Nic McCrae makes mountain bikes. Greg Hilbert helps to build private jets. Although their final products differ, both engineers rely upon the same technology in their build processes: Additive Manufacturing.

As Tooling Team Leader at the Little Rock, AR-based Dassault Falcon Jet Corp., Hilbert uses 3D printing and layup molding to create composite tooling parts and machine-holding fixtures.

McCrae, a manager in his Santa Cruz engineering lab, employs additive manufacturing to build bike prototypes and mockups.

As an increasing number of organizations and makers turn to 3D printing for the first time, design teams will likely have plenty of questions.

In a live Tech Briefs webinar last week titled “Additive Manufacturing: Exploring the Possibilities for Tooling and Printing Composite Parts,” an attendee asked Hilbert and McCrae:

What is your advice to someone starting out with additive manufacturing?

Read Greg Hilbert’s and Nic McCrae’s edited responses – and share your own advice below.

Greg Hilbert: For someone who will start using additive manufacturing, the advice I would give them is: Think big, but start small. Always have a vision for the biggest thing you want to produce, especially on the tooling side.

We have small tools, but we have very large fixturing. When we started using AM, the first thing we did was we started with a small tool, a small layup mold, and then we kept scaling up to arrive at a limit of what was possible.

Nic McCrae: The main point for us has been to stop with limiting ourselves with part complexity. I think one of the greatest advantages of additive manufacturing is you can design parts with undercuts, for instance, or you can have parts with areas where a small ball nose would not be able to reach.

So, you can open up your design space to think about a part in a different way that’s not limited by conventional machining operations. That will open up opportunities big-time.

What is your advice for someone introducing additive manufacturing to the enterprise? Share your thoughts below.