What's new

Additive Manufacturing in the Amusement Industry


Slut for Spinners
Social Media Team
For those that are not aware, additive manufacturing (or 3-D printing, in layman's terms) is a somewhat new technology that has been gaining traction in various industries. It's become quite popular in the medical industry for enabling new, quicker, and more accurate means of manufacturing an array of components, implants, and tools. It's becoming more popular in the automotive industry for a number of similar reasons, but the two that seem important to this discussion is that it enhances a company's ability to produce service parts and also provides a cheaper manufacturing option for low volume, high complexity components than traditional manufacturing options.

With regard to service parts, automotive tooling typically gets stored in a warehouse once a program has concluded and sits there, only to be used again if there is a need to rebuild a bank of service parts years after the fact. Additive manufacturing requires parts to be stored in a digital library and thus as long as someone owns the file or files, they can print the parts from any correctly sized machine anywhere in the world. I recall seeing discussions regarding certain companies and parks buying as many service parts that they could get their hands on for Schwarzkopf rides. With other companies going under and no longer able to service their own rides (Arrow), additive manufacturing could be a means of prolonging the lifespans of a ton of rides.

Regarding manufacturing itself - thrill rides are inherently low volume products. I imagine manufacturers run a small batch of parts and have enough to satisfy train builds for years, ultimately leading to storage costs for both the components and tooling. Also, from what I've seen of the undersides of trains, the components are not complex in the slightest. Would it be worth it to print one bracket that replaces three separate ones as needed to satisfy product orders? Could the costs of investing in this technology present a savings over traditional manufacturing methods and storage?

With IAAPA this week, it would be interesting to find out if anybody has been investigating this space. There are certainly benefits to doing so - it's mainly a matter of cost. Maybe something @Hixee could check out while he's walking the show floor? But aside from the trade show, has anybody had discussions with park representatives or manufacturers regarding this technology or have seen any articles pertaining to this?