3D printing is no longer tomorrow’s promise; it is available for manufacture today. But with much competition in the investment sphere of technological innovations, from Artificial Intelligence to Augmented Reality, how do you make the business case for 3D?
Down the road, 3D printing will bring about a radical new era of total supply chain transformation, with local, print on demand solutions dramatically reducing both costs and time to market. But this will take time and, as Paul Croft, Director, Ultimaker GB explains; any business dealing with additive manufacture can explore 3D printing to achieve incremental gains today.
Following a letter from U.S. Senator, Chuck Grassley demanding justification for the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) expenditure on $10,000 military aircraft toilet seat covers, Airforce officials have announced that it will now pay $300 to produce the part thanks to 3D printing.
“You’ll think: there’s no way it costs that,” said Dr. Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics in a recent interview with Defense One.
“It doesn’t, but you’re asking a company to produce it and they’re producing something else. And for them to produce this part for us, they have to quit what they’re making now. They’re losing revenue and profit.”
The Moog Aircraft Group is already a key part of the supply chain for many aerospace/defence companies including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus and Northrop Grumman. In collaboration with SYS Systems, Moog identified FDM 3D printing as the best solution for producing bespoke fixtures, used in the machines that qualify aerospace-grade parts.
South African biotech startup Akili Labs has developed FieldLab, an accurate, affordable and portable 3D printed diagnostics lab that can cost as little as $1,500, or one-tenth of similar equipment.
The FieldLab was created by Akili Labs co-founders and Rhodes University Biotechnology Innovation Centre (RUBIC) graduate students Charles Faul and Lucas Lotter. Their aim is to give doctors and scientists a rapid and accurate means of identifying disease outbreaks on the spot.
The FieldLab in a box
FieldLab is a rapid field-testing “lab-in-a-box.” It allows medical professionals in remote areas and conflict zones to access equipment typically found in state-of-the-art diagnostic laboratories. By testing for certain viruses, bacteria, and fungi on site, they can quickly identify an outbreak of disease and take the necessary measures before it spreads and becomes an epidemic.
US Nuclear Energy company Westinghouse has announced that it will be installing an additively manufactured fuel component by 2018. In doing so, it hopes to be the first company to do so for a commercial reactor.
The part in question will be a thimble plugging device, and its manufacturing and eventual installation will follow muliple simultaneous research and development into reducing costs for 3D printing obsolete components, fuel structural devices and prototypes.
The R&D projects include both internal research into 3D printed parts and two projects funded by the US Department of Energy.
3D printed drone technology has been an emerging area over the past year, with military surveillance use seeing a particular boom.
To add to the recent developments in drone delivery systems and swarming dronespurpose built to be air dropped, U.S. Marine TOW gunner Cpl. Rhet McNeal has developed a hand-launched fixed wing drone, with the help of NexLog (the US Marine Corps’ “Next Generation Logistics innovation group”, in conjunction with Penn State university) and Autodesk.
Autodesk is a CAD design development software company that additionally offers residencies to developers with full access of professional tools and advice at their purpose built Pier 9 workshop in San Francisco, California.
The aerospace industry has quickly found the utility in 3D printing items, both in reducing the cost of making parts themselves and in the cost reduction of operating aircraft with 3D printed parts, through the reductions in emissions and fuel use by having optimized designs. With Boeing now using the technology in its Dreamliner, we can safely say that 3D printing is no longer just for prototyping, and is part of the manufacturing mix!
The move will reduce production costs for each Dreamliner by $2M to $3M
Boeing will begin using at least four 3D-printed titanium parts to construct its 787 Dreamliner aircraft and may some day rely on as many as 1,000 parts created via additive manufacturing.
Boeing has hired Oslo, Norway-based Norsk Titanium AS to print the parts. It marks the first time that FAA-approved, 3D-printed titanium parts will be used as structural components on a commercial aircraft, according to the company.
The parts will be used near the rear of the Dreamliner, a mid-sized, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner. Boeing builds about 144 Dreamliners each year.
Integrating developments in advanced robotics, big data and 3D printing can help the health sector improve patient care and reduce costs.
The rise of new digital technologies always inspires a wave of excitement and numerous predictions from healthcare experts about revolutionary changes that should be expected. For example, the first real use of 3D printing happened in 1999 and, since then, it has been heralded as a cost-cutting saviour for producing specialist medical equipment. It has even been predicted to be the solution to the challenge of organ transplant shortages. Clearly, the healthcare industry has much to gain from embracing new technology.
Those in the healthcare supply chain acknowledge the importance of new technologies, like advanced robotics, big data and 3D printing, in improving outcomes. In fact, in a recent survey1, 83% of respondents from healthcare and pharma said that big data was the most disruptive technology in the industry today, while 44% named advanced robotics as important to supply chain functions and 35% pointed to 3D printing as a significant disruptor.