It's always interesting to read about the advancements that state-of-the-art manufacturing technology is bringing, but focusing too much on using the newest methods can lead to a company overlooking the more practical solutions that are already proven to be effective.
One of the undeniable trends in the industry in recent years has been the growing buzz around "3D printing," which has been seen as a method of delivering all kinds of innovations. There is even an Australian company that is putting these kinds of devices in walk-in stores and marketing them to average businesses and consumers, as CNET reports.
But ExtremeTech focuses on another new technology that seems like science fiction: laser metal printing.
Comparing it to the "replicator" featured in Star Trek the article's author John Hewitt dissects this process, which appears to fabricate materials out of thin air using some of the same principles behind 3D printing. But as the source points out, even a highly sophisticated pre-programmed manufacturing bot might not possess the accuracy needed for truly valuable custom machining.
Hewitt makes it clear that this shouldn't be seen as a a replacement for more traditional manufacturing methods, as it has significant drawbacks.
"Hybrid machines that combine different operations are nothing new, at least for standard subtractive machining," he writes. "They are disproportionately hard to program (and expensive) and so they don't really speed up manufacturing all that much."
While CNC machine shops may not be able to create parts out of thin air, the attention to detail that established providers like Windham Manufacturing bring to your custom projects might give you the best chance to get reliable use out of your machines.