Thousands of years ago, the blacksmith led a technological leap in sub-Saharan Africa. West Africa’s Nok culture, for example, switched from using stone tools to iron around 1500BC. Imagine an innovative artisan like this re-emerging in the 21st century equipped with digital technologies.
This is not Wakanda science fiction. It is the story of a real promise that 3D printing holds for an industrial revolution on the African continent.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a fabrication process in which a three-dimensional object is built (printed) by adding layer upon layer of materials to a series of shapes. The material can be metal, alloys, plastics or concrete. The market size of 3D printing was valued at US$13.78 billion in 2020, and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 21% to a value of US$62.79 billion in 2028.
Essentium, Inc., announced the first in a series of findings from independent global research on the current and future use of industrial 3D printing. The fourth annual study reveals that the use of large-scale AM has more than doubled in the past year for 86 percent of manufacturing companies.
The survey results show that AM is here to stay and has evolved beyond prototyping to become an essential component in the large-scale production of functional parts. The number of companies that have shifted to using AM for full-scale production runs of hundreds of thousands of parts has increased from 14 percent in 2020 to 24 percent in 2021, and only 1 percent use 3D printing for less than 10 parts compared to 17 percent four years ago.
The survey found that the most important drivers for a company’s adoption of 3D printing for large scale production were its ability to: • Improve part performance [55%]
Carbon’s unique 3D printing method promises a new class of innovative gear.
You don’t have to be able to follow the intricately complex plot threads of HBO’s hit sci-fi series Westworld — who can? — to see the hypothetical picture in its fabric: by the early 2050s, theme park robots will be so lifelike that it’ll be impossible to tell the difference between them and us. Though not inherently a problem, their verisimilitude will complicate matters when a few become sentient and decide to take over.
As all good sci-fi stories do, Westworld‘s hinges on our acceptance that the reality it presents is possible in this dimension or another. The show lays the foundation of its premise in a moody intro sequence set to an ominous piano soundtrack as it depicts the manufacturing of these futuristic automatons. Blink (or press the “Skip Intro” button) and you’ll miss a robotic arm drawing a synthetic tendon onto a horse, bison or human, depending on which season you’re watching. Of course, these robots are 3D printed.
It is difficult to overstate the challenges faced by global supply chains in the last year-and-a-half. The Covid-19 pandemic, new post-Brexit trade rules and the Suez Canal blockage all played a part in delaying or restricting deliveries, creating bottlenecks and shortages of parts.
Thankfully, says Yann Rageul, the challenges have also encouraged companies to consider new ways of working – and 3D printing could be an ideal candidate for overcoming further disruption.
GE Aviation has projected cost savings of 35% after switching the production of four land/marine turbine bleed air parts from casting to metal 3D printing.
The aerospace company worked with GE Additive to additively manufacture the four bleed air components, with the cost savings expected to be enough to retire the old casting moulds forever. Harnessing 3D printing, GE Aviation also saw significant time reductions through the conversion process, getting to a final prototype inside ten months, where as it has previously taken between 12 and 18 months when developing turbine parts.
Companies that sell consumer electronic goods in the European Union (EU) will be obliged to ensure they can be repaired for up to a decade, as a result of new Right to Repair legislation passed by the European Parliament.
3D Printing Industry asked EOS, Spare Parts 3D, DiManEx, Ricoh 3D and Link3D for their thoughts on how 3D printed spare parts could help consumer appliance manufacturers adhere to the legislation, while avoiding large physical stocks of replacement parts and subsequent incurring costs.
From summer 2021, the new EU Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulation will give consumers the ‘right to repair’ on the goods they buy, meaning manufacturers will be legally required to make spare parts for products available to consumers for up to 10 years. The goods in question include refrigerators, dishwashers, hairdryers, lights, TVs, and so on, although appliances such as phones and laptops are not covered by the new laws.
With new capacities, faster speeds, digitalized inventory, and innovative materials, additive manufacturing is moving inventory closer to the customer and forever changing global supply chains.
A new year brings great promise for inspiration and change. We need both of these ideas to move forward in 2021. Our 3D printing community came to the rescue during 2020 to keep our healthcare workers safe dealing with parts of a broken supply chain. The question now becomes: How do we take these lessons and move forward? Let’s talk about:
What we learned about 3D printing’s role in the supply chain in 2020
How 3D printing will evolve in 2021
The impact of 3D printing on supply chains in 2021 and beyond
“AM technology increases the flexibility of manufacturing and production processes, reducing both our dependence on global supply chains and logistics expenses.”
The COVID-19 virus has affected the world in an unprecedented way. The pandemic has shown us just how deeply a crisis can disrupt societies and economies that are now so interconnected on a global level. This has been especially true in the case of supply chains and production. But the situation is also creating some valuable learnings, an important one being that by embracing alternative technologies to innovate, and with industry collaboration, we can make our supply chains more reliable, cost-effective and efficient – not just now but for the longer-term.
In previous decades, medical technology as well as countless other industries, have shifted the production of components or entire products to locations with lower labour costs, far away from their target market. Unfortunately, there are cases, including the current pandemic, where the vulnerability of these fully optimised supply chains have been laid bare – leading to supply bottlenecks, weakened domestic markets and lessened autonomy.
3D printing refers to a computer-controlled construction system, in which material is deposited and layered in an organized manner to form a physical object based on a computationally designed plan. The ease of distribution of digital files that then allow one to fabricate an object locally could help to ease the burden faced by healthcare providers in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As a person in the additive manufacturing media, well-meaning texts from friends and family members containing 3D printing news stories are always a good indication of the technology’s footing in the mainstream conversation. So, as the coronavirus pandemic hit and 3D printers were poised as the solution to pressing supply chain challenges for crucial items on the frontline, you can imagine, my inbox was pretty full.
Hospitals brought 3D printers in-house to support production of protective medical equipment, universities loaned their additive capabilities to print parts for local healthcare providers, and 3D printing equipment manufacturers became service providers overnight.
How that awareness and momentum might extend to the coming months and indeed years, particularly as this health crisis remains, is up for debate, and yesterday a trio of panellists across various industry segments came together to discuss what that could look like.