The European Parliament, the second largest democratic electorate and largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world, met this week for the second Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference, where it highlighted the pressing need for a common European strategy to advance 3D printing research, materials, education, market value and overall technological development.
At the 2015 Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing European Conference, the need for a common, trans-national strategy became obvious. Now, at the 2016 Conference, high-level representatives from companies, institutions, and the machine tools sector gathered once again to put a plan into action.
Two recent announcements from HP and UPS may mark the beginning of a fundamental change in manufacturing on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution.
Although on-demand manufacturing isn’t exactly new—companies like Fast Radius (formerly CloudDDM), Proto Labs and 3Dilligent have been offering it for years—the entrance of major players like HP and UPS into the on-demand market could be game-changing.
Why would the world’s largest package and delivery company care about 3D printing?
The answer is logistics. Although 3D printing could eventually make physical deliveries obsolete, right now 3D printing services still need to ship their products. Rather than being eventually cut out as a middleman, UPS is aiming to stay ahead of the curve.
The company recently announced that it will launch a distributed, on-demand manufacturing network using the Fast Radius On-Demand Production Platform and SAP’s extended supply chain software. The goal is to network 3D printers at UPS Stores in over 60 locations throughout the US with Fast Radius’ 3D printing factory, integrating 3D printing into the existing UPS supply chain model.
Given that UPS is a minority investor in Fast Radius through the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund (SEF), its choice to partner with this particular on-demand manufacturer should come as no surprise. Indeed, one can’t help but wonder how long this deal has been in the works.
The question of strength in 3D printed materials is one which has held it back from exploding across manufacture. The initial indicates from NASA-based research were promising, and other manufacturers, notably GE and Airbus, have embarked down the path to making end user parts out of metal. New research, however, may change things.
Titanium has become a firm favorite for the medical and aerospace industries, but a worrying report from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that 3D printed titanium could be fatally flawed.
Deep X-rays have revealed a porosity to the material in 3D printed titanium that can be traced back to its powder-based production method.
Carnegie Mellon University is one of the world leaders in 3D printing research and has produced some stellar research over the years. It took the most common form of titanium, Ti-gAI-4V, to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory. There it analyzed the material with so called deep X-rays, or intense synchrotron x-rays, and an advanced rapid imaging tool.
Multinational security service company G4S have issued a warning about thieves who are using 3D printed security devices to disguise cargo thefts.
Crimes are committed by using 3D printers to create counterfeit copies of security devices, such as ISO 17712 high security cargo seals, locks or padlocks.
G4S have warned that by using 3D printing, thieves are able to create these counterfeit copies in as little as ten minutes. A spokesperson for the company told Securing Industry that:
“For a few hundred dollars, a person can purchase a 3D scanner that eliminates the need to understand computer-aided design and can not only provide the dimensions for any item but also creates the CAD technical specifications needed to produce a near-perfect replica.”
Peter Weijmarshausen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Shapeways, the world’s leading 3D printing marketplace and community. [Full disclosure: my venture firm Lux Capital is an equity investor]. Prior to Shapeways, Peter was the CTO of Sangine, where he and his team designed and developed satellite broadband modems. Peter was also Director of Engineering at Aramiska, where he was responsible for delivering a business broadband service via satellite. Earlier in his career, Peter worked as ICT manager for Not a Number where he facilitated the adoption of the widely successful open source 3D software Blender. Peter was born and raised in the Netherlands and moved to New York in 2010.
What is the current state of 3D printing technology?
3D printing is the transforming manufacturing into a digital technology for the first time, moving us from an analog to a digital realm. This changes all the rules of the game. It changes who is in control, because analog manufacturing requires big companies to produce large quantities of the same good. These companies need to have the capital to deploy these large quantities and an understanding of which goods will be economically viable. Analog manufacturing requires market research, prototyping, focus group research, and the supply chain and retail channels to distribute products.
When you think of innovations that 3D printing has brought to the supply chain, dentistry might not be the first industry to spring to mind. But 3D printing is revolutionizing the manufacturing of custom transparent orthodontic braces and transforming the customer experience.
Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers are used to create Align Technologies’ patient-specific Invisalign aligners. Every day, 3D printing is used to produce 150,000 custom molds based on a 3D digital model of a patient’s teeth, around which their braces are formed. These digital methods bring speed and agility to the process, which is made even more efficient by printing multiple molds simultaneously.
Someday, the dusty back shelves of America’s warehouses could be replaced by UPS and SAP-enabled 3-D printing.
The companies on Wednesday said their goal is to transform the now ad hoc realm of industrial 3-D printing into a seamless, on-demand manufacturing process, from order to manufacturing and delivery.
“We don’t think this is going to take over manufacturing anytime soon. But we do think it’s going to be a disruptor much in the same way that online retail has disrupted retailing,” said Hans Thalbauer, senior vice president for extended supply chain at SAP.
We should start with some definitions: 3D printing, less commonly known as additive manufacturing, is a process to make things in layers using plastic, metal or resin.
Those who immerse themselves in the technology believe it has the potential to turn manufacturing on its head because it plays havoc with the traditional supply chain, shortens product development and removes costs.
Even with all its change-the-world promise, 3D printing still needs to clean up some problems, namely the process is slow, expensive and has a steep learning curve.
Those obstacles are already being addressed if not hurdled in the near term. For example, HP’s 3D printers use thermal inkjet arrays and multiple liquid agents in a process called Multi Jet Fusion, said to be 10 times faster than today’s standard machines. And Carbon’s speedy Continuous Liquid Interface Production 3D printing technology is referred to by some as a game changer.
Read more (This one requires registration)
3D printing is poised to upend a lot of manufacturing and supply chain models that are entrenched in many industries, but the impact may be much wider than that. In this recent Harvard Business Review article, the author suggests viewing the potential of 3D printing through an unexpected prism: taxes.
Channing Flynn, an international tax partner at Ernst & Young, as well as the company’s global technology industry tax leader wrote the piece, and brings up a number of good points that could trip up companies adopting 3D printing as well as their respective governments.
Exactly how – and how quickly – 3D printing is adopted will obviously vary by industry and company, but Flynn’s piece outlines some of the competing economic priorities that will affect how widely the technology may be adopted.