Stratasys: “Manufacturers now see 3D printing as a staple part of the industrial production floor”

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of our publisher, the industry sourcing company DirectIndustry, we are celebrating 20 years of industrial innovations by giving the floor to the players that brought these innovations to life. In this interview, we focus on 3D printing. Eric Bredin, VP Marketing, Stratasys, EMEA, gives his insights into 20 years of innovations in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology.

DirectIndustry magazine: 30 years ago, you went into an industrial sector, 3D printing, that was unoccupied: why and how?

Eric Bredin

Erin Bredin: Thirty years ago, Stratasys saw the potential 3D printing could bring to the manufacturing world and has since developed its Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to fit production needs of various industries. FDM offered manufacturers a tool that was lacking until then – the ability to produce small series or customized parts in-house quickly and cost-effectively. Today, many manufacturers see 3D printing – or additive manufacturing – as a staple part of the industrial production floor, replacing certain conventional manufacturing technologies or offering a complementary tool for production.

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Manufacturing-as-a-Service: Essential to Digital Manufacturing

Industry 4.0 is transforming the world of manufacturing and on-demand manufacturing or manufacturing-as-a-Service (MaaS) has an essential role to play.

Manufacturing-as-a-Service: Essential to Digital Manufacturing

Digital platforms marrying companies seeking fast, cost-effective production with others who have manufacturing capacity are increasingly streamlining supply chains, bringing benefits to all parties. MaaS operators in areas such as machining and 3D printing are offering the demand/capacity balancing that has been seen in other areas like Uber and AirBnB, suggests Professor Rab Scott, Head of Digital, University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

“This can be attributed to connectivity and improved modeling capabilities – the ability of companies to more accurately predict when spare capacity is going to arise, and then the ability to monetize that spare capacity through these platforms. The growth of these platforms is also enabled by the acceptance of these sorts of platforms following the success of Uber etc.”

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Adding personalisation to the manufacturing sector’s toolbox

The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift.

It doesn’t matter whether a company’s product is automotive, electronic, construction or healthcare related – disruption is rife, largely due to new and emerging technology transforming the industry’s processes. The days of simple assembly lines have been leapfrogged as manufacturers are moving to embrace bold new production and design techniques. From automation and robotics, to 3D-printing and generative design software; there are a number of innovations helping to revolutionise the production line.

The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a tectonic shift.

Added to this is increased consumer demand, meaning manufacturers can’t afford to stand still. Companies must go beyond the product and connect with their customers in entirely new ways to stay afloat in today’s market and stand out from the crowd.

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3D printing will enable companies to manufacture in new ways

The latest 3D printing platforms with combined hardware, software and materials will help companies respond quickly to market demands, unfolding new innovative ways of production. We explored the edges of 3D printing with Blake Teipel, CEO of Essentium

EN EUROPE: CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT ESSENTIUM AND ITS MISSION?


Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO and Co-founder of Essentium

B. Teipel: We are focused on transforming the future of factory floors by accelerating the potential of industrial-scale Additive Manufacturing (AM).  As innovators in both materials and production platforms, our vision is to transform traditional manufacturing processes by bringing strength and speed together, at scale, with a no-compromise material set. By developing an entire system, our goal is to reinvent the financial aspect of industrial 3D printing to make it more accessible to a wider range of manufacturers. We are committed to advancing AM capabilities and creating a global, open ecosystem that puts customers in control of their innovation.

In the past, AM has been seen as a prototype, one-off, custom, jig or fixturing solution, not a production solution. That creates a gap between innovation and scale that clearly needs to be filled for AM to fulfil its huge potential. The Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSETM) 3D Printing Platform enables the ability to scale by delivering speed, or time to part and by delivering value, or better cost per part.

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How 3D printing will transform mass production

Star Trek featured a glowing device called a “replicator” that can create any object out of thin air. Now, advances in 3D printing are bringing science fiction a step closer to reality.

3D Printer making a plastic bowl.

While the technology cannot yet produce anything you want on the spot, the materials that can now be printed include metals, glass, ceramics, carbon fibre and various plastics and resins.

More dramatic changes lie ahead. Several experts speculate that future consumers may enjoy easy access to high-quality 3D printing facilities that can produce a range of products from a custom-shaped bicycle seat to a replacement handle for a refrigerator.

The situation may be similar to 2D printing today, says Robin Kleer, an associate professor of innovation management at Vlerick Business School in Belgium. Printing a few pages at home is easy and affordable, but more complex products, like posters or pamphlets, require specialised shops.

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CECIMO promises to “cushion impact on additive manufacturing” in EU talks

CECIMO, the association representing the interests of machine tool and manufacturing technologies, has released a new statement concerning additive manufacturing’s position in upcoming discussions by the European Commission.

Image from What is Additive Manufacturing? via cecimo.eu

Having given a formal statement in March 2019, CECIMO has reiterated its commitment to keeping additive manufacturing at the center of decisions relating to product liability, intellectual property (IP) rights, and the U.S.-EU trade deal.

“Before the end of the year,” the association states, “additive manufacturing will be at the centerstage at the European level.”

The Commission is due to publish a new study and guidelines that will rekindle debates surrounding quality standards and the difference between Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) relations.  In such debates, the association reiterates, “CECIMO will address policymakers to avoid burdening the sector with unnecessary regulation.”

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How 3D Printing is changing production models

Additive manufacturing is no longer just for prototypes. Its increasing popularity and technical capabilities have pushed it into position to change the way manufacturers manage their spare parts inventory.

No matter how technologies change, or what new innovations break into the mainstream, the basic goals of manufacturing remain the same: Reduce unplanned downtime, reduce costs, eliminate unnecessary waste, etc. How fortunate it is that 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing) is one of those cool, innovative technologies that is finding itself a very nice spot in the realm of day-to-day cost and time savings. Not only can it be used to produce interesting and previously impossible designs, it has also become a useful way to change spare parts management.

When a system goes down, making the repairs needed to get it back up and running can be time-consuming. Even more so if the part that needs replacing is no longer readily available. With the right program in place, additive manufacturing can build that part on demand—whether through reverse engineering, digital files from the component supplier, or perhaps through the supplier itself.

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Jabil survey identifies changing perceptions of 3D printing among manufacturers

Supply-chain solutions provider Jabil has released a survey that shows manufacturers are more inclined to use 3D printing today than they were about a year ago and that the technology is being used more often in production applications.

The survey, “Current State of Additive Materials and 3D Printing,” asked 308 individuals responsible for 3D printing at manufacturing companies a series of questions pertaining to their current and anticipated use of additive manufacturing (AM). The responses, gathered at the beginning of 2019, were then compared to responses to the same questions asked in the fall of 2017.

“Over the course of a year, 3D printing utilization has skyrocketed,” says the report. “Our most recent research clearly demonstrates the upward trajectory of the popularity and application of additive manufacturing.”

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Reliable and accurate industrial 3D printing challenges injection moulding processes

elix Printers has launched the Pro 3, L and XL platforms for industrial production applications to meet the changing needs of the industry.

The shift of the manufacturing workflow to incorporate additive manufacturing in many industrial sectors has led 3D printingmanufacturer, Felix Printers, to develop products and features to serve the changing needs of industry, paying careful attention to detail and listening to customers. The Pro 3, L and XL platforms for industrial production applications were launched end 2018. According to Felix Printers, Pro 3 integrates seamlessly into industrial workflows, be it in the office, workshop, laboratory or factory environment. The 3D printer produces optimised print results repeatably. The L and XL platforms are for greatly increased build volumes of up to 144 litres. Pro L is said to be able to build parts of up to 300 x 400 x 400 mm (11.8 x 15.75 x 15.75 in.), while Pro XL has a build chamber of 600 x 400 x 600 mm (23.62 x 15.75 x 23.62 in.), Felix explains.

With Pro 3, L, and XL AM platforms, OEM’s have a reliable, cost-effective, and easy-to-use production technology for short-to-medium volume applications.

According to the company, the larger systems incorporate highly engineered print chambers, which incorporate an enclosed warm zone and a cold zone, to ensure quality and reliability. The warm zone supports consistent temperature control during the build, which is particularly important when printing materials with a high shrinkage factor, such as ABS, carbon fiber or nylon. In contrast, the cool zone is where the electronics are housed, which prevent overheating and subsequent machine/build failure.

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Reimagining the future of manufacturing

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.

Fast Radius - Carbon lab

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.

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