In an additive process, additive is not the only step. For this part, the two additive cycle times were long (55 hours and 80 hours, respectively), but the overall lead time for wire EDM (including delivery to the machine shop, waiting at the EDM machine for this part’s turn and the actually EDM cycle) was even longer. In total, the lead time to make four production parts through additive manufacturing plus postprocessing was about 1 month.

It could easily have been shorter. Using a bandsaw to remove the parts from the plate would have saved considerable time. Also, a compressor failure of the AM machine during this experiment cost days of lead time, but Delcam left this in the total lead time because “stuff happens” (to paraphrase Gunnink) is a part of manufacturing. The larger point still remains: Additive manufacturing includes postprocessing steps, and those steps in themselves might be time-consuming. Additive manufacturing can usually beat the lead time of a process that requires tooling to be made, but depending on the part, AM might not be able to beat the lead time of a process that, for example, involves solely machining the part out of solid stock.

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