How 3D printing can help reduce risk and guard against supply chain turmoil.
There’s always risk in the supply chain. Disruption from machine failure and environmental and geopolitical factors create delays that cause a ripple effect through the supply chain and ultimately affect consumers. The pandemic ushered in a new level of turmoil, risks, and challenges, from the Suez Canal obstruction and labor shortages to lockdowns and material scarcities.
Broken machinery can leave manufacturers waiting for a replacement part for days or even weeks. Manufacturers must choose between paying for a rushed order to receive replacement parts, purchasing materials at a premium, or suffering through excessive downtime. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, supply chain challenges render manufacturers unable to move production forward predictably or without incurring higher costs to attain materials on time.
Multinational printing firm HP has made several announcements in the lead-up to this year’s Formnext trade show, the first of which concerns a new partnership with cosmetics giant L’Oréal.
Together, the two companies are seeking to enable more flexible cosmetics production and explore “entirely new” cosmetics packaging and applications. HP also announced the expansion of its Digital Manufacturing Network (DMN) of parts providers in order to accelerate the shift towards mass production, while the momentum of its Metal Jet 3D printing platform is continuing in advance of its commercial availability in 2022.
“3D printing is unlocking new levels of personalization, business resiliency, sustainability, and market disruption,” said Didier Deltort, President of Personalization & 3D Printing at HP. “HP is excited to reconvene with the additive manufacturing community at Formnext.”
The world depends upon disruptive technology, including big data analytics, IoT, cloud computing, etc. These technologies have a great impact all around, and the future of the supply chain depends upon such advanced technology.
Similarly, an advanced technology, i.e. 3D printing, is shaping the supply chain. According to reports, the use of 3D printers is gradually increasing.
Getting spare parts where they need to go in a quick, reliable way is a logistical challenge for military and industrial supply chains. Researchers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and North Carolina State University have developed a computational model to help determine how best to incorporate additive manufacturing (AM) technologies into these spare parts supply chains.
AM technologies, or “3D printers,” hold tremendous potential for alleviating some of the logistical challenges associated with providing spare parts when and where they are needed. However, AM technologies can be expensive and tricky to transport. They also require personnel who have specialized training. What’s more, spare parts supply chains can be particularly complicated, because there is usually intermittent demand – meaning you likely don’t know when you’ll need to provide a particular part or how many parts might be needed at any point in time.
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.
There is a tremendous opportunity for additive manufacturing to help overcome the semiconductor shortage, and once again, strengthen supply chains.
Global supply chains have felt the impact of the pandemic for quite some time and continue to face challenges navigating the disruption of production lines even as more regions of the world and business centers gradually re-open and bring more personnel back on-site. The biggest challenge that will remain for the foreseeable future is the shortage of semiconductors, and the signs have been there for months.
Last December, Volkswagen said that semiconductor bottlenecks meant it would produce 100,000 fewer cars in the first quarter of 2021, as its parts makers were unable to secure supplies. Nissan, Renault, Daimler and General Motors are also struggling with the shortage, which may lead to production being reduced by as much as 20% per week.
Shapeways, a leader in powering digital manufacturing, continues to disrupt the traditional manufacturing market through end-to-end digitization and automated workflows that lower manufacturing barriers, alleviate critical supply chain bottlenecks and speed delivery of quality products worldwide. The company’s purpose-built software, proven production capabilities and global network of certified printer, materials and manufacturing partners are transforming manufacturing while boosting supply chain resiliency.
“Global supply chains continue to face massive disruptions caused by unforeseen events—from a traffic jam at the Suez Canal to a year-long pandemic that upended sourcing, procurement and production,” said Miko Levy, chief revenue officer of Shapeways. “Digital manufacturing is the key to meeting escalating demands for supply chain resilience with unprecedented agility and flexibility.”
Manufacturing system provider Ingersoll Machine Tools has partnered with aviation company Bell to 3D print a 22 foot-long vacuum trim tool – a mold used for the production of helicopter rotor blades.
The project, which resulted in major lead time savings, was completed using Ingersoll’s own large-format hybrid MasterPrint system, a gantry-based 3D printer with integrated 5-axis milling functionality. According to Ingersoll, the MasterPrint is the largest polymer 3D printer in the world. Designed specifically for the production of extra-large production parts, the system can be found at Ingersoll’s headquarters in Rockford, IL.
“We are continuously testing and advancing MasterPrint in our Development Center” said Chip Storie, CEO at Ingersoll. “Among Ingersoll’s short-term objectives is for MasterPrint to 3D print molds for aerospace that preserve the geometrical properties and tolerances, vacuum integrity and autoclave resilience normally obtained with traditional technology, but with the cost and time reduction only additive manufacturing can offer. The relentless progress our MasterPrint process has made in 2020 has finally made this target attainable.”
Instead of sourcing components from single suppliers, manufacturers are starting to look for smaller orders from a range of suppliers to guard against the supply chain disruptions seen during the pandemic.
Slimane Allab, senior vice president and general manager, EMEA of supply chain tech company LLamasoft said, “Short run manufacturing is effectively bridging the gap between product prototyping and full-scale manufacturing plans.
The 3D printing technology also served as an alternative and more efficient manufacturing option to keep up with the demand for nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs.
Amid worldwide disruptions in supply chains due to Covid-19 restrictions, the 3D printing technology has enabled on-demand solutions for needs ranging from personal protection equipment to medical devices and isolation wards, say researchers.
The researchers examined how the digital versatility and quick prototyping of 3D printing has enabled the rapid mobilisation of the technology and a swift response to emergencies in a closed loop economy.