Since ‘Industry 4.0’ became part of our vernacular at the start of the decade, many manufacturers have found themselves at a crossroads: one route continuing tried and trusted traditional factory processes, and the second route offering the challenge of fully embracing the ‘digital factory’.
For many manufacturers, staying with their traditional processes might have appeared to be the best path. After all, the processes have been fine-tuned over a hundred or more years to achieve repeatability, part durability, efficient workflows and low operational costs.
While there is an advantage to maintaining this continuity, traditional processes are also challenged by high labour costs, errors leading to less than desired time-to-market, significant up-front production costs in the form of tooling and assembly costs.
With many manufacturers facing new marketplace demands for increased speed and agility, additive manufacturing (AM) gives an opportunity to transform manufacturing workflows, reduce supply chain issues and deliver a new competitive advantage.
3D printing is a mode for construction that is continuing to break out and pervade through numerous industries. Forbes reported that in 2019 80 percent of enterprises claim 3D printing is allowing them to innovate faster, reducing costs for production and allowing for greater flexibility of their products’ design.
On the one hand, this developing technology permits the freedom to formulate complex geometric figures free from the restraint of machine or injection moulding. On the other, it is faced with limits in the form of small build chambers lofts and restricted resource compatibility.
3D printing is also raising concerns when considering how the reproduction of copyrighted and patented products impacts current intellectual property standards. As developing technologies grow in prominence on a global scale, properly contextualizing 3D printing and its centrality to production enterprises is integral for understanding the impact additive manufacturing will have on commercial industry and the autonomy of consumers.
Not since the first Industrial Revolution has the manufacturing industry transformed more than it has in the last 20 years. New technologies including robotics, computer-driven manufacturing, and data analytics have helped companies increase supply chain efficiencies to keep up with demand, but what if a bigger manufacturing industry transformation was on the horizon? Take a moment and imagine manufacturing becoming fully digital, allowing us to produce and distribute custom products to meet demand in near real-time.
That’s the vision that’s being brought to reality by Chicago-based additive manufacturer Fast Radius.
I recently had the privilege of visiting their facility in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood and spoke with Fast Radius Chief Executive Officer Lou Rassey and Chief Operating Officer Pat McCusker, learning more about the company, its vision and strategy, and expansive list of clients. I found the scope of what Fast Radius does stretches far past the incremental improvements in efficiency the manufacturing industry expects.
According to HP Inc., the outlook of the future includes using new inks and agents that will allow 3D printers to work voxel by voxel to apply specific capabilities or control material properties. For example, adding color information to show wear and damage to a part, or embedding codes for traceability or anti-counterfeiting.
Marga Bardeci, 3DP Applications & Business Development Manager of HP, Inc. spoke at the ISTA European Packaging Symposium in Amsterdam earlier this month, and said that in the future we could see only “on-demand” products with less resultant shipping and inventory due to products that will be produced locally.
Though 3D printing is used mostly in prototyping now, the manufacturing sector offers great potential for 3D printing, according to Bardeci, with the following potential impacts on the supply chain:
- Near sourcing – decrease in shipping
- Mass customization and personalization – lower inventory levels
- Parts on demand – service parts logistics
The Future of 3D Printing by Scott Fawcett, MD of Essentra Components
Now more than ever, manufacturers are having to respond to increased connectivity and digitisation in the industry. Driven by the changing demands of customers, manufacturers must be dynamic and flexible, responding quickly to find solutions that meet customers’ requirements. This industry evolution, more commonly known as Industry 4.0, will shape the future of 3D printing. Put simply, Industry 4.0 describes the current transformation of manufacturing practices towards a more automated and data driven model and 3D printing is a vital building block in that evolutionary process. As the rate of technological advancement increases year on year, and with trends such as personalisation and customisation also on the rise, 3D printing will allow manufacturers to stay ahead of the competition and get products to market faster and cheaper than ever before.
According to a report in i-Scoop, the smart building industry is predicted to be worth over $22bn by 2026, meaning it will impact all of our lives and effecting all industries. Technology already has a strong presence in the manufacturing industry through the use of data centres, Wi-Fi and smart devices which monitor the manufacturing processes. Every day, we are seeing more and more companies responding to this development and creating smart factories worldwide.
Most recently, German sportswear manufacturer Adidas announced it will be opening a new manufacturing facility bursting with innovative and technologically sophisticated machines, including 3D printers. The factory will rely on 3D printing technology to reduce manufacturing times and production periods, aiming to produce roughly 500,000 pairs of shoes annually, which works out at nearly 1,370 pairs of shoes on a daily basis.
Researchers at the University of Washington have succeeded in connecting 3D-printed plastic objects to the internet without the addition of electronic components.
“Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3D printer at home and can send useful information to other devices,” said Vikram Iyer, a graduate student at the University of Washington.
New technology has always fueled the country’s industrial sector. That hasn’t changed. In fact, advances in technology are playing an even bigger role as retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart continually tweak the way they get their products to their customers or retail outlets as quickly as possible.
Chicago Industrial Properties recently spoke with two commercial real estate experts – Noah Shlaes, managing director of the strategic consulting group with Chicago’s Newmark Knight Frank, and Todd Steffen, managing director of supply chain and logistics with the Chicago office of Colliers International – about the ways in which changing technology is making the distribution process a more efficient one.
Chicago Industrial Properties: All this new technology is a wonderful tool. But can having access to so much of it become overwhelming for industrial users?
Technology-enabled processes are providing manufacturers a bird’s eye view of the entire supply line. This comes with its benefits and challenges
Location is no longer an indicator of taste—whether in the food you eat, the clothes you wear or the furniture you buy. It is not outlandish to demand guacamole in Mysore, distressed jeans in Bikaner or an IKEA sofa in the heartland of Matheran.
This is at least partly because the processes that used to frame the production of a good—whether a pail of paint or a bottle of antiseptic lotion—are no longer limited by their proximity to material, the ready availability of freight-fit highways or the closeness of distribution centers. Increasingly beholden to customer’s changing tastes, they are instead moving continuously outward to include more functions that render the modern supply chain more global, complex and diverse and yet also more agile, efficient and productive.
Actively driving this trend forward is technology. Dominated by big data, cloud and IOT, technology-enabled processes are providing manufacturers a bird’s eye view of the entire supply line that is at once far more comprehensive in its reach as well as far more detailed in its scope simply due to enhanced visibility.
History shows us that emerging technologies have influenced previous industrial revolutions, unlocking new possibilities that advance the human race and unleashing unprecedented economic potential.
Whether harnessing the power of water and steam to mechanize production, using electricity to create mass production or designing electronics and IT to automate production, the only constant in the ever-evolving manufacturing landscape is the role of emerging technology as an opportunity for reinvention.
We’re on the cusp of a new industrial revolution, one that promises to be greater and more disruptive than any that has come before. The blending of the digital and physical worlds through 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, and other digital manufacturing technologies will profoundly change the way we live, work, and interact with one another.
As 3D printing continues to make inroads from product design right through to the manufacturing floor, Dr Phil Reeves offers an insight into where the technology is making the biggest impact in the next industrial revolution.
3D printing – or additive manufacturing – has evolved to a manufacturing process that continues to allow a plethora of companies in an increasing array of sectors to enjoy new manufacturing efficiencies; including on-demand production benefits and significant time-to-market reductions.
As recent analyst reports suggest, additive manufacturing is now established as a highly-regarded technology, with McKinsey & Company stating that the industry could be worth around US$100-$200bn.