Economic aspects of additive manufacturing: benefits, costs and energy consumption

2012-10-24T13:55:53Z (GMT) by Martin Baumers
Additive Manufacturing (AM) refers to the use of a group of technologies capable of combining material layer-by-layer to manufacture geometrically complex products in a single digitally controlled process step, entirely without moulds, dies or other tooling. AM is a parallel manufacturing approach, allowing the contemporaneous production of multiple, potentially unrelated, components or products. This thesis contributes to the understanding of the economic aspects of additive technology usage through an analysis of the effect of AM s parallel nature on economic and environmental performance measurement. Further, this work assesses AM s ability to efficiently create complex components or products. To do so, this thesis applies a methodology for the quantitative analysis of the shape complexity of AM output. Moreover, this thesis develops and applies a methodology for the combined estimation of build time, process energy flows and financial costs. A key challenge met by this estimation technique is that results are derived on the basis of technically efficient AM operation. Results indicate that, at least for the technology variant Electron Beam Melting, shape complexity may be realised at zero marginal energy consumption and cost. Further, the combined estimator of build time, energy consumption and cost suggests that AM process efficiency is independent of production volume. Rather, this thesis argues that the key to efficient AM operation lies in the user s ability to exhaust the available build space.