3D printing’s virtual inventories and on-demand manufacturing offer cost-savings and increased flexibility, but there are risks.
It seems a no-brainer to adopt digital supply chains, but they carry risks that are untenable if not eliminated. For example, how do big brands seize such opportunities while maintaining part consistency and quality and protecting their intellectual property (IP) – and ultimately upholding brand integrity?
The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on the opportunities presented by 3D printing/additive manufacturing (AM), including the possibilities around virtual inventories and on-demand manufacturing. These advantages can deliver cost-savings, increased responsiveness and flexibility to customers, without the need for huge investments. As we’ve seen, the weak link in any supply chain is maintaining and replenishing the physical inventory – an enormously expensive task.
“Just because the field is progressing does not mean we have grounds for complacency.”
All students of the environment learn the three cardinal rules of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. And as we look to the future, pundits and thought leaders routinely point to 3D printing as a solution for improving and streamlining manufacturing to something leaner, greener and more environmentally friendly.
Farms and factories require massive emission outputs and loads of energy. Small polymer 3D printing systems, on the other hand, are fuelled with little effort. But additive manufacturing is not a magic bullet. Is 3D printing more sustainable than traditional manufacturing methods? It depends on how you look at it.
In many ways, additive manufacturing is significantly more sustainable, and more reasonable for the environment and the earth, than traditional manufacturing methods. Let us count the ways.
Identifying defects in 3D printed items is one of the ongoing challenges to be overcome if the technology is to be more widely adopted. This development is very promising.
Small defects in 3D printed metal parts limit their performance and are roadblocks preventing the technology from being more widely used. Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory theorized that the defects stemmed from small voids in the cooled printed metal. The voids (porosity) can make printed components prone to cracking and other failures.
To check their theory, they used a 3D printer with an IR camera, a common option, to film the printing process from above. It monitored and recorded temperature data during the build process. At the same time, a high-powered X-ray from the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne took a side view of the build it was underway. The goal was to use the X-rays to see voids form and correlate that with what was going on thermally on the surface where new metal was being deposited.
The need for IP to “catch up” with the capabilities of 3D printing is one of the points made in the book Supercharg3d: How 3D Printing Will Drive Your Supply Chain. Until it does, those considering adopting 3D printing in their supply chains should involve their legal and IP advisors to manage the risks. In this article – published in The Engineer – Marks&Clerk Senior Associate Matthew Jefferies, takes a close look at this topic.
Intellectual property law, and intellectual property strategies, need to move to keep up with the growing 3D printing market, says Matthew Jefferies MPhys, Senior Associate, Marks&Clerk.
The term ‘digital disruption’ has become something of a cliché in recent years, a catch all term used to describe the impact of technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to new communications technologies. What is the reality of digital disruption however, and what can manufacturing and engineering focused businesses do to mitigate the associated risks?
As the additive manufacturing company 3rd Dimension Industrial 3D Printing prepares for production, it has one critical advantage over the competition: a standalone CNC machine shop.
In 2013, additive manufacturing (AM) was having its moment. The possibilities of the technology for industrial production were just then becoming apparent to manufacturing at large. Indeed, at that time, the view of AM was soaring from lofty media hype into a stratosphere of impossible promises. Bob Markley was having a moment of his own at that time. He had just finished a 10-year stretch as an engineer for an Indy 500 racing team before moving on to work for Rolls Royce and then General Motors, the latter of which was consolidating its Indiana workforce to Pontiac, Michigan. Unable to relocate his family from their Indiana home, the then-31-year-old Mr. Markley wrote up a business plan centered around AM — a technology he’d barely used, but one that appealed to the experimental engineering style he’d developed through racing.
Thus, 2013 proved to be the year that Mr. Markley went all-in on AM, launching 3rd Dimension Industrial 3D Printing in a 1,800-square-foot facility outside of Indianapolis. After opening for business, he quickly partnered with 3D Systems and brought in the company’s ProX 200 — a laser powder-bed fusion machine he still refers to today as his workhorse. Sustained financially by his original loan and a small but growing base of customers, Mr. Markley purchased a second ProX 200, followed by a 300 model and later a 320 that he beta tested for the company.
By now, most of us in the manufacturing world are familiar with the steady stream of news describing organizations, large and small, providing medical equipment using 3D printers. Face masks, face shields, swabs, and parts for ventilators are the most common—and needed—as the frontline medical community struggles to heal patients while protecting themselves. What could be simpler than to create a design, prep the data, ship it to a printer and send the finished part to a happy user or manufacturer?
It is not as simple as it sounds.
“There are literally hundreds of 3D printing designs to support the current COVID-19 response. Some work, others don’t. Some look great but do not work,” explained Dr. Jenny Chen, M.D., founder and CEO of 3DHEALS, a company focusing on education and industrial research in bioprinting, regenerative medicine, and healthcare applications using 3D printing. She was a moderator for a webinar panel titled “3D Printing Design for COVID-19,” presented April 22.
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.
HP released its list of predictions for 3D printing and digital manufacturing in 2020. Informed by extensive interviews with a team of experts, this year’s research identifies top trends that will have a major impact on advancing Industry 4.0 such as the need for more sustainable production, how automation will transform the factory floor, and the rise of data and software as the backbone of digital manufacturing.
“The year ahead will be a time of realizing 3D printing and digital manufacturing’s true potential across industries,” said Pete Basiliere, Founder, Monadnock Insights. “As HP’s trend report indicates, digital manufacturing will enable production of users’ ideal designs by unlocking new and expanded software, data, services, and industrial production solutions that deliver more transformative experiences while also disrupting legacy industries.”
The EPA is examining possible adverse effects of emissions on human health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is increasing its scrutiny of 3D printing emissions just as recent predictions say the technology is just beginning to revolutionize manufacturing and the supply chain.
Working in cooperation with the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), EPA is studying possible harmful emissions that are emitted during the 3D printing process. Also conducting research on 3D printer nanomaterials is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Blockchain takes to the skies as aerospace companies begin to make use of blockchain and 3D printing to streamline their supply chains
Blockchain, like many other emerging technologies, is enthusiastically touted as a solution to many of the world’s problems. Perhaps because of its relation to cryptocurrency or the narrative prophecies that surround them both, blockchain draws both criticism and praise from a staggering array of sectors.
However, with the big blockchain push from Chinese President Xi Jinping along with many tech, finance and industry giants piloting blockchain implementation, the number of use cases grows with each passing day. While cryptocurrency more often draws ire from the mainstream financial world, it seems that for blockchain, the sky’s the limit — but not for long.