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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
AdventHealth Nicholson Center, a Florida-based medical training facility, has launched its Prototype Lab to enable the development of medical devices using additive manufacturing technology.
As an innovative space for healthcare professionals, the Prototype Lab will provide CAD modeling and 3D printing to develop, test and refine inventions to improve clinical care. Jodi Fails, B.S., Biomedical Engineer, and Prototype Lab lead at AdventHealth Nicholson Center explained:
“Our expert team can help bring an idea from ‘napkin sketch’ to reality, and our 3D printing capabilities allow inventors to hold an actual version of their device in their hands for evaluation.”
As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
3D printing is a manufacturing game-changer
Calling all carnivores: ever thought about getting a meat printer? Of hand-crafting delectable beef steaks at home from plant proteins, that have the same texture, appearance and flavor as real meat, only without the distasteful killing part?
3D-printed steaks and chicken could be on the menu in European restaurants as early as 2020, with home-spun meat printers available to the consumer within a few more years. Israel-based Redefine Meat is already using “advanced food formulations” along with “proprietary 3D printing technology” to make what it calls the “holy grail of alt-meat”, reports Tech Radar Pro.
The idea sounds absurd, but it’s not so far-fetched, as three-dimensional printing technology goes in directions no-one could dream of, prior to the launch of 3D printing in the 1980s.
Put simply, 3D printing is a progression of 2D printing, where a third dimension is added to the printing of images on a flat surface (a regular ink-jet printer), adding depth and allowing the printer cartridge to move in all directions. A digital file is first created using modeling software, then sent to the printer, depositing layers of the chosen material – often plastic or wax – to build up the final product. Other printing materials include plastics, powders, filaments, paper, and even human or animal cells – used in the cutting-edge new field of “bioprinting”.
By 2029, Casca’s plan is to make your custom shoes in front of you via additive manufacturing.
Casca, a startup out of Vancouver, is looking to meld 3D printing and additive manufacturing, retail and footwear that will bring mass personalization to insoles and shoes.
The company, which recently raised $3.5 million from Khosla Ventures, has launched its first store in Vancouver. Casca’s system uses custom 3D printed insoles made from 100% recyclable materials, a digital app that scans your foot with a smartphone and shoes that are designed for better support.
Ultimately, Casca wants to fully scale its retail outlets by 2029 with 3D printers that will create your insoles and shoes on the spot. If successful, Casca will decentralize its supply chain.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.