Paul BatesToday, we are taking the time to speak with Paul Bates regarding the Additive Manufacturing (AM) Industry and how material strength testing fits into the world of AM. Paul is the President of the Additive Manufacturer’s Users Group (AMUG) and also the General Manager of the UL Additive Manufacturing Competency Center (AMCC) which provides hands on additive manufacturing training for metals (including part design), machine operation, testing, validation, and process safety. Paul’s 30 years in the manufacturing and AM industries have made him an expert in his field.

Hi Paul! What are the advantages for manufacturers who use Additive Manufacturing (AM), especially for final parts?

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using AM for final parts. AM opens the door for part geometries not currently achievable with traditional manufacturing methods and prototypes can be made rather quickly.  In the case of design for traditional manufactured parts, you will need to think about some level of re-design if you choose to produce final parts with AM.  In the case of using additive for final production, while it requires minimal to no tooling investment and is well suited for low volume production and custom applications, it is not yet ready for high volume part production.

Can you elaborate more on some of the challenges manufacturers face with AM?

Challenges include limited material choices, slow machine print speeds, part validation & certification, and lack of standards.

How important is it to be trained on the proper use of AM machines?

Since this technology is still new and there are few experienced operators in the workforce, demand for training is growing.  These machines have many variables that need to be understood and managed.  Without proper training, it can become a guessing game that often leads to an unsuccessful implementation.

How about testing the strength of what comes out of the AM machine? What challenges do users face there?

Part testing is both necessary and challenging.  Since this technology is not suited for high volume production, you may need to do non-destructive testing to validate the conformity of your part.  Using test bars included in the build can provide a method to confirm if the part meets the required results.  Placement and orientation of the test bars in the build volume must be considered as well.

What does one have to consider when implementing a plan to test their printed parts?

Look to see if there are any applicable standards for this testing.  Keep in mind the end-product testing is pretty typical for these parts, except there is more to consider.  Since the volumes are low, using statistical analysis is not going to work.  You cannot pick a few samples from a production run and test them.

How can different aspects of the AM process affect the strength of a final part?

There are more than 100 variables in some of these additive processes that need to be considered for production parts.  Most important variables include build orientation (how the part is positioned in the build process), rastering strategy (how each layer is printed), temperatures, layer thickness as well as post processing.

Do you think AM will ever replace traditional manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing is simply a tool in the tool box.  There are great applications for its use, but traditional manufacturing is still needed.  Will it replace some of traditional manufacturing? It’s possible, but designing things that can only be made with AM is more likely how it will exist in the future.

Finish this sentence: “The future of AM…”

Is bright!  No matter what industry you develop for, additive manufacturing is already having an impact.  We are seeing growth in the industrial space due to the increase in end product manufacturing using this technology.  From sports equipment to aerospace, and even medical and dental implants, we all will experience additive manufactured parts soon.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. It was great to get your insight on the current state of the AM Industry and how material testing comes into play!

My pleasure.

For more information about UL and the Training and Education Programs for the Additive Manufacturing Industry that Paul manages, please go to:


ADMET offers a full line of Universal Testing Systems for testing the mechanical properties of plastics, metals, textiles, and more.  We can customize our testing systems to accommodate uncommon or unusual tests, samples, and procedures.

If you’d like to speak with an engineer about testing your 3D printed parts, contact us today!