In the 30-plus years since the introduction of the first additive manufacturing (AM) machines, 3D printers have gotten faster, materials superior, applications bigger, acceptance greater, and the ambition to deploy AM for production all the closer.
From Carbon’s 3D printed adidas midsoles to Chanel’s laser sintered mascara brushes, examples of production are all around but challenges remain that prevent the technology from excelling as a true production process.
“There are new consumer demands at play— heightened by the impact of the pandemic—and they are completely reshaping the way we design, manufacture and mass produce goods that are not only highly personalised but built with sustainability in mind,” Wayne Davey, Global Head of 3D Printing Solutions Go-to-Market for HP shared with TCT. “There is a lot of opportunity for disruption not limited to any one industry in particular. Brands across automotive, health and wellness, sports, and more are seeing the benefits of making the switch from traditional manufacturing methods in favour of additive technology. And they want to do it quickly, economically, and most importantly, at a mass scale.”
Supply chain disruptions continue to rock the world of manufacturing, presenting real threats to productivity and having a huge impact on the bottom line of many businesses. From semiconductors and medical supply shortages to the surging costs of building materials and consumer goods – logistical issues and fluctuating, unpredictable prices are causing massive disruption to businesses of all types and sizes around the world.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the traditional manufacturing model of build, ship, and receive is no longer fit for purpose in the current climate, which experts agree isn’t going away any time soon. Add to this the well-documented global labour and skills shortages and you have the perfect storm.
Sakuu, a California-based manufacturing company, has opened its new Silicon Valley engineering hub. The opening advances Sakuu’s plans for a “3D printing platform gigafactory, dubbed Sakuu G-One”.
But how and why would 3D print a battery? I asked Arwed Niestroj’s, Sakuu’s General Manager Battery Business Unit, to answer a few questions.
The new building spans 79,000 square feet and serves as an engineering hub where teams are dedicated to battery, engineering, material science, R&D, and additive manufacturing work. The facility will contain the scaled-up 3D printing operations for battery production and additional manufacturing platforms for medical devices, IoT sensors, and other electrical devices. Sakuu says all manufacturing is conducted in a sustainable manner.
As more companies continue to innovate their product ideas, especially those requiring urgency and customization, 3D printing is poised to transform how game-changing product ideas are brought to life.
Global supply chains continue to face massive disruptions caused by a growing number of unforeseen events—from a traffic jam at the Suez Canal to myriad natural disasters and a more-than-a-year-long pandemic that upended sourcing, procurement and production worldwide.
Through all these unforeseen events, digital manufacturing has stepped to the forefront as an invaluable solution to meeting the escalating demands for supply chain resilience. In particular, localization and customization—as well as innovations in 3D printing materials, technologies and processes—are closing supply chain holes while speeding the delivery of quality products globally.
Below are five ways that digital manufacturing is elevating supply chain resiliency.
The U.S. Navy recently installed its first 3D printer aboard one of its vessels in a program designed to test the capabilities of the technology and its potential contribution to enhancing maintenance aboard active duty vessels. The Navy joins with the commercial shipping industry which has also been looking at the capabilities of 3D printing and tested the first parts for ships made with the technology.
The 3D printing system was recently placed aboard the USS Essex, a Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Dock currently based at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Commissioned in 1992, the amphibious assault ship is testing the technology while it is currently participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 training exercise.
“Having this printer aboard will essentially accelerate, enhance, and increase our warfighting readiness,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nicolas Batista, the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) officer aboard the Essex. “The capabilities of the 3D printer will enable Essex to become more self-sufficient.”
Alstom, a France-based rolling stock manufacturer, has begun using Replique’s on-demand 3D printing services for its industrial series production applications.
The firm has chosen to digitize a portion of its supply chain, citing manufacturing flexibility, shorter lead times, and lower costs as primary factors for the decision. With help from Replique, Alstom can produce small batches of metal components for its trains in a decentralized manner, enabling the firm to better address the local needs of clients worldwide.
Leveraging the recent partnership, Alstom has already received and installed its first set of visible 3D printed train parts: door stoppers made of stainless steel.
The US Air Force (USAF) has invested in a 3D printer capable of producing spare parts for its Strategic Automated Command Control System (SACCS).
When a supplier stopped manufacturing a red fault indicator lens cap to cover the lights on the SACCS system, the USAF purchased a 3D printer to manufacture its own replacement. By leveraging the technology to produce the first cap, the USAF recovered the cost of the printer and scanner and saved more than $4,000.
“This strategy is saving the Department of Defense thousands of dollars each time the part fails,” said Col. Brian Golden, National Airborne Operations Center and 595th Command and Control Group Commander.
CEO sees remote manufacturing and transporting of products becoming obsolete
With all the technological change driving the transportation industry, Brad Jacobs told a virtual audience of The Economic Club of New York that 3D printing was likely to disrupt transportation more than anything else.
The XPO (NYSE: XPO) CEO and founder of numerous companies said 3D printing is “the main long-term technology driver that is going to affect our industry.”
Jacobs conceded that 3D printing is taking awhile to gain traction in manufacturing. “But it’s going to happen,” he said, calling the number of potential applications for 3D printing “quite substantial.”
When it does, it is going to make a significant amount of manufacturing local. And that’s a big shift.
Thousands of years ago, the blacksmith led a technological leap in sub-Saharan Africa. West Africa’s Nok culture, for example, switched from using stone tools to iron around 1500BC. Imagine an innovative artisan like this re-emerging in the 21st century equipped with digital technologies.
This is not Wakanda science fiction. It is the story of a real promise that 3D printing holds for an industrial revolution on the African continent.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a fabrication process in which a three-dimensional object is built (printed) by adding layer upon layer of materials to a series of shapes. The material can be metal, alloys, plastics or concrete. The market size of 3D printing was valued at US$13.78 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 21% to a value of US$62.79 billion in 2028.
How 3D printing can help mitigate PPE supply shortages in future pandemics.
Some of the most indelible images of the early pandemic were of the personal protective equipment (PPE) crisis in our hospitals — photos of doctors and nurses wearing repurposed garbage bags, swim goggles, and snorkeling masks as the supply of PPE dwindled in the face of Covid-19’s assault.
Those images underscored just how unprepared we were to deal with a fast-moving pandemic. US hospitals relied heavily on overseas suppliers, especially in China, for PPE, and there are no regulations requiring hospitals or states to keep a certain level of stock in case of a crisis. Most didn’t; US health care operates under tight financial pressures, and just-in-time sourcing is — in normal times — more cost-effective. The result was a supply crunch that hampered our response against the pandemic.