In the 30-plus years since the introduction of the first additive manufacturing (AM) machines, 3D printers have gotten faster, materials superior, applications bigger, acceptance greater, and the ambition to deploy AM for production all the closer.
From Carbon’s 3D printed adidas midsoles to Chanel’s laser sintered mascara brushes, examples of production are all around but challenges remain that prevent the technology from excelling as a true production process.
“There are new consumer demands at play— heightened by the impact of the pandemic—and they are completely reshaping the way we design, manufacture and mass produce goods that are not only highly personalised but built with sustainability in mind,” Wayne Davey, Global Head of 3D Printing Solutions Go-to-Market for HP shared with TCT. “There is a lot of opportunity for disruption not limited to any one industry in particular. Brands across automotive, health and wellness, sports, and more are seeing the benefits of making the switch from traditional manufacturing methods in favour of additive technology. And they want to do it quickly, economically, and most importantly, at a mass scale.”
Trends in additive manufacturing for end-use production was a recent in-depth look at what some see as the the next phase of 3D printing.
3D printed sneakers, custom-fit insoles, clothing and toys – commercial 3D printing – are often the subject of hype surrounding 3D printing’s integration into the supply chain. There are many big names behind these projects, for example adidas and Carbon of Futurecraft 4D sneakers, Formlabs and New Balance, EOS and Under Armour. However, the making of 3D printing for series-level manufacturing will, in many ways, be shaped by its adoption in China and the surrounding countries – the global center of mass production.
The Impact of 3D Printing Technology on Supply Chain in China is considered in a new report by H.K. Chan, J. Griffin, J.J. Lim, F. Zeng and A.S.F. Chiu, of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, the University of Exeter in the UK, and De La Salle University in the Philippines.
“WITH 3DP PRODUCTION CAN BE STARTED ON A MADE-TO-ORDER BASIS. […] IN OTHER WORDS, THE EXCESSIVE INVENTORY STOCKING UP DUE TO UNCERTAIN DEMAND ALONG A SUPPLY CHAIN, KNOWN AS THE FAMOUS BULLWHIP EFFECT, SHOULD ACCORDINGLY BE REDUCED.”
Carbon has been working to speed up the adoption of 3D printing — and not only through its high-speed 3D printing process, which emerged from stealth two years ago. CLIP technology allows for a fast, precise 3D print that is, the company is keen to note, adaptable for scale production. While the primary application for 3D printing has historically been and is likely to remain for some time in rapid prototyping, Carbon is among those ambitious young companies seeking to push beyond prototyping and into production. The biggest move so far for the smart company to put its money where its mouthpiece is comes in the way of a major partnership with shoe producer adidas, which is promising to create hundreds, then thousands, and eventually perhaps millions of pairs of commercially available shoes as 3D printing ramps up into mainstream production.
These are big claims, and it is to be expected that many take them with more than a grain of saltfollowing the crash of expectations following a significantly overhyped few years in additive manufacturing. Carbon is ready to back up its promises, though, and the team were present at the recent TCT Show in the UK — wearing their Futurecraft 4D shoes as they have at shows since the announcement — and ready to talk. During the course of the show, I enjoyed the opportunity to sit down to chat with Co-Founder and VP of Business Development Phil DeSimone and VP of Marketing Valerie Buckingham; run into Head of Production Partnerships Dana McCallum and hear her speak on a materials panel; and catch up at the booth with newer-to-the-Carbon-team industry veterans Production Development Engineers Gary Miller and Jason Lopes.
The top FDM and SLA 3D-printing companies are looking to grab more market share from the injection-molding industry.
Anyone keeping up with 3D printing will probably say it’s great for prototyping and some end-use parts. But when the amount of parts reaches a certain number, the return on investment (ROI) starts to move toward more traditional processes, such as injection molding. Some companies have been increasing this number over time. Recently, Formlabs and Stratasys each released new machines that will automate the entire 3D-printing process. These companies are increasing the ROI of 3D printing and capturing more market share from traditional processes.