Manufacturing in 2021: six trends to keep an eye on

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The Association of Supply Chain Management, states that COVID-19 has provided “a glimpse into how 3D printing can be used temporarily to alleviate the strain on supply chains during demand surges and shortages, as it did with medical equipment.” 

With the effects of COVID-19, forcing many to rethink their design and manufacturing strategy, leaders in the industry expect the combination of 3D printing with traditional printing to drive better performance, sustainability and lower costs.

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Army gung-ho on 3D printing spare parts

Additive manufacturing has come to the forefront of the Army’s attention as the service looks for ways to quickly reproduce parts without needing to continuously rely on industry. 

In 2019, the service released a new policy directive that outlined its goals to expand its 3D printing processes and established an additive manufacturing center of excellence at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. 

Maj. Gen. K. Todd Royar, commanding general of Army Aviation and Missile Command, said on the aviation side, he has been using the directive as a baseline for the command’s 3D printing efforts and then incorporating additional standards to ensure that it can meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations as well. 

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Top 10 Supply Chain Trends in 2021

Whether it’s spoilage, delivery timetables, quality control or cyberattacks, successful supply chains can only support patients and customers if they are resilient.

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3D printing to the rescue. COVID-19 gave the world a glimpse of how 3D printing can be used temporarily to alleviate the strain on supply chains during demand surges and shortages as it did with medical equipment. Inventors are combining 3D printing with traditional processes creating unique combinations of parts that perform better with lower cost that can be manufactured closer to the customer, all while being more sustainable.

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Norsk Titanium delivers Boeing 787 3D printed components to Leonardo

Norsk Titanium delivered new Boeing 787 Dreamliner components to Leonardo’s Grottaglie Plant, based in South Italy and part of Leonardo’s Aerostructures Division. Norsk is a Norwegian-American firm providing additive manufacturing of aerospace-grade titanium components (using proprietary RPD technology).

This delivery adds a third production customer to Norsk’s growing commercial aerostructures customer base and represents Norsk’s first recurring production order from a European Union based Aerospace company.

“We are pleased to be Leonardo’s supplier,” said Karl Fossum, director of customer programs for Norsk. “This delivery marks a significant increase in the number of additively manufactured parts previously manufactured from titanium plate. It also is an important step towards our mission to provide an alternative to titanium forgings in aerospace applications.”

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How LFAM will make GE’s Haliade-X record turbines even more powerful

With blade diameter measuring more than two football fields, GE Renewables’ Haliade-X turbines are already the largest and most powerful in the world, capable of generating as much as 14 MW of energy. The ability to 3D print the turbine’s concrete base on-site, for direct transportation into the final at-sea location, will enable even larger systems to be built and deployed.

Haliade-X

This approach is expected to enable the production of much taller wind turbines because turbine producers will not be hindered by transport limitations—today, the width of the base cannot exceed 4.5 meters for transportation reasons, which limits the height of the turbine. By increasing the height, the generation of power per turbine can also be increased substantially: for instance, a 5 MW turbine measuring 80 meters generates about 15.1 GWh a year. The same turbine measuring 160 meters would generate 20.2 GWh per year, an increase of 33%. How that scale is expected to become even greater, with new turbines reaching heights of 260 meters and even more.

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GM opens 3D printing center for parts

General Motors announced the opening of the 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center, dedicated to productionizing 3D printing technology in the automotive industry.

Manufacturing engineer Benjamin LeBlanc inspects a 3D printer at the GM Additive Industrialization Center in Warren, Michigan.

General Motors recently opened its new, 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), dedicated to 3D printing technology in the automotive industry. The AIC is the capstone of GM’s expertise and increased investment in 3D printing over the last several years.

“The core component of GM’s transformation is becoming a more agile, innovative company, and 3D printing will play a critical role in that mission,” says Audley Brown, GM director of additive design and materials engineering. “Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months, at a significantly lower cost.”

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‘When you find yourself 3D printing thousands of parts per week, you gain the kind of learning typically very few of your super users have’

It’s been quite a year. 

One of struggle, one of anguish, one of a technology that may have previously failed to live up to such lofty promise, perhaps now finding its role in the manufacturing landscape.

Though there were plenty of businesses in the 3D printing industry that had significant issues to encounter – GE in its AM-related goodwill impairment charges or Stratasys and 3D Systems in their workforce reductions – the technology itself comes out of 2020 with an enhanced reputation.

Nexa3D COVID app

It was responsible for millions of parts produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to alleviate slightly the pressure that medical professionals and procurement personnel were under, while allowing manufacturers to pivot from what they typically produced to what, in that moment, we needed them to.

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Link3D brings Digital 3D Inventory solution to PostNord

PostNord, Stockholm, Sweden, the largest logistics company in the Nordics and a subsidiary of PostNord Strålfor Group. The digital inventory provides communication and logistics solutions to optimise Additive Manufacturing for the medical market.

PostNord’s continued expansion into AM is driving the need for an integrated offering within the medical market. Key enablers delivered to PostNord by Link3D as part of the deployment include a secure platform for physicians to move seamlessly from X-ray to part order, improving delivery speed, and integration with an industry-leading e-commerce platform that provides an end-to-end customer experience, from order requesting to delivery.

The deployment with PostNord is the latest expansion into a new market, with increasing numbers of potential customers beginning to see the need for an operating system that enables them utilise Additive Manufacturing across a variety of use cases. Link3D is offering a solution to this new problem, having already deployed solutions across aerospace, medical and contract manufacturing sectors.

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Optomec records more than 10 million turbine blade refurbishments with DED 3D printing technology

Optomec has recorded more than 10 million turbine blade refurbishments with its metal 3D printing technology after conducting a recent customer survey.

Optomec

The company says it now has more than 100 customer installations of its metal 3D printing systems specifically for gas turbine components repair, with installations made at leading gas turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEM) in the aviation and energy markets, such as GE, as well as many third-party maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) shops.

At these companies, Optomec has installed its LENS brand Metal Additive 3D printers and Huffman brand 5-axis Laser Cladders, both based on Directed Energy Deposition (DED) technology. Customers are said to value Optomec’s proficiencies in adaptvie control software, controlled inert atmosphere processing for superior metallurgy, turn-key repair process recipes and automation solutions that facilitate higher throughput batch processing.

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Has the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of 3D printing?

As a person in the additive manufacturing media, well-meaning texts from friends and family members containing 3D printing news stories are always a good indication of the technology’s footing in the mainstream conversation. So, as the coronavirus pandemic hit and 3D printers were poised as the solution to pressing supply chain challenges for crucial items on the frontline, you can imagine, my inbox was pretty full. 

MakerBot CloudPrint User Interface.jpg

Hospitals brought 3D printers in-house to support production of protective medical equipment, universities loaned their additive capabilities to print parts for local healthcare providers, and 3D printing equipment manufacturers became service providers overnight.

How that awareness and momentum might extend to the coming months and indeed years, particularly as this health crisis remains, is up for debate, and yesterday a trio of panellists across various industry segments came together to discuss what that could look like.

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