Don’t let a few cool 3D printing use cases make it Industry 4.0’s poison chalice

3D printing lies at the bottom of service providers’ Industry 4.0 technology offerings; there are many challenges left unsolved if it’s going to surpass cool use case videos to be the production process of the future. Providers are showing signs of solving these challenges alongside their manufacturing partners, but manufacturing execs shouldn’t go in with guns blazing before guaranteeing rapid innovation in the short-term and concrete value in the long-term. Equally, they can’t be complacent and fail to have the capability and partner network ready-to-go when the technology booms—or they’ll be playing catchup, making expensive purchases, and signing one-sided contracts with vendors.  

Source: HFS Industry 4.0 Services Top 10 2019 

HFS’ Industry 4.0 Services Top 10 for 2019 asked leading providers to rate the maturity of their offerings across Industry 4.0’s core enabling technologies (see Exhibit 1). Unsurprisingly, predictive analytics and AI applications, big data, and IoT are the most mature segments. IoT provides real-time data flow, on top of which data analysis can derive insight and with that, value. While aspects of robotics and small-batch manufacturing are still emerging, they’ve been around for decades and are moving along the maturity scale; we cannot say the same of 3D printing. 

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Grey matters in 3D printing IP protection

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Intellectual property (IP) protection is a major feature of the additive manufacturing (AM) sector, with the registration of IP rights covering new AM processes, hardware, materials and end products as well as copyright issues over digital files all commonplace.

Yet, while existing IP laws are generally viewed as adequate for current needs, new technological developments have exposed a number of grey areas in the industry, specifically around subsistence of IP rights, infringement and enforceability.

Bioprinting

3D bioprinting is increasingly used to fabricate tissue models for in vitro testing and research, but the long-term goal lies in its application to the field of regenerative medicine. Although many aspects of 3D bioprinting are patentable, bioprinted tissues and organs may face barriers to patentability in the form of excluded subject matter, medical exclusion and public policy.

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Additive Manufacturing comes to Oil and Gas

As industrial applications of additive manufacturing become more prevalent, the oil and gas industry looks to the technology to speed up prototyping and the manufacturing of spare parts

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Over the years, additive manufacturing has become prominent in different industries and has significantly influenced automotive and aerospace manufacturing (See how GE is using additive manufacturing for printing spare parts and more). And now, the use of additive manufacturing, also referred to as 3D printing, is attracting the interest of the oil and gas industry.

A report from research company GlobalData, ”3D Printing in Oil & Gas,” explores how 3D printing is emerging as a key technology helping to drive industrial productivity in the oil and gas sector.

“The oil and gas industry has shown slow but steady adoption of 3D printing in recent years,” said Ravindra Puranik, oil and gas analyst at GlobalData. “Initially, this technology was largely limited to polymer-based products. However, recent advancements in metal-based 3D printing are making this technology more relevant to the oil and gas industry.”

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3D printed replacement parts service in operation

Once upon a time, an asset management company in charge of a third of the UK’s rolling stock entered York’s National Railway Museum, identified ten air conditioning vents in the driver cabins of its exhibits, and took off with them to install on trains currently in service.

It was a desperate measure, made after an automotive company gave a minimum order size of 10,000 to manufacture replacements. Angel Trains is faced with a predicament like this all too often. The trains they lease are in operation, on average, for 20 years, with some having lasted half a century before being put into retirement. And while, that’s the goal for a company that generates profit by maintaining rail vehicles through regular refurbishment, those trains are also often fitted with parts that are obsolete, originally supplied by companies no longer in business, with design drawings nowhere to be found. In the case of the air vents, drivers have been known to refuse to operate trains without working air conditioning, while interior carriage parts like armrests and grab handles need to be replaced to avoid hefty Department for Transport fines.

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At TCT Show, Angel Trains was proud to announce that Chiltern Railways, one of its customers, had avoided those fines recently thanks to a collaboration with Stratasys. In the run up to the show, where James Brown, Data and Performance Engineer at Angel Trains, delivered the opening keynote, seven grab handles and four armrests produced with Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer in ULTEM 9085 had been installed on an in-service passenger train running out of London Marylebone station.

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3D printing is going to reshape Retail in these 4 ways

Forget costly prototypes, traditional textile manufacturing, product recalls, and the like. 3D printing is about to turn the entire retail industry on its head.

A precise form of additive manufacturing, 3D printing can create a product from almost any material at mass scale, generating large quantities while individually tailoring each product to consumers.

In this final “Future of Retail” blog, we will discuss how 3D printing will change the way our clothes (and most consumer goods) are made.

Let’s dive in.

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Additive Manufacturing Comes to Oil and Gas

As industrial applications of additive manufacturing become more prevalent, the oil and gas industry looks to the technology to speed up prototyping and the manufacturing of spare parts.

Over the years, additive manufacturing has become prominent in different industries and has significantly influenced automotive and aerospace manufacturing (See how GE is using additive manufacturing for printing spare parts and more). And now, the use of additive manufacturing, also referred to as 3D printing, is attracting the interest of the oil and gas industry.

A report from research company GlobalData, ”3D Printing in Oil & Gas,” explores how 3D printing is emerging as a key technology helping to drive industrial productivity in the oil and gas sector.

“The oil and gas industry has shown slow but steady adoption of 3D printing in recent years,” said Ravindra Puranik, oil and gas analyst at GlobalData. “Initially, this technology was largely limited to polymer-based products. However, recent advancements in metal-based 3D printing are making this technology more relevant to the oil and gas industry.”

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Solving the challenges of long duration space flight with 3D printing

The International Space Station has continuously been home to astronauts for more than nineteen years. Astronauts conduct scientific research using dozens of special facilities aboard the space station, which also provides them with a place to eat, sleep, relax and exercise. To make all of this possible requires sending more than 7,000 pounds of spare parts to the station annually. Another 29,000 pounds of spaceflight hardware spares are stored aboard the station and another 39,000 on the ground, ready to fly if needed.

This logistics support system works well for a spacecraft that is orbiting 250 miles above Earth and readily accessible to cargo resupply missions. It is not practical for future missions to the Moon and Mars, however. Astronauts on these long voyages need to be able to make their own spare parts, tools and materials essentially on demand – both for routine needs and to adapt quickly to unforeseen ones. In-space manufacturing (ISM) using 3D printing technology could be an answer.

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The Adidas Speedfactory, a hyped-up failure or a supply chain success?

With the announcement that Adidas will be shutting down its much-hyped USA and Germany Speedfactories, highly automated production plants driven by robotics and 3D printing, and relocating them to Asia, the media has been quick to assign the whole endeavor as a failure.

The scale of the Speedfactory project was grandiose.  The goal went beyond creating automated 3D printing factories that produced high-performance and customized shoes, to create a new manufacturing paradigm for the 21st century.  One that reversed the tide of off-shoring, brought back high-wage jobs to aging economies, decoupled cost from complexity to allow new degrees of consumer customization, and greened the supply chain by relocating production from concentrated global pockets to distributed, responsive and local hubs.  As the Economist wrote, “This factory is out to reinvent an industry.”

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3D printing can keep aging Air Force aircraft flying

And the military wants you—to help it make spare parts for decades-old B-52 bombers and other planes. 

GLENN HOUSE AND his colleagues spent more than four years making a new toilet for the B-1 Lancer. The challenge wasn’t fitting the john into the cockpit (it went behind the front left seat), but ensuring that every part could handle life aboard a plane that can pull 5 Gs, break the sound barrier, and spend hours in wildly fluctuating temperatures. The end result didn’t just have to work. It had to work without rattling, leaking, or revealing itself to enemy radar. Having it OK’d for use aboard the bomber was just as complex as making it. “Getting a part approved can take years,” says House, the cofounder and president of Walpole, Massachusetts-based 2Is.

A man walks on the wing of a plane at an air base

Until last year, 2Is was in the military parts business, furnishing replacement bits for assorted defense equipment. (Pronounced “two eyes,” it sold off the parts business and now focuses on defense-related supply chain software.) Providing spare parts for the military is a peculiar niche of the economy. Things like aircraft and submarines spend decades in service, and the companies that made them or supplied their myriad parts often disappear long before their products retire. So when something needs a new knob, seat, or potty, the military often turns to companies that specialize in making them anew.

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AdvertHealth Nicholson Center established medical additive manufacturing lab

A 3D printed anatomical heart model. Photo via AdventHealth Nicholson Center.

AdventHealth Nicholson Center, a Florida-based medical training facility, has launched its Prototype Lab to enable the development of medical devices using additive manufacturing technology.

As an innovative space for healthcare professionals, the Prototype Lab will provide CAD modeling and 3D printing to develop, test and refine inventions to improve clinical care. Jodi Fails, B.S., Biomedical Engineer, and Prototype Lab lead at AdventHealth Nicholson Center explained:

“Our expert team can help bring an idea from ‘napkin sketch’ to reality, and our 3D printing capabilities allow inventors to hold an actual version of their device in their hands for evaluation.”

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