Lot of One: Will warehouses sit empty as 3D printing customization kills mass manufacturing?

John Jordan, of Penn State University, understands the vast implications of 3D printing technology on the world and industrial production. Manufacturing as we know it, along with how we create more complex geometries and present them, is being, and will be further disrupted by a technology allowing for innovations to be created faster, better, and more affordably—but also in ways we never expected before. Jordan focuses on the changes we will see in organizational design, concerning decisions in volume of production at the managerial level and which parts will be 3D printed, how options in customization will continue to grow, and what level of education will be required for businesses and their employees adopting new practices in the digital age.

Jordan is careful to evaluate 3D printing and its relative impact realistically, understanding there is no guarantee that it will ‘force a shift,’ or even begin to replace conventional mass production as we know it. He understands that humans, in their most basic forms of creating and manufacturing, have three choices: add, mold, or subtract. 3D printing and additive manufacturing have come along and offered us new choices for on-demand, on-site production—and often in remote locations; great examples of this are developing countriesmilitary installations, and the oil and gas industry.

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3D printed ears could help children with ear deformities avoid complex surgery

Children with ear deformities will soon be able to get printed ears made from their own stem cells, according to a team of Wollongong researchers working on new 3D bioprinting technology.

They claim their work represents a “huge breakthrough” in the field.

Two 3D printers sit in a lab.

The bio-printer, called 3D Alek, was developed at the University of Wollongong and is now being trialled at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA).
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3D printed steel tools can cut titanium alloys

High strength cutting tools can now be 3D printed, potentially saving time and money for aerospace and Defence manufacturers.

RMIT University PhD candidate Jimmy Toton received the 2019 Young Defence Innovator Award and $15,000 prize at the Avalon International Airshow for the research, which was conducted with Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) and industry partner Sutton Tools.

Because the metals used in Defence and aerospace are so strong, making high quality tools to cut them is a major, and expensive, challenge.

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Sigma Labs joins MTC for quality assurance in industrial manufacturing

Sigma Labs, the computer-aided inspection (CAI) software company behind PrintRite3D software, has become a member of the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Planetary Gears 3D printed using PrintRite3D inspection software. Features the motto "Quality Beyond Inspection" Photo via @Sigmalabsinc on Twitter

As a result, Sigma Labs will enable in-process quality monitoring for additive manufacturing systems at the MTC’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing through its software; the company will also participate in MTC’s member-sponsored programs with a focus on qualification and certification of the additive manufacturing process.

“With Europe at the forefront of many innovative and major developments in the metal AM industry, we believe this agreement, our second major research alliance with a European center of excellence, holds great promise for us and the future of AM,”  said John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs.

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Additive manufacturing has both potential and challenges

At this year’s International Symposium for Additive Manufacturing, around forty presentations covered the latest research results and industrial developments, as well as the challenges additive manufacturing (also called 3D printing) needs to overcome before it becomes firmly established in industry.  For example, Stefanie Brickwede, the Head of Additive Manufacturing at Deutsche Bahn, presented innovative approaches to additive manufacturing for mobility, especially rail traffic, in her lecture, “We Print to Drive: Mobility goes Additive”. According to Ms. Brickwede, the use of additive processes will result in high savings in the multi-digit million range in warehousing and spare parts procurement.  She underlined that additive manufacturing is of the upmost importance for Deutsche Bahn, especially in the management of spare parts for older trains.

Additive Manufacturing Symposium

“Tackling the materials and processing challenges”. Under this motto, 300 international experts from research and industry met at the 3rd International Symposium Additive Manufacturing in Dresden, Germany. At this year’s event, around forty presentations covered the latest research results and industrial developments, as well as the challenges additive manufacturing needs to overcome before it becomes firmly established in industrial production and for supply chain applications.

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Fast Radius’ CEO Lou Rassey on embracing industrial manufacturing

Now that 3D printing is moving towards industrial-grade production levels, many companies find themselves excited about the possibilities but not sure how to fully make it part of their operating model. This has created a gap where companies are slow to adopt additive manufacturing. Fast Radius is looking to bridge this gap.

Lou Rassey, CEO of Fast Radius

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Fast Radius, an advanced digital manufacturing company, is empowering industries to embrace additive. According to Lou Rassey, CEO of Fast Radius, the company offers “technology-agnostic solutions”, including additive manufacturing, and end-to-end processes for the design and manufacture of industrial-grade products. Customers come from sectors including aerospace, automotive, and medical.

The company is driven by a singular mission to “Make new things possible” for today’s manufacturers – whether that’s unlocking new business opportunities through additive manufacturing or making formerly “unmakeable” products. To achieve its mission, Fast Radius built a proprietary model that combines digital manufacturing with advanced physical technologies. This model led Fast Radius to be recently selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and McKinsey & CompanyInitiative on Shaping the Future of Production as a Fourth Industrial Revolution “Lighthouse”.

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Many companies stuck in planning phase of supply chain digitization

Man using tablet with logistics hub in background and graphics overlaid representing supply chain concepts

Even companies with the best-laid plans for supply chain digitization often struggle to achieve their goals, and recent Capgemini research provides some insight into the various factors holding some businesses back. The study, which suggests that many businesses remain stuck in the planning phase of digital transformation, offers several useful takeaways.

Released in December, “The Digital Supply Chain’s Missing Link: Focus”report surveyed more than 1,000 supply chain executives in the consumer products, manufacturing, and retail fields.

Key Survey Takeaways

The opportunity for cost savings was the primary motivator for the executives interviewed, with 77% saying that this impacted their decision in aiming to digitally transform the supply chain. Increasing revenues (56%) and supporting new business models (53%) were also cited.

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U.S. Army will leverage latest 3D printing technologies

According to estimates provided by the Pentagon, 3D printing capabilities will be increasingly integrating into the U.S. Army, reported by Devon L. Suits, Army News Service earlier this month.

As 3D printing increases both in the field and at depots, the Army’s Center of Excellence for Additive and Advanced Manufacturing is slated to reach initial operating capability this year at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.

Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-4, outlined the Army’s current 3D printing capabilities at the 2019 Military Additive Manufacturing Summit and Technology Showcase Feb. 6, in Tampa, Florida.

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As the global market outlook grows darker, manufacturing embraces tech solutions

U.S. Bank’s latest quarterly Freight Payment Index for fourth quarter describes a positive economic environment for the U.S to end 2018 but it also points to one of a possible slow down as we progress into 2019. The U.S. Bank National Shipment and Spend Indices both increased from the third to fourth quarters, with the Spend Index increasing 7.2% to a record high. Meanwhile, the National Shipment Index rose 1.7% from the third quarter.

Indeed, despite the positive end to 2018 and midway into the first quarter of 2019, the year’s outlook is even murkier than in December when the U.S. Bank noted concern for a possible slow down this year. So many unknowns on the economic stage as one wonders the effects of additional tariffs that are expected to increase in March, the lack of UK government guidance as Brexit looms with just a month to go for the final break, China’s economic downturn and a growing concern of a global recession.

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Why the digital factory of the future will be driven by the value network

An open-access, end-to-end digital thread is bringing mass customization to mass production.

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The world of making is changing, and businesses are digitally transforming from mass production to mass customization as consumers demand individualized, emotional experiences. New technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are starting to significantly impact how products or experiences are designed and manufactured. Meanwhile, social apps, Big Data, and the Cloud are creating opportunities to interact with and understand the consumer in totally new ways. So how do we bring these new data streams and technologies together to produce meaningful business insights?

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