There is a tremendous opportunity for additive manufacturing to help overcome the semiconductor shortage, and once again, strengthen supply chains.
Global supply chains have felt the impact of the pandemic for quite some time and continue to face challenges navigating the disruption of production lines even as more regions of the world and business centers gradually re-open and bring more personnel back on-site. The biggest challenge that will remain for the foreseeable future is the shortage of semiconductors, and the signs have been there for months.
Last December, Volkswagen said that semiconductor bottlenecks meant it would produce 100,000 fewer cars in the first quarter of 2021, as its parts makers were unable to secure supplies. Nissan, Renault, Daimler and General Motors are also struggling with the shortage, which may lead to production being reduced by as much as 20% per week.
Shapeways, a leader in powering digital manufacturing, continues to disrupt the traditional manufacturing market through end-to-end digitization and automated workflows that lower manufacturing barriers, alleviate critical supply chain bottlenecks and speed delivery of quality products worldwide. The company’s purpose-built software, proven production capabilities and global network of certified printer, materials and manufacturing partners are transforming manufacturing while boosting supply chain resiliency.
“Global supply chains continue to face massive disruptions caused by unforeseen events—from a traffic jam at the Suez Canal to a year-long pandemic that upended sourcing, procurement and production,” said Miko Levy, chief revenue officer of Shapeways. “Digital manufacturing is the key to meeting escalating demands for supply chain resilience with unprecedented agility and flexibility.”
Manufacturing system provider Ingersoll Machine Tools has partnered with aviation company Bell to 3D print a 22 foot-long vacuum trim tool – a mold used for the production of helicopter rotor blades.
The project, which resulted in major lead time savings, was completed using Ingersoll’s own large-format hybrid MasterPrint system, a gantry-based 3D printer with integrated 5-axis milling functionality. According to Ingersoll, the MasterPrint is the largest polymer 3D printer in the world. Designed specifically for the production of extra-large production parts, the system can be found at Ingersoll’s headquarters in Rockford, IL.
“We are continuously testing and advancing MasterPrint in our Development Center” said Chip Storie, CEO at Ingersoll. “Among Ingersoll’s short-term objectives is for MasterPrint to 3D print molds for aerospace that preserve the geometrical properties and tolerances, vacuum integrity and autoclave resilience normally obtained with traditional technology, but with the cost and time reduction only additive manufacturing can offer. The relentless progress our MasterPrint process has made in 2020 has finally made this target attainable.”
Relativity Space has the audacious goal of 3D printing 95 percent of a rocket and sending it to orbit. Getting to space is hard. But completely reinventing how rockets are manufactured at the same time? Harder. Six-year-old upstart Relativity may nail both by the end of this year.
After several years designing, building, and testing their Terran 1 rocket, they’re nearly ready to roll. This week the company gave Ars Technica a progress report—and included a pretty visual.
“…Utilising 3D printing for the Eutelsat Hotbird satellites provides major labour savings and significantly reduces the number of individual required parts, according to Gareth Penlington, the Hotbird payload manager at Airbus: “This is recognised as the first large-scale deployment of RF products using the ALM process, and it puts us in an industry-leading position for the technology’s application in producing radio frequency components.”
With new capacities, faster speeds, digitalized inventory, and innovative materials, additive manufacturing is moving inventory closer to the customer and forever changing global supply chains.
A new year brings great promise for inspiration and change. We need both of these ideas to move forward in 2021. Our 3D printing community came to the rescue during 2020 to keep our healthcare workers safe dealing with parts of a broken supply chain. The question now becomes: How do we take these lessons and move forward? Let’s talk about:
What we learned about 3D printing’s role in the supply chain in 2020
How 3D printing will evolve in 2021
The impact of 3D printing on supply chains in 2021 and beyond
“AM technology increases the flexibility of manufacturing and production processes, reducing both our dependence on global supply chains and logistics expenses.”
The COVID-19 virus has affected the world in an unprecedented way. The pandemic has shown us just how deeply a crisis can disrupt societies and economies that are now so interconnected on a global level. This has been especially true in the case of supply chains and production. But the situation is also creating some valuable learnings, an important one being that by embracing alternative technologies to innovate, and with industry collaboration, we can make our supply chains more reliable, cost-effective and efficient – not just now but for the longer-term.
In previous decades, medical technology as well as countless other industries, have shifted the production of components or entire products to locations with lower labour costs, far away from their target market. Unfortunately, there are cases, including the current pandemic, where the vulnerability of these fully optimised supply chains have been laid bare – leading to supply bottlenecks, weakened domestic markets and lessened autonomy.
What was the last thing you printed? While for many of us it’s likely to be a work document or a pile of handouts, the research engineers at the Wärtsilä Hub for Additive Manufacturing (WHAM) has moved into another dimension – printing critical engine components and leading the way in 3D printing utilisation.
3D printing, the more well-known name for the additive manufacturing process, promises to revolutionise component production. It is already being used in industries as diverse as aerospace and healthcare and is a key element of the on-demand economy, where components are manufactured only when needed, reducing warehousing costs and cutting down delivery times. It can also make manufacturing easier, cheaper and faster, opening up the opportunity to produce components on-site, eliminating the need for transportation and therefore reducing transport-based emissions.
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.
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.
Thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen are collaborating on leveraging on thyssenkrupp’s deep expertise in AM alongside Wilhelmsen’s in-depth maritime expertise and direct ongoing experience in understanding the needs of vessel fleet managers.
Based on current data, maritime fleets spend approximately $13 billion a year on spare parts. With 50% of these vessels being older than 15 years, the availability of parts are limited. This makes the fulfillment of orders for maritime spare parts costly and complicated, and in fact, supply chain overheads involved may oftentimes far outstrip the cost of the part itself.