“Digital inventory converted into physical inventory, as and when you need it, wherever you need and in the exact quantity required, equals true on-demand production with no waste.”
In my previous column, I discussed the benefits of virtual inventories and how, by pulling parts from a digital (rather than physical) inventory and then quickly and seamlessly 3D printing these parts, supply chain efficiencies can be significantly improved.
The benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) in conjunction with virtual inventories are further demonstrated in the enablement of on-demand manufacturing – most notably with respect to batch-size. In most traditional manufacturing technologies, the minimal batch size is quite large (tens- or hundreds- of thousands, and sometimes millions of items in a single manufacturing run). Think about it – with conventional production methods, there is a large cost of switching what the line produces and therefore manufacturers typically produce in one run for current and future expected future demands. This creates a physical inventory of spare parts that may or may not be used in the future. However, this is expensive to produce, store and manage, particularly when there is no guarantee the parts will actually be used.
The UK is renowned as a global innovator. As the world’s first industrialised nation; innovation, creativity, and – to an extent – risk, have all played a part in some of the UK’s greatest achievements.
But have we reached a tipping point where UK creativity is in danger of being stifled as a result of increasing trends towards risk aversion in the innovation ecosystem? What’s more, is it now harder to find the commercial backing to get truly innovative ideas off the ground? And what role will the 3D printing industry have in facilitating economic growth in the UK in the face of an increasingly conservative business environment?
With the ability to quickly produce replacement parts on-demand, 3D printing helps operators to better maintain trains and improve the quality of service for passengers. Angel Trains, one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies, 3D printing leader Stratasys, engineering consultancy DB ESG and train operator Chiltern Railways have joined forces to trial the first 3D printed parts ever deployed within an in-service passenger train in the UK. For more information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing Composites 2020-2030: Technology and Market Analysis.
These parts include four passenger armrests and seven grab handles, which have been installed on Chiltern Railways´ trains. The trial’s success to date demonstrates how 3D printing can help train operators accelerate the replacement of obsolete parts, enabling them to get vehicles back into service quicker and better maintain their trains – improving the quality of service for passengers.
There is a divide in the market for additive manufacturing (AM)/3D printing. On the one hand, there is a community of users that employ entry level, often relatively inaccurate printers for a range of applications, usually associated with hobbies. The extensive time consumed attempting to get these printers to work anywhere close to consistently – and their high print fail rate – is off-set by the low purchase cost. On the other hand, there is an established and growing base of users employing AM as a true industrial manufacturing tool. This latter community often requires high-end, expensive and often difficult to use AM platforms to produce the high quality AM parts that industry demands with repeatability and reliability.
Aad Janszen describes the fluxes in the AM sector and explores how one pioneering firm is approaching opportunities in this market in a compelling way
The Struggle For Additive Manufacturing
The struggle continues for AM to truly find its feet in a production setting. For sure, there is uptake, there are successes across numerous industrial sectors, but the real opportunities that exist for AM are not to replace traditional manufacturing processes such as injection moulding and machining, but instead to be incorporated with and work alongside these traditional processes in an efficient and innovative way. They need to complement and integrate seamlessly into existing product development and manufacturing processes.
French soldiers deployed to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel have been experimenting for several months with 3D printers to make spare parts at their base in Mali.
According to a Ministry of the Armed Forces release, Desert Tactical Group – Logistics “Charentes” is responsible for testing the feasibility of using the two 3D printers at the large base in Gao to make components.
In general, the specialists at the base a tasked to produce replacements for broken components.
They follow a familiar process – first modelling the part on a computer and then printing, testing, iterating and refining where necessary.
Small parts can be printed in minutes and more complex projects within hours, saving time and effort in transporting equipment to the relatively remote base in central Mali.
EvoBus GmbH, a subsidiary of the Daimler Group, is one of the leading manufacturers in the global omnibus segment. In order to continue expanding its pioneering role in times of increasing competitive pressure, EvoBus is pursuing two strategic aims: sustainably increase its profitability and enhance its capacity to innovate. In particular, EvoBus needs to find an answer to the growing challenges in the field of Customer Services & Parts (CSP). Daimler Buses sees additive manufacturing as a key tool in reaching these targets. In order to successfully integrate industrial 3D printing within its organization, Daimler Buses decided to rely on the expertise of Additive Minds, the consulting division of EOS, right from the early project phase. The team of experts at EOS specializes in leading customers through the various development phases of additive manufacturing.
Angel Trains, Stratasys, DB ESG and Chiltern Railways joined forces to trial the first 3D printed parts ever deployed within an in-service passenger train in the UK.
These parts include four passenger armrests and seven grab handles, which have been installed on Chiltern Railways trains. The trial’s success to date demonstrates how 3D printing can help train operators accelerate the replacement of obsolete parts, enabling them to get vehicles back into service quicker and better maintain their trains – improving the quality of service for passengers.
The cross-industry collaboration between Angel Trains, DB ESG and Stratasys aims to leverage 3D printing to help overcome issues around the replacement of obsolete parts across the UK rail industry. Unlike the automotive industry, where vehicles from household brands are mass produced in their millions each year, the number of fleets in the rail industry are comparatively very small and, in some cases, over 30 years old. This combination presents several challenges for train operators, especially when it comes to vehicle maintenance and part replacement.
Materials Solutions, a Siemens business, has received accreditation from the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP) for additive manufacturing in the aerospace sector. A reported first for a UK 3D printing company in this industry Phil Hatherley, General Manager at Materials Solutions, comments, “We knew that in order to deliver the highest quality parts for the aerospace sector we needed to get the NADCAP accreditation to show we were serious about working in the sector.”
It is universally recognized and incorporated by the aerospace industry for risk mitigation activity as it validates compliance with industry standards, best practices, and customer requirements. Both Italian metal 3D printing service provider Beam IT and QC Laboratories, Inc., a non-destructive testing (NDT) services company, have NADCAP approval for aerospace production.
CECIMO, the association representing the interests of machine tool and manufacturing technologies, has released a new statement concerning additive manufacturing’s position in upcoming discussions by the European Commission.
“Before the end of the year,” the association states, “additive manufacturing will be at the centerstage at the European level.”
The Commission is due to publish a new study and guidelines that will rekindle debates surrounding quality standards and the difference between Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) relations. In such debates, the association reiterates, “CECIMO will address policymakers to avoid burdening the sector with unnecessary regulation.”
3D printing was pioneered way back in 1986 but has recently begun to enter the public consciousness. Over the past ten years, it has blurred the boundaries between science fiction and fact. It is also known as Additive Manufacturing and is used in the automobile industry, aerospace & defence, retail and in the medical healthcare industry, amongst many others. A major component of this is the 3D printed drugs market. 3D printing helps make what was once expensive and inaccessible much more cost-effective. Can this be more apt and necessary anywhere else than in the field of medicine? 3D printing is already used to print artificial bones, to create surgical materials with 3D scans to replace a damaged or missing bone and even to create hearing aid devices. Skull implants have been made for people with head injuries and even titanium heels to replace bone cancer afflicted patients.
There are several factors which help the 3D printed drugs market to grow. One key advantage is their instantaneous solubility. 3D printed drugs are produced using powder bed inkjet printing. The elements of the drug are added in a layer by layer approach akin to 3D printing for any other device. This makes the drugs easier to swallow and can be very helpful for patients suffering from dysphagia. 3D printing could also augment the arrival of individualised drugs, or the creation of a combination of drugs. They could be customised for each patient, which would help much more than batch-produced drugs since they would be created specifically taking into account that patient’s medical history. The 3D printed drug market could also make children far less resistant to taking their required medication, since they may be able to choose the shape, colour, design and even taste of the tablet! These are anticipated to be the main drivers of the 3D printed drug market.