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.
- The oil and gas industry is finally getting in on the 3D printing revolution, using the technology to solve supply chain problems, lower costs, and reduce emissions
- The tech could save the oil and gas industry $30 billion annually
- The 3D printing revolution has been significantly bolstered by the global pandemic and supply chain issues, and it is now maturing into a major industry
Port congestion, delivery delays, and shortages have become a mark of the pandemic world that is not showing signs of going away anytime soon. It is in times like this that disruptive, transformational technology shines and 3D printing is no exception. Additive manufacturing, as it is also known, has been around for quite a while now, and while we haven’t yet reached the point of having 3D printers in every home, energy companies have been paying close attention and are now using the technology to cope with part shortages.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Chevron had turned to additive manufacturing to secure parts necessary for the maintenance of its $54-billion Gorgon LNG project. Chevron had to turn to additive manufacturing due to fears that maintenance would be delayed if the company had ordered ready-made parts.
“We’ve learned a lot from those parts. The most important thing is that we’ve shown that this flexible, right part, right time digital supply-chain approach can be successful, and it can meet our needs in a sort of reactive mode,” the WSJ quoted Chevron manager Robert Rettew as saying.
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.
The oil and gas industry is embracing new technologies to save time and costs and, most recently, to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain as the energy sector is under increased pressure to reward shareholders while helping to fight climate change. Along with artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins, and robotics, the world’s biggest oil and gas firms and oilfield services providers are betting on 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to streamline operations, cut costs and save time, and reduce emissions from spare parts manufacturing.
Over the past decade, some of the biggest oil and gas firms in the world have turned to 3D printing to procure parts and create digital warehouses to procure and manage the supply of necessary equipment.
One such example is supermajor Shell (2.60%), which believes that additive manufacturing technology can reduce the costs, delivery time, and the carbon footprint of spare parts. Shell has ongoing projects with other industry players, including Baker Hughes (3.06%), to push the innovation of 3D printing for the energy sector, say Nick van Keulen, Supply Chain Digitalisation Manager and Angeline Goh, 3D Printing Technology Manager at Shell.
While additive manufacturing has long been a part of consumer product development, it has massive potential for innovation in product manufacturing.
However, it’s one thing to talk about its potential. It’s quite another to establish efficient, scalable AM operations that bring value both for customers and the company’s bottom line.
This article will dive into the challenges to efficient AM workflow and highlight the solutions to help set AM operations up for success.
It’s been quite a year.
One of struggle, one of anguish, one of a technology that may have previously failed to live up to such lofty promise, perhaps now finding its role in the manufacturing landscape.
Though there were plenty of businesses in the 3D printing industry that had significant issues to encounter – GE in its AM-related goodwill impairment charges or Stratasys and 3D Systems in their workforce reductions – the technology itself comes out of 2020 with an enhanced reputation.
It was responsible for millions of parts produced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to alleviate slightly the pressure that medical professionals and procurement personnel were under, while allowing manufacturers to pivot from what they typically produced to what, in that moment, we needed them to.
Every sector is in the midst of a digital transformation journey adopting the latest technologies worldwide.
Sectors such as supply chain, manufacturing, logistics and transportation are currently facing an extreme shift in the adoption of new technologies. Not only has the current pandemic been a catalyst in adoption, technology is currently in the midst of its biggest transformation yet. New technology innovations have enabled us to automate processes, manage the supply chain and track data using blockchain.
3D printing has been around for over 20 years but has only recently been adopted by large-scale markets. This technology allows for companies to create specific devices or products in-house using specialised materials while minimising cost. This means independence for the supply chain and manufacturing industries as well as reducing delivery times and eliminating the need to store a large number of products in a warehouse.
3D printing is a globally used language meaning that digital files can be sent from anywhere and then printed locally, allowing for on-demand files to be printed immediately reducing inventory build-up and costs. This streamlined approach only brings positives to the manufacturing and supply chain sectors, and boasts huge benefits such as dealing with less risk, having more control and adding agility to their product lifecycle.
This week, California-based metal 3D printing company Velo3D revealed it had raised an additional $12m in funding, taking its total to $150m. The money will be used to develop a new approach to metal 3D printing, reducing the need to re-design parts for additive manufacturing.
Velo3D believes this approach can help engineers realize the potential that lies in metal 3D printing.
The 3D printing industry is not short of potential. In 2019, GlobalData estimated the market would be worth $32bn by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16% between 2018 and 2025.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 outbreak has demonstrated the fragility of global supply chains that provide life-saving equipment including ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical facilities around the world.
3D printing has long emphasized its power to decentralize global manufacturing by manufacturing locally, but the material with which it operates is still beholden to the global supply chain.
The pro-decentralization argument in favor of additive manufacturing systems generally goes something like this: global supply chains require huge amounts of transportation. Since additive manufacturing systems 3D print products on site without expensive tooling from a 3D design file, the cost of shipping and production is reduced. CAD files are easy to reverse engineer and easy to redesign, greatly reducing time-to-market as well. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, this argument was not airtight by any means. The cost of producing certain non-essential and essential goods (including medical supplies) was still cheaper by traditional methods like injection molding and transcontinental shipping.
It’s no doubt that 3D printing and additive manufacturing are some of the most exciting technologies in the past decade. But as rife with much as the hobbyist and household applications are already, the most significant potential of additive manufacturing lies behind the outstanding scenes in each supply chain.
Experts assert that rapid prototyping can potentially remake the entire manufacturing and product handling process. This is because the approach can help bring about professionally-designed products quicker than ever. Keep in mind that rapid prototyping is more than just 3D printing. The concept can be helpful even when working with different materials to suit manufacturers and eventually transform the work environment for your employees.