Recently on the 3DPod, we discussed supply chain resilience with HP’s Ramon Pastor. He mentioned that he believes that cost-driven supply chains are a thing of the past. He said that, previously, companies thought that, if they had two suppliers for a part or factories in different countries, this was enough to ensure resilience.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all learned that this is not enough. A genuinely global crisis has meant that both of a company’s supplier factories separated by oceans can be closed by the same event. What’s more, local events like a gigantic port fire in Dalian or a longshoreman strike in California can have knock-on effects that reverberate throughout the globe. At the same time, Pastor contended that we may have just experienced an unprecedented period of stability that may, in fact, be ending, bringing more geopolitical risk.
UK-based global major aerospace and defence group BAE Systems (BAES) has reported how the latest technologies are being used to drive forward, with unprecedented speed, Britain’s next-generation combat air system programme. Known as Tempest, this project is really benefitting from and making full use of digital twinning and three-dimensional (3D) printing (also known as additive manufacturing) technologies.
Digital twinning involves creating, in a computer system, an exact but virtual duplicate of a real-world entity and of all its systems, subsystems and components. Except that the real-world entity does not actually have to exist yet, as is the case with Tempest. The virtual duplicate can then be subjected to all sorts of simulated tests and evaluations, accelerating the design process while reducing costs.
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.
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.
The 3D printing technology also served as an alternative and more efficient manufacturing option to keep up with the demand for nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs.
Amid worldwide disruptions in supply chains due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 3D printing technology has enabled on-demand solutions for needs ranging from personal protection equipment to medical devices and isolation wards, say researchers.
The researchers examined how the digital versatility and quick prototyping of 3D printing has enabled the rapid mobilisation of the technology and a swift response to emergencies in a closed loop economy.
Every sector is in the midst of a digital transformation journey adopting the latest technologies worldwide.
Sectors such as supply chain, manufacturing, logistics and transportation are currently facing an extreme shift in the adoption of new technologies. Not only has the current pandemic been a catalyst in adoption, technology is currently in the midst of its biggest transformation yet. New technology innovations have enabled us to automate processes, manage the supply chain and track data using blockchain.
3D printing has been around for over 20 years but has only recently been adopted by large-scale markets. This technology allows for companies to create specific devices or products in-house using specialised materials while minimising cost. This means independence for the supply chain and manufacturing industries as well as reducing delivery times and eliminating the need to store a large number of products in a warehouse.
3D printing is a globally used language meaning that digital files can be sent from anywhere and then printed locally, allowing for on-demand files to be printed immediately reducing inventory build-up and costs. This streamlined approach only brings positives to the manufacturing and supply chain sectors, and boasts huge benefits such as dealing with less risk, having more control and adding agility to their product lifecycle.
We couldn’t agree more with the anonymous writer who penned The World Needs to Grow a Pair to Stop China.
But not only must we stop China, we must also protect our own interests and recreate American Self-Reliance. Sadly, the situation described in How Not to Lose Your IP When Developing a Product with Your China Factory is all too common. But there is a homegrown solution that is faster, safer and more cash flow friendly than ordering containers from China. The solution is additive manufacturing, a/k/a 3D printing, which was invented by an American, Dr, Chuck Hull, in 1986.
The United States has had the opportunity to fortify its Self-Reliance for over 30 years and it’s been more or less squandered in the name of globalization, which has mostly been defined to mean China manufacturers pretty much everything for the rest of the world. If we’re morally obligated to do anything it’s to reestablish the self-sufficiency on which America was founded. Not the kind where you can’t get medical supplies during a pandemic. We must cease to be at the mercy of a country like China.
The upcoming Additive Industrialization Center will develop know-how for direct production of 3D-printed parts.
3D printing has been crucial to the launch of General Motors’ halo Corvette sport sports car and was crucial in the company’s ability to pivot to producing medical equipment in response to the COVID-19 virus, but the company has even bigger plans for the technology coming later this year.
GM printed 17,000 face shields with its additive manufacturing equipment and printed the tooling for the injection molds that have now created 250,000 more shields. Before that, the team building the first mid-engine Corvette prototype relied on 75 percent printed parts to assemble the car for testing. This faster process sped the car’s development and pointed the way for future new car development projects.
3D printing is the essence of tech for good. Over the next decade it will be crucial to our ability to solve the climate crisis and it has huge potential to lessen the impact of manufacturing on the planet.
But the business case for embracing 3D printing is just as strong. The technology has the potential to transform every industry and change the way we work and live in the future. Within the manufacturing sector it will play a significant role in reducing waste, challenging global supply chains and offering greater flexibility in the manufacturing process.
Last year, the world experienced unparalleled growth in the 3D printing market. Entrepreneurs have clamored to enter this space for the last five years, competing to develop new software and applications. The venture capital market raised huge funds, to the sum of over $1.1 billion, by 3D printing start-ups in 2019 alone. We are already seeing unprecedented adoption rates and aftermarket supply chain growth.
This week, California-based metal 3D printing company Velo3D revealed it had raised an additional $12m in funding, taking its total to $150m. The money will be used to develop a new approach to metal 3D printing, reducing the need to re-design parts for additive manufacturing.
Velo3D believes this approach can help engineers realize the potential that lies in metal 3D printing.
The 3D printing industry is not short of potential. In 2019, GlobalData estimated the market would be worth $32bn by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% between 2018 and 2025.
With “disruption” becoming an increasing feature of supply chains, whose decision-makers have to find new ways to mitigate risks from it, supply chain innovation is now a key requirement for effective, efficient and economic success. The use of optimization tools has long been a feature of the area of inventory management, and now new technologies are advancing those further. MRO spare parts management often balances the need to hold stock on shelves with the locking-in of working capital. However, digital manufacturing, such as the use of 3D printing, is now proving to change that paradigm, allowing companies to ensure service levels without the financial constraints of the past. This article looks at how 3D printing helps with MRO spare parts management, and describes the first steps to adopt it.