Amey assess robot 3D printers for in-situ repair of UK rail network

Amey, a UK-based infrastructural support service provider, has revealed internal plans for applying 3D printing to train-track renewal. With concept drawings provided by Swiss robotic arm manufacturer ABB, the company demonstrates the construction of an independent repair carriage, capable of moving along railway lines and removing and replacing faults. Though still in its early stages, the company estimates that over 60% of UK railway lines could be refurbished using such a system, returning material economy and efficiency savings equating to over £40 million a year.

Amey's robotic 3D printing rail refurbishment concepts. Image via ABB

“At Amey, we’re exploring the use of 3D printing in the rail sector, beginning with track renewals,” Simon Grundy, Innovation Manager, Consulting & Rail at Amey, writes.


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How is 3D printing transforming cardiac care?

The potential benefits of 3D printing and its application in cardiovascular medicine are emerging fast, according to an international group of researchers. They have highlighted examples in four core areas in an article published online on 21 October by Interactive Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery.

“3D printing has expanded over the past three decades with growth in both facility implementation and diversity of medical applications,” wrote the authors, led by Dr. Enrico Ferrari from Cardiocentro Ticino in Lugano, Switzerland. “The speed of technological development is increasing and the utility of 3D printing and its application in cardiovascular medicine is tangible.”

Far and away the most common use of cardiovascular 3D printing has been to facilitate care for pediatric patients with congenital heart diseases, although the application of 3D printing in adult cardiovascular diseases also has been on the rise in recent years.

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Lego’s mostly obnoxious IP bullying of the 3D printing community doesn’t make any sense

In the earlier days of Techdirt, Lego made multiple appearances as an IP bully. However, its IP bullying ran into some legal headaches as various courts pushed back again and again and again. The company failed, pretty spectacularly, in its quest to argue that no one could make similar, or even interconnecting, Lego bricks. Its patents long expired, and any copyright and trademark rights were much more limited.

For years, the company has relied on the fact that even with the ability of other companies to copy its designs, really only Lego could manufacture the toy bricks with the kind of exact precision that made them work properly. Knock-offs tended to not connect nearly as well. And Lego’s manufacturing was such that beyond the precision in the blocks, it could also make the blocks so cheaply that it was difficult for anyone to undercut them anyway. Finally, Lego’s brand is pretty powerful in its own right, and many people would buy official Lego products as the default anyway, because of the brand association.

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‘Digital factory’ offers manufacturers new opportunities

Since ‘Industry 4.0’ became part of our vernacular at the start of the decade, many manufacturers have found themselves at a crossroads: one route continuing tried and trusted traditional factory processes, and the second route offering the challenge of fully embracing the ‘digital factory’.

(Credit: Shutterstock)

For many manufacturers, staying with their traditional processes might have appeared to be the best path. After all, the processes have been fine-tuned over a hundred or more years to achieve repeatability, part durability, efficient workflows and low operational costs.

While there is an advantage to maintaining this continuity, traditional processes are also challenged by high labour costs, errors leading to less than desired time-to-market, significant up-front production costs in the form of tooling and assembly costs.

With many manufacturers facing new marketplace demands for increased speed and agility, additive manufacturing (AM) gives an opportunity to transform manufacturing workflows, reduce supply chain issues and deliver a new competitive advantage.

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3D Printing’s Impact on the shipping industry: Too early to tell

With many of the newer technologies taking shape today, it’s difficult to quantify how they will affect the surrounding industries. The implications of 3D printing or additive manufacturing, for example, are more mysterious than those of say, advanced robotics. The latter will primarily be used to drive automation. 3D printing, on the other hand, is about locally produced goods or components. It’s a little more challenging to define what that means for the future of specific fields.

How will it affect manufacturing? What does that mean for international markets? What about shipping, especially considering 3D printing nearly obliterates the need to source goods remotely (for some goods)? On which goods will 3D printing make an impact? Or will this technology only have a marginal effect on trade flows? 

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Price, Performance, Potential – Closing the gap in 3D printing

MakerBot, a global leader in the 3D printing industry, can be seen within the rapid prototyping processes of several industry powerhouses, such as Lockheed Martin and KUKA Robotics. Recently, MakerBot’s experts became concerned by the disparity between desktop and industrial solutions, and the impact this was having on the adoption of 3D printing. In this feature, Dave Veisz, VP of Engineering at MakerBot, discusses this technology gap and what the industry is doing to overcome it.

Rapid prototyping is a staple of every designer and engineer’s workflow—essential for testing new concepts, verifying designs, and meeting increasingly aggressive time-to-market goals. Regardless of the industry or product, all engineers must consider the speed, accessibility, cost, and output of these additive manufacturing equipment. Additive manufacturing technology, in its many forms, has been synonymous with rapid prototyping, and its prevalence has only increased as the technologies have improved.

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A collaborate community: The business case for 3D printing

3D printing isn’t a vision of the future; it’s here now. However, with the growth of technologies such as artificial intelligence also competing to win the business of organisations across the globe, how do you make the business case for 3D printing?

business case for 3d printing

The long-term capabilities of 3D printing, especially local print-on-demand solutions, have the potential to transform the supply chain. However, any company with additive manufacture can begin to explore the 3D printing journey to achieve incremental gains today.

Additive manufacturing: Working with existing methods

3D printing isn’t a replacement for traditional manufacturing processes, it’s a technology designed to complement and work alongside existing manufacturing methods too. As a case in point, print on demand spare parts can revolutionise uptime, especially in remote areas, enabling companies to cut down their transport and warehouse costs, reduce production downtime and optimise processes.

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Could 3D printing save the aviation sector’s profit margins?

The aviation sector today faces many challenges. From geopolitical tensions, to an ongoing US-China trade war, as well as fluctuating oil prices, the sector has seen its fair share of hardships. Still, the aviation sector has found its way of out of the fire.

Could 3D printing save the aviation sector’s profit margins?

“The aviation industry has been thoroughly enjoying an extended bull run for the past decade,” KPMG noted in their 2019 Aviation Industry Leaders Report. “Airlines have had access to cheap finance as tough competition pushed down lease rates and debt costs.”

“How long more can this bull run?” KPMG continued. “It has been the question asked for the last number of years. The overall impression heading into 2019 is that while industry fundamentals remain strong – in particular high passenger growth, though cooling, – there are signs that building geopolitical, macroeconomic and industry headwinds will impact the industry over the next 24 months. Varying political tensions and potential trade wars, rising interest rates, volatile oil costs, a strong US dollar, slowing economies, increasing production rates, and MRO and infrastructure capacity constraints are all impacting the aviation sector.”

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UK: 3D printing the circular economy through re-distributed manufacturing

As 3D printing revolutionizes industries around the world, it is inevitable that economies will be affected too as business models and supply chains are transformed. Researchers discuss these issues and their findings in the recently published ‘Sustainable Production in a Circular Economy: A Business Model for Re-distributed Manufacturing.’

The researchers list new technological elements that are having an impact such as robotics and the Internet of Things—combined with localized issues like labor costs and the UK economy, as well as enormous global concerns like climate change. The concept and study of re-distributed manufacture (RdM) is developed with an IDEF (Icam DEFinition for Function Modelling) description to serve as a guide for the implementation of the RdM concept in the consumer goods industry.

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Lean and Mean: Why on-demand is in-demand for supply chain managers

The benefits of additive manufacturing in conjunction with virtual inventories are further demonstrated in the enablement of on-demand manufacturing – most notably with respect to batch-size.

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.

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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.

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