, air quality, power continuity, and special finishes.