Additive manufacturing is no longer just for prototypes. Its increasing popularity and technical capabilities have pushed it into position to change the way manufacturers manage their spare parts inventory.
No matter how technologies change, or what new innovations break into the mainstream, the basic goals of manufacturing remain the same: Reduce unplanned downtime, reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary waste, etc. How fortunate it is that 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) is one of those cool, innovative technologies that is finding itself a very nice spot in the realm of day-to-day cost and time savings. Not only can it be used to produce interesting and previously impossible designs, it has also become a useful way to change spare parts management.
When a system goes down, making the repairs needed to get it back up and running can be time-consuming. Even more so if the part that needs replacing is no longer readily available. With the right program in place, additive manufacturing can build that part on demand—whether through reverse engineering, digital files from the component supplier, or perhaps through the supplier itself.
It’s not clear whether the additive manufacturing supply chain will expand rapidly enough to meet growing demand for 3D-printed parts for spacecraft or launch vehicles.
When companies are starting out, it’s easy for them to turn to additive manufacturing service providers for a few parts, said Scott Killian, aerospace business development manager for EOS North America. “Once companies move into production, they’re going to have to figure out whether the supply chain can still meet their needs,” he added. “There’s a lot of ebb and flow right now on getting that supply chain to ramp up.”
Many space companies work directly with EOS, a German manufacturer of 3D printing machines, or print parts on EOS equipment operated by additive manufacturing service providers. The only rocket customer Killian can discuss is Launcher. The New York company developing a 3D-printed copper bi-metal engine has agreed to a joint marketing campaign with EOS.
After many years in stealth mode, California-based VELO3D emerged in August 2018 with the release of its end-to-end Sapphire metal 3D printer. The industry took notice. The system, based on the company’s Intelligent Fusion technology, gained significant attention for its promise of support-free 3D printing and production capabilities.
Since then, VELO3D has kept up momentum, showcasing applications for its metal AM system in various industries and working with influential players in the AM and aerospace industries, such as Stratasys Direct and Boom Supersonic.
We recently had an in depth conversation with VELO3D’s Chief Customer Officer Richard Nieset about the company’s unique 3D printing technology as well as how it aims to disrupt the metal AM and broader manufacturing markets with its capabilities. If there is one key thing to take away from the conversation, it is that VELO3D is delivering on its promises and is confident in its ability to transform and unlock AM applications, especially in the aerospace and industrial sectors.
Chicago’s Fast Radius is coaxing manufacturers toward a virtual just-in-time supply chain.
Fast Radius, a Chicago company that’s developing commercial-scale 3D printing for manufacturers, has raised another $48 million.
The funding, led by UPS, which backed the company when it launched four years ago, also included Drive Capital, a venture fund in Columbus, Ohio; as well as Chicago-based investors Hyde Park Venture Partners, Jump Capital and Michael Polsky’s Skydeck Capital.
Fast Radius will use the money to build out the software platform used by customers to design, produce and track on-demand parts on Fast Radius machines. The company’s goal is to put manufacturing facilities next to transportation hubs so it can provide a virtual just-in-time supply chain to customers.
Cummins has sold its first metal part printed on one of its own 3D printers, moving the company a significant step closer to the exciting potential of additive manufacturing.
The part was a low-volume bracket for a customer in Cummins’ New and ReCon Parts division and did not have a current supplier. The company is focusing first on printing low-volume parts as it studies how best to use 3D technology in higher volume manufacturing.
“With this technology you can really unshackle the designer to do things you just can’t do using traditional forms of manufacturing,” said Brett Boas, Director-Advanced Manufacturing at the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.).
Parts can be made lighter, stronger and more effective using metal 3D printing compared to parts created using more traditional methods that employ molds, molten metal and equipment to precisely cut and shape the part.
3D printing creates three-dimensional objects one ultra-thin layer at a time. If the part doesn’t come out quite right, the designer can simply change the computer design file and print it again; a much faster process than using traditional manufacturing techniques to build a test part.
Now that 3D printing is moving towards industrial-grade production levels, many companies find themselves excited about the possibilities but not sure how to fully make it part of their operating model. This has created a gap where companies are slow to adopt additive manufacturing. Fast Radius is looking to bridge this gap.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Fast Radius, an advanced digital manufacturing company, is empowering industries to embrace additive. According to Lou Rassey, CEO of Fast Radius, the company offers “technology-agnostic solutions”, including additive manufacturing, and end-to-end processes for the design and manufacture of industrial-grade products. Customers come from sectors including aerospace, automotive, and medical.
The company is driven by a singular mission to “Make new things possible” for today’s manufacturers – whether that’s unlocking new business opportunities through additive manufacturing or making formerly “unmakeable” products. To achieve its mission, Fast Radius built a proprietary model that combines digital manufacturing with advanced physical technologies. This model led Fast Radius to be recently selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and McKinsey & CompanyInitiative on Shaping the Future of Production as a Fourth Industrial Revolution “Lighthouse”.
Even companies with the best-laid plans for supply chain digitization often struggle to achieve their goals, and recent Capgemini research provides some insight into the various factors holding some businesses back. The study, which suggests that many businesses remain stuck in the planning phase of digital transformation, offers several useful takeaways.
Released in December, “The Digital Supply Chain’s Missing Link: Focus”report surveyed more than 1,000 supply chain executives in the consumer products, manufacturing, and retail fields.
Key Survey Takeaways
The opportunity for cost savings was the primary motivator for the executives interviewed, with 77% saying that this impacted their decision in aiming to digitally transform the supply chain. Increasing revenues (56%) and supporting new business models (53%) were also cited.
According to estimates provided by the Pentagon, 3D printing capabilities will be increasingly integrating into the U.S. Army, reported by Devon L. Suits, Army News Service earlier this month.
As 3D printing increases both in the field and at depots, the Army’s Center of Excellence for Additive and Advanced Manufacturing is slated to reach initial operating capability this year at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.
Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-4, outlined the Army’s current 3D printing capabilities at the 2019 Military Additive Manufacturing Summit and Technology Showcase Feb. 6, in Tampa, Florida.
As dark clouds gather over the global economy, manufacturers find themselves in the crosshairs
Long supply chains and a dependence on frictionless trade leaves manufacturers at risk to rising protectionism and slowing global growth. But a surprising form of technological defence could be available to them in 3D printing. Here are five key ways in which the tech could upend the economics of traditional manufacturing, while spurring innovation and cutting pollution.
- 3D printing offering economies of scale
Perhaps the biggest benefit of 3D printing could be its potential to cut costs, says Galina Spasova, senior research analyst at IDC. 3D printers reduce the number of steps required to assemble a finished part or product, speeding up the manufacturing process for some products, she says.
Industrial-grade 3D printing moves production closer to the point of use, changing relationships among suppliers, customers and service providers.
History could repeat itself as 3D printing is poised to disrupt the supply chain much like email changed the way people communicate.
In the 1990s, people scoffed that email would replace sending letters through the U.S. Postal Service. Today, billions of emails travel the world every day as USPS struggles with lost revenue from first-class mail.
The degree to which supply chains could be impacted by 3D printing is only an educated guess at this point as the technology matures and companies come to understand how to make the best use of it. Industrial-grade 3D printing moves production closer to the point of use, changing relationships among suppliers, customers and service providers like transportation carriers.