Getting spare parts where they need to go in a quick, reliable way is a logistical challenge for military and industrial supply chains. Researchers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and North Carolina State University have developed a computational model to help determine how best to incorporate additive manufacturing (AM) technologies into these spare parts supply chains.
AM technologies, or “3D printers,” hold tremendous potential for alleviating some of the logistical challenges associated with providing spare parts when and where they are needed. However, AM technologies can be expensive and tricky to transport. They also require personnel who have specialized training. What’s more, spare parts supply chains can be particularly complicated, because there is usually intermittent demand – meaning you likely don’t know when you’ll need to provide a particular part or how many parts might be needed at any point in time.
Shell, the British-Dutch multinational Oil and Gas Company, is leveraging spare parts 3D printing to foray into digital warehouse. The company aims to focus on the revolutionary 3D printing technology to optimise its repair and replacement strategies and ultimately enable a digital warehouse approach to spare part management.
Shell believes the technology can reduce the costs, delivery time and the carbon footprint of spare parts and so it is collaborating with industry leaders to push the innovation of 3D printing for the energy sector.
Shell’s in-house 3D printing capability started in 2011 with a metal laser-printing machine to fabricate unique testing equipment for laboratory experiments at the Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA). Today, Shell has about 15 polymer, ceramic, and metal printers located at its technology centres in Amsterdam and Bangalore.
The oil and gas industry is embracing new technologies to save time and costs and, most recently, to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain as the energy sector is under increased pressure to reward shareholders while helping to fight climate change. Along with artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and robotics, the world’s biggest oil and gas firms and oilfield services providers are betting on 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to streamline operations, cut costs and save time, and reduce emissions from spare parts manufacturing.
Over the past decade, some of the biggest oil and gas firms in the world have turned to 3D printing to procure parts and create digital warehouses to procure and manage the supply of necessary equipment.
One such example is supermajor Shell (2.60%), which believes that additive manufacturing technology can reduce the costs, delivery time, and the carbon footprint of spare parts. Shell has ongoing projects with other industry players, including Baker Hughes (3.06%), to push the innovation of 3D printing for the energy sector, say Nick van Keulen, Supply Chain Digitalisation Manager and Angeline Goh, 3D Printing Technology Manager at Shell.
IN order to move towards a broader and in-depth proliferation of enhanced technologies in the manufacturing industry, it is of utmost importance for the international community of manufacturers to exemplify leadership in employing Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Uplifting factories, supply chains and business models, aiming to minimise operational costs, maximise profits and fortify manpower development are the targeted ideals of this unified front.
This is a crucial move to embark on as the global manufacturing market is trailing behind in the engagement of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, as more than 70 per cent of companies have not made considerable progression.
As another form of technological innovation, 3D printing or additive manufacturing can be momentarily engaged to ease the pressure on supply chains amid fluctuations in demand, as demonstrated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year’s supply chain turbulence forced numerous companies to drastically relook their manufacturing and design tactics.
In a presentation at Virtual Engineering Days, Joe Cretella, applications engineering manager at ProtoLabs, offered technical examples about how multijet fusion (MJF) can best be used, while Brent Ewald, solutions architect from HP, talked about developing strategies for using MJF and encouraged companies to think about how the technology can complement their more traditional manufacturing efforts.
Cretella began by noting that the ideal applications for multijet fusion can include prototypes and end-use parts; complex geometries requiring hinging or light weighting, high strength, and temperature resistance; jigs and fixtures, brackets, clips; and component housings.
He cited a recent case study that ProtoLabs did with a university in France and its German counterparts to produce reusable face shield. Cretella said they were able to optimize the design so that it could be printed as a single component. “So it could fit a large number of those face shields into a single build,” he explained. “And that’s really going to be key on thinking about designs, especially as we’re getting into talking about the parts, we want to be able to fit a high volume.”
Replique, a venture born out of chemical company BASF’s business incubator Chemovator, has partnered with German home appliance manufacturer Miele to produce and ship 3D printed accessories via its decentralized production network.
Through the partnership, Replique’s 3D printing platform will be integrated into Miele’s online shop to enable the company to provide its customers with new 3D printed accessories and spare parts both quickly and cost-effectively.
The partners are supposedly the first to implement a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for the 3D printing of polymer parts for food contact applications, beginning with an initial three accessories – a coffee clip, borehole cleaner, and a valuable separator for vacuum cleaner attachments.
Defense and aerospace uses for additive manufacturing range from quick prototyping to spare parts logistics support at sea and in other remote locations.
Even within heavy industries, people often speak of 3D printing in terms of science fiction. With the allure of creating something from nothing, it has been poised to revolutionize prototyping, manufacturing, and resupplying for decades. However, additive manufacturing — another name for 3D printing — also is a reality here and now.
Numerous 3D printing companies offer ready-made menus of different materials and techniques. Some experts say it’s still the way of the future, while others say no one process (or array of sub-processes) can do all the things 3D printing promises to do. So which is it: practical or over-promised?
While additive manufacturing has long been a part of consumer product development, it has massive potential for innovation in product manufacturing.
However, it’s one thing to talk about its potential. It’s quite another to establish efficient, scalable AM operations that bring value both for customers and the company’s bottom line.
This article will dive into the challenges to efficient AM workflow and highlight the solutions to help set AM operations up for success.
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.”
Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab has successfully conducted a flight test that has shown how additive manufacturing can be used to repair battlefield damage on its Gripen fighters.
The test flight, which took place at Saab’s facilities in Linköping, Sweden on March 19 marks the first time an exterior 3D-printed part has been flown on a Gripen, rather than internal 3D-printed components.
The Gripen was fitted with a replacement hatch that had been 3D-printed using additive manufacturing, using a nylon polymer called PA2200.
The project is a step towards 3D-printed spares being used for rapid repairs to fighter aircraft that have sustained damage while deployed on remote operations, thereby gaining a vital time-saving advantage, said Saab.