Since the birth of 3D printing, many people have been discussing whether 3D printing will replace sheet metal processing or CNC manufacturing in the future. In fact, this is unlikely to happen for a long time in the future.
From the current development trend, 3D printing has been effectively combined with CNC processing and sheet metal manufacturing, making up for the defects of these two processes in terms of forming limitations.
Sheet metal processing is widely used in electrical and electronic, automotive, telecommunications, medical and other industries. Sheet metal is the framework that supports and shapes products, such as cars, computers or mobile phones.
The design and manufacture of sheet metal parts is becoming a key stage of new product development, and its trend is diversified and small batch production.
Metal prototyping is gaining significance as it plays a crucial role in the design and production of sheet metal parts. The trend towards diversified and small batch production further emphasizes the need for efficient and effective metal 3D printing processes as a complement to traditional manufacturing methods.
In sheet metal manufacturing process, various moulds are often used. Taking automobile sheet metal parts as an example, I can use punching dies, cutting dies, forming dies, separation dies, stamping dies, bending punches and other dies.
Mold manufacturing is expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, it is not suitable for the production of small batch sheet metal parts.
Due to the high protomold cost and time-consuming nature of mold manufacturing, it becomes impractical for producing small batch sheet metal parts. In such cases, metal 3D printing emerges as an effective alternative that offers cost efficiency and shorter production timelines.
Therefore, when manufacturing sheet metal parts in small quantities, many sheet metal factories adopt the combination of laser cutting and numerical control bending technology
This process does not need mold, is economical, short cycle, and is suitable for rapid production of plates with simple structure. But for some special shape sheet metal parts, there is nothing to do. At this point, 3D printing is required.
A domestic car seat manufacturing company needed to make a set of newly designed seat samples within a week, but the supporting molds were still in production. In addition, this set of seats consists of 78 pieces, with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 mm.
Most components have ribs and projections. Therefore, CNC machining is not appropriate. So they used 3D printing technology.
In another use case, a machine manufacturer wants to produce a silencer composed of four parts. The thickness of the shell is uniformly 0.73mm, and the thickness of the middle structure area is uniformly 0.6mm.
The metal plate structure of these four parts is very complex and cannot be manufactured by cutting and bending. Because of its thin wall thickness, it can not be manufactured by milling. So there are only two options, one is stamping, the other is 3D printing.
Stamping has the advantages of high precision and high realization of design functions, but the mold production cycle is long and the cost is high. The metal 3D printing can be delivered in only 3 days, and the design function can be fully realized.
Nowadays, with more and more diversified products, the demand for diversity and small batch in the processing of parts is increasing.
Therefore, many manufacturers generally believe that the integrated production mode combining sheet metal manufacturing, CNC processing and 3D printing will be one of the mainstream modes in the future manufacturing industry.
As a result, the integration of sheet metal manufacturing, CNC processing, and 3D printing is seen as a potential mainstream approach in the future manufacturing industry. This combination allows for more comprehensive and efficient rapid prototyping services in China, catering to the diverse needs and demands of manufacturers.