3D printing solution to support 30-year digital rail maintenance

Having successfully implemented Stratasys‘ 3D printing to produce parts for the German and UK rail industries, Siemens Mobility Services has continued its investment in Stratasys technology to support the expansion of its rail maintenance operations in Russia. This includes two new industrial-grade Stratasys Fortus 450mc 3D Printers for part production. 

The decision comes in line with a recent business win for Siemens Mobility to build 13 additional high-speed Velaro trains for Russian train company, RZD, including an agreement to maintain and service the trains for the next 30 years. This is already the third Velaro order from RZD for Sapsan fleet due to excellent availability of Sapsan trains in daily operation, supplementing an existing fleet of 16 trains. For further information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing Materials 2019-2029: Technology and Market Analysis.

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3D Printing and the Supply Chain

Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has been around in one shape or form for a while. The process essentially entails building a three-dimensional object from computer-aided design (CAD) to add material layer by layer until a final product is complete. The use cases for 3D printing cover most anything you can imagine. In fact, recently, while on a weekend ski trip with friends, my buddy John was riding the chairlift with two women from France who worked for a company that specialized in 3D printing human organs. However, these 3D printed organs were not meant to be used for transplants. Instead, these 3D printed organs were used as replicas of human organs to practice complex surgeries.

3D printing

This conversation got me thinking about the pros and cons of 3D printing, and how as supply chain professionals, it fits into our everyday lives. In the grand scheme of things, 3D printing’s effect on the supply chain can be summarized as the following: warehouses no longer need to keep as many parts in stock. The rationale is that the parts can simply be printed on an as-needed basis. Along these lines of thinking, this would seem to be especially true for the replacement parts industry. However, does this actually make sense and is it a soon-to-be reality?

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Pratt & Whitney 3D prints aero-engine MRO component with ST Engineering

“3D printing will be a game-changer for the MRO industry worldwide.”

Pratt & Whitney is set to introduce a 3D printed aero-engine component into its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations by mid-2020 after a successful collaboration with ST Engineering.

ST Engineering MRO

The two companies came together to leverage 3D printing technology to facilitate faster and more flexible repair solutions, with contributions also coming from Pratt & Whitney’s repair specialist Component Aerospace Singapore.

Component Aerospace Singapore provides engine part repair for combustion chambers, fuel systems and manifolds; ST Engineering boasts ‘production-level 3D capabilities’ and experience applying 3D printing in land transport systems; and Pratt & Whitney is a specialist in design and engineering.

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Technology outlook 2030: opportunities and threats for shipping

Digitalisation technologies will transform maritime industries on a global scale over this decade in positive and negative ways

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DNV GL suggests a surge in 3D printing adoption and technology development could reduce demand for seaborne trade in its Technology Outlook 2030.

IoT technology will enable shipping to link with supply chains

In a future supply chain, files could be sent via printing platforms instead of spare parts for printing locally. This could be potentially disruptive for supply chain participants, such as shipping companies and tax authorities.

Upsides could include shortened lead times, lifecycle and working capital cost reductions and a lower carbon footprint due to less transportation.

DNV GL forecasts that perhaps up to 85% of spare part suppliers may have incorporated 3D printing by 2030, leading to a 10% reduction in seaborne trade of semi-manufactured parts in 2040.

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3D printing can keep aging Air Force aircraft flying

And the military wants you—to help it make spare parts for decades-old B-52 bombers and other planes. 

GLENN HOUSE AND his colleagues spent more than four years making a new toilet for the B-1 Lancer. The challenge wasn’t fitting the john into the cockpit (it went behind the front left seat), but ensuring that every part could handle life aboard a plane that can pull 5 Gs, break the sound barrier, and spend hours in wildly fluctuating temperatures. The end result didn’t just have to work. It had to work without rattling, leaking, or revealing itself to enemy radar. Having it OK’d for use aboard the bomber was just as complex as making it. “Getting a part approved can take years,” says House, the cofounder and president of Walpole, Massachusetts-based 2Is.

A man walks on the wing of a plane at an air base

Until last year, 2Is was in the military parts business, furnishing replacement bits for assorted defense equipment. (Pronounced “two eyes,” it sold off the parts business and now focuses on defense-related supply chain software.) Providing spare parts for the military is a peculiar niche of the economy. Things like aircraft and submarines spend decades in service, and the companies that made them or supplied their myriad parts often disappear long before their products retire. So when something needs a new knob, seat, or potty, the military often turns to companies that specialize in making them anew.

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Merchant ship owners to produce spare parts on demand using 3D printing

Merchant ship owners will now use 3D printing technology. Source: Shutterstock

MERCHANT ships are massive — often spanning a few hundred feet — and have thousands of moving parts.

Given the progress made by cross-border trade and commerce post-globalization, and the recent rise of e-commerce, more than 50,000 ships undertake nearly half-a-million voyages every year.

To avoid catastrophes while at sea, merchant ships need to be serviced often. One of the major costs that merchant ship owners have to account for when it comes to maintenance is the inventory cost of spare parts given the number of spares that must be carried at any given time.

The other challenge to effective maintenance is that ships travel from one port to another during its voyage. If something needs to be repaired when it is not at its home, spares must be sent to the port where it is docked.

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Lean and Mean: Why on-demand is in-demand for supply chain managers

“Digital inventory converted into physical inventory, as and when you need it, wherever you need and in the exact quantity required, equals true on-demand production with no waste.”

In my previous column, I discussed the benefits of virtual inventories and how, by pulling parts from a digital (rather than physical) inventory and then quickly and seamlessly 3D printing these parts, supply chain efficiencies can be significantly improved.

Supply Chain Management

The benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) in conjunction with virtual inventories are further demonstrated in the enablement of on-demand manufacturing – most notably with respect to batch-size. In most traditional manufacturing technologies, the minimal batch size is quite large (tens- or hundreds- of thousands, and sometimes millions of items in a single manufacturing run). Think about it – with conventional production methods, there is a large cost of switching what the line produces and therefore manufacturers typically produce in one run for current and future expected future demands. This creates a physical inventory of spare parts that may or may not be used in the future. However, this is expensive to produce, store and manage, particularly when there is no guarantee the parts will actually be used.

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The UK´s first 3D printed parts trialled on passenger trains

With the ability to quickly produce replacement parts on-demand, 3D printing helps operators to better maintain trains and improve the quality of service for passengers. Angel Trains, one of Britain’s leading train leasing companies, 3D printing leader Stratasys, engineering consultancy DB ESG and train operator Chiltern Railways have joined forces to trial the first 3D printed parts ever deployed within an in-service passenger train in the UK. For more information see the IDTechEx report on 3D Printing Composites 2020-2030: Technology and Market Analysis

These parts include four passenger armrests and seven grab handles, which have been installed on Chiltern Railways´ trains. The trial’s success to date demonstrates how 3D printing can help train operators accelerate the replacement of obsolete parts, enabling them to get vehicles back into service quicker and better maintain their trains – improving the quality of service for passengers.

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ThyssenKrupp Additive Manufacturing approved for maritime supply

German multinational engineering group Thyssenkrupp has obtained certification for its supply of metal 3D printed products. The company’s Approval of Manufacturer certificate is the first ever to be awarded by leading quality assurance and risk management firm DNV GL. With the accreditation, the recently opened Thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing is now approved for application in maritime and other industrial sectors.

Launching ceremony of the Class 218SG submarine Invincible. Photo via Thyssenkrupp.

“Producing components that have the same level of quality as conventionally manufactured parts and fulfil class requirements is key,” comments Geir Dugstad, Director of Ship Classification & Technical Director of DNV GL – Maritime, “At DNV GL, we are very pleased to certify that the Thyssenkrupp TechCenter Additive Manufacturing has demonstrated its ability to reliably produce metallic materials using additive manufacturing,”

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3D printing brings new dimensions to field commissioning

Access to and use of additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, has increased in recent years due to the expiring of patents on techniques and technologies, says Hugues Greder, Lead Petroleum Engineer at Total.

(Photo: Total)

Computing power is much more powerful and there’s also been an increase in the power of the lasers used in the AM process. While a large proportion of AM today is still for prototyping and tooling, about a third is for end uses, i.e. parts, he told the Underwater Technology Conference (UTC) in Bergen, Norway, earlier this year. And more is likely to come.

Total is keen to talk about AM after some recent success stories, including solving a problem during deepwater subsea pipeline commissioning that would have otherwise cost more than €10 million ($11.2 million) to rectify. The problem was found during the Egina field commissioning in 2018.

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