2 min read

7 reasons why machine shops should be adopting metal additive mfg technology to their subtractive technology

By Barbara Miller-Webb on Aug 19, 2021 11:49:13 AM

Historically most machine shops have been job shops, which makes the business dependent on constantly obtaining new customers with new machining needs.  3D printers can enable a machine shop to create its own new products and gain more independence.  

Let us review why it makes sense to adopt 3D printers in machine shops today.  

  • Diversification - Metal 3D print technologies are the next evolution to the machine shop.  The ability to complement their subtractive with additive manufacturing.  The evolution of adding plastics, carbon, and now metal additive manufacturing to produce tooling, fixturing, and end-use parts.
  • Optimize the tooling with metal 3D printing.  Shops can now leverage 3D printing cost-effective plastic parts or metal parts to enhance workflows and projects.  A machine shop can rely on the printer to mitigate errors and improve timelines from pre-production prototyping to creating production tools to printing end-use parts for quick fixes.
  • Small-batch production — additive manufacturing technologies provide direct production options for low volume production and bridge manufacturing.  Save on tooling costs with 3D printing directly from a file, and take advantage of speed to market.

Complex geometries are the best use case for metal AM.

Most importantly, metal 3D printing

  • Is especially helpful for geometries that are costly, time and labor-intensive processes to produce on a CNC machine.  Designs that leverage metal AM's freedom to generate internal features of the part, intricate geometries such as lattices, and complex forms such as topology-optimized shapes to maximize their performance while minimizing their weight and the total number of components in an assembly.  
  • Communication to the machinists to help interpret drawings that have so many call-outs and can be difficult to catch all with complex geometries.  This helps eliminate time and material waste with a CNC job that a call-out may have been missed.  A 3D print can be a valuable tool prior to machined part production.
  • To produce parts for test fit and function.  This will shorten the feedback loop in the machine shop with 3D prints in advance of production.  3D printing allows for faster prototypes, setting up prints to run overnight then using parts the next day.

Jigs, fixtures, and other customized production tools are essential for efficient, effective manufacturing.  Tooling is a fixed expense that must be amortized across large quantities of parts. 

  • One important capability is an alternative to casting.  Machining lead times can be a hostage to the lead times from foundries delivering cast parts.  With production, metal additive manufacturing in-house, the machine shop can print its own parts as needed, without any lead-time from a supplier. 

In summary, additive manufacturing eliminates the following barriers with tolling-free production:

  1. Optimized designs
  2. Mass customization
  3. Rapid design to production
  4. Cost-effective at any scale
  5. Digital inventory
  6. Low operator burden

To learn more about metal additive manufacturing solutions, please connect with us directly at https://www.mastergraphics.com/desktop-metal

Topics: 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing Metal Metal 3D Printing
2 min read

Investment Casting Using Additive Manufacturing Optimize your Foundry

By Barbara Miller-Webb on May 21, 2021 9:40:58 AM

The official definition of Investment casting is an industrial process based on lost-wax casting, one of the oldest known metal-forming techniques.  The term "lost-wax casting" can also refer to modern investment casting processes.

Additive manufacturing technologies are rapidly evolving and their applicability to investment casting grows with it.  Instead of using injection-molded wax patterns companies can now also choose to directly 3D print patterns using Stereolithography (SLA) and MultiJet (MJP) materials.  Using these AM technologies and 3D printer software such as 3D Sprint from 3D Systems, you can streamline your time and labor-intensive process to advance production and reduce expenses.  Today this is referred to by 3D Systems as "digital foundry" which enables foundries to deliver a new level of service to their customers.  There is no need to change anything in the workflow process.  More importantly, they can expect patterns in hours rather than days or weeks.  Foundries that want to compete in this market and maintain a competitive edge should be using additive manufacturing or... be left behind.  

With the new technologies for investment casting, foundries will be able to:

  1. Produce low volumes of casted parts from a CAD model in 24-48 hours
  2. Reduce the costs of tooling
  3. Eliminate the time it takes to produce tooling
  4. Reduce costs and space for tooling storage
  5. Deliver unmoldable products

Using powerful software such as 3D Sprint from 3D Systems you can apply chemical etching offsets.  Apply scale compensation for metal shrinkage.  Digitally create and position gates and vents.  Create sectioning of large parts and joints.  Prepare and optimize files for printing. 

Print your master pattern by choosing between plastic and wax master patterns.  But how do you determine which type of master pattern?  Let me summarize the differences:

With MultiJet printing (MJP) for wax casting patterns, you use 100% real wax printing technology.  This technology is great for small to medium size parts typically less than 8 inches in X, Y, and Z geometry.  These patterns are significantly lower in cost due to the material costs.  They are produced in less time than traditional patterns production again for low to medium volume prints.  You can expect accuracy and repeatability with wax patterns and fits into the existing investment casting process.  Also, ideal for customized metal components to bridge manufacturing.

With Stereolithography (SLA) for plastic casting patterns, you would use a castable resin material.  This provides you with highly accurate, high yield, large parts, and very complex lightweight master patterns.  They will maintain dimensional stability over years.  Typically, there is less manual finishing and labor expense with SLA processes.   3D Systems uses a QuickCast resin that is 30% lighter weight and provides consistent strength X, Y, Z geometries.

To learn more watch, the 3D Systems YouTube video. Understanding How 3D Printed Casting Patterns Work in the Foundry

Topics: 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing Stereolithography SLA Casting
3 min read

Trends in Additive Manufacturing - 3D Print 2021

By Kevin Carr on May 7, 2021 12:05:47 PM

I almost can't believe I am writing this but I just got back from attending my first live conference since the COVID pandemic hit us!  I was fortunate enough to attend the 2021 Additive Manufacturing Users Conference (AMUG) where the leading users of additive gather to share their knowledge, expertise, and updates on best-in-class additive manufacturing processes.  There is too much to share in just one blog so I will have more follow-up blogs but wanted to start with what the experts noted as the trends they saw in 2020.  In one of the sessions, industry leaders outlined what they believe will be the next areas of success around 3D print in 2021.  Here are my notes from what was presented...

BASF - Noted that they are seeing more traditional injection molding companies looking to leverage additive manufacturing and leveraging 3D print to augment their traditional services.  Historically because of the volume and material needs that injection molders require they have been slower to adopt Additive Manufacturing technologies but BASF believes advancement in materials and throughput will increase the adoption.


DMG Mori - Stated they believe automation around 3D print, enhanced reliability, and improved quality assurance processes will be key for additive.   Much like the notes above from BASF, they believe adoption will also increase as the materials improve for both metal and composites.  In addition, more hybrid systems will be leveraged to take advantage of both traditional and new manufacturing technologies.


Dyndrite - Believes that software solutions have lagged 3D print technology and 2021 will be the year software makes a big step forward to catch up.  With the explosion of manufacturing data, software will need to be developed to run 3D printers more efficiently, quickly and to leverage data better.  The need for technology-agnostic front ends will be another improvement as manufacturers will leverage various 3D print technologies.  

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Essentium - Predicts the continued rise of full-scale production, improved leveraging of 3D print for supply chain resiliency, and the development of materials to solve specific applications versus a general material solution.  The trend for true additive manufacturing that occurred in 2020 will continue into 2021.


ExOne - Beyond just the overall desire for 3D metal parts, they see the demand for more metal materials will increase along with the desire to implement additive processes to satisfy green initiatives. There will also be a continued leveraging for metal print for light-weighting and part consolidation.  Metal certainly has a strong future.


Take these as my notes and I encourage you to visit each of their websites to see what they are focused on.  Overall I believe the message was consistent, it's not only about the print technology but the processes utilized both before and after printing.  Design processes and technologies will continue to evolve to better leverage and prepare data for printing.  The post finishing processes will be improved to support a true manufacturing process for both producing parts in quantity but with quality assurance.  Throw in materials development and I believe 2021 will be another step forward to true additive manufacturing.  

As always, if any of the directions I noted above resonate with you (or does not) please reach out as I am always curious to hear real-world feedback.

Lastly, I encourage you to check out the Additive Manufacturing User Group - www.amug.com
The Additive Manufacturing Users Group's origins date back to the early 1990s when the founding industry users group called 3D Systems North American Stereolithography User Group.  Today, AMUG educates and supports users of all additive manufacturing technologies.  If you are at all involved in 3D around production, this is a group you should support and join.AMUGlogotag

More to come in later blogs...

Topics: 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing AMUG
2 min read

The First Step in the 3D Printing Post-Processing WorkFlow is OFTEN Cleaning

By Gene Call on May 6, 2021 3:43:10 PM

You can have the best 3D printed parts in the world, but if you do not have a good cleaning/post-processing workflow, your parts are likely not going to look their best or be as functional as possible. This is especially true with powder-based 3D printing technologies. 

The most common cleaning process for powder-based 3D printing is bead blasting.  In the past, this was done manually bent over a bead blaster; you would have a bead blaster hooked up to an air compressor and clean each part one at a time.  This process not only takes time, but you could damage and/or discolor the parts by putting the spray nozzle too close to the part.  See example A for discoloration, called burn marks. Example A Burn MarksIf any of you have ever bead blasted by hand you know what a pain in the back, neck, and eye strain it can be, not to mention a major time suck especially if you have many parts to clean. 

Now with the DyeMansion Powershot C automatic cleaning system what would take me hours has been reduced down to 10 minutes a load.  The other advantage with the DyeMansion Powershot C is I get consistently clean-looking parts.  See example B20210428_155747 The cleaned parts are ready for finishing or shipping depending on your or your client's needs.  Again, remember the advantage of additive manufacturing is cost-effectiveness and turnaround time.  

In the video below, you can see I am unpacking parts from the HP Multi Jet Fusion.  I am just cleaning the loose powder off the parts as the HP recycles the unused material back into the system for reuse.  The parts are then loaded into the DyeMansion Powershot C and cleaned. 

After using the DyeMansion cleaning system, I would never want to go back to the cleaning process manually again.

Please feel free to give me a call at 800.873.7238 x2735 or send me an email at gene.call@mastergraphics.com with any questions or if you want to discuss post-processing.

Topics: 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing Post-Processing Cleaning
2 min read

Complimenting Additive Manufacturing with Subtractive Manufacturing

By Barbara Miller-Webb on Jan 20, 2021 11:10:14 AM

When it comes to advancing manufacturing processes, people pick a team on which to play: the additive manufacturing team or the subtractive manufacturing team.  This meant that people used technologies such as MultiJet, SLA, SLS or FFF technologies for additive manufacturing, or CNC machining for subtractive manufacturing.  The result, companies have a divide with both sides feeling threatened and intimidated by the other.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) rose in the 1990's.  Companies thought this would replace traditional machining and I injection molds. It was realized AM at that time had limited materials tolerances, lower speeds and higher prices. AM adoption was slower with manufacturing as a result.  Traditional manufacturers were offended that a technology could replace their skill set.  On the flip side, additive manufacturers were not impressed by traditional manufacturers refusing to advance product development with speed or diversity.  This division slowed the acceptance to AM technology.

So what has changed today?  Proven successful applications over the years.  With the advancement of material properties, faster print technology, better resolution/tolerances and lower equipment pricing has companies adopting AM to complement subtractive manufacturing instead of competing.  More case studies are being produced today with successful applications.

What are a few applications we see additive manufacturing used successful within companies today?

  • Jigs or fixtures is used to locate, insert or support something.  Also go/no-go gauges.  Traditionally, these items have been machined which involved expense and time to program the work, buy the material and machine the parts.  3D printed parts can be printed overnight for next day needs, ensure repeatability, save scrap costs and lower the cost of production.
  • Mold inserts - low volume injection molds such as up to 200 shots are proving out for companies that want to get to market faster.  The divide is coming together with the designers helping design the fixtures for the tool room manager.
  • Thermoforming used as direct tools or custom 'inserts' within traditional tools
  • Sheet metal forming tools 3d printed will provide an efficient replacement to waterjet and laser.
  • Indirect master patterns save weeks and months with 3D printing.


I work with companies to help educate them about additive manufacturing, to help assure companies will not acquire the wrong technology for their application needs.  The real value of AM technology is found when people take time to learn where the complementing technologies and materials make sense.

A traditional manufacturer should embrace additive manufacturing, because it is truly complementary to their existing processes and adds value.

When customers see these technologies their manufacturers, they feel more comfortable that they are working with a progressive manufacture.  Additive manufacturing is no longer considered "hype".  It is here, and it is staying.  One common comment I hear from manufacturers that have implemented AM, "more applications and cost saving were discovered." While it is unclear if AM will ever fully replace subtractive manufacturing technologies, it seems fairly certain that it will, in the long run, become a significant complement to subtractive manufacturing.

Download the jigs and fixtures eBook for further ideas, or contact Barb Miller-Webb at barbara.miller-webb@mastergraphics.com

Topics: 3D Printing Additive Manufacturing jigs & fixtures