Canada is on the verge of a manufacturing renaissance as 3D printing technology is spurring a wave of entrepreneurial thinking and innovation amongst manufacturers—large and small—across the country. Canadian manufacturers who haven’t investigated commercial 3D printing solutions should take note.
In the past, 3D printing has been used primarily for producing detailed prototypes. But new systems have come along capable of making superior quality functional parts up to 10 times faster at half the cost of previous generation 3D printers.
There’s a massive, untapped opportunity in the industrial 3D printing market. As the technology gets better, while costs go down, the solutions available are becoming a more attractive option for manufacturers looking to design and produce prototypes and finished goods.
DHL released its latest DHL Trend Report today – 3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains. DHL has been testing a variety of both 3D printing hardware and techniques for several years and has identified applications that have potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies. While the 3D printing market is estimated to grow between US$180 billion and US$490 billion by 20251, the report however finds it will not become a substitute for mass-production but a complementary process.
Matthias Heutger, Senior Vice President, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, said: “The DHL Trend Report ‘3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains’ recognizes 3D printing as a transformative technology. However, it is not a magic bullet that will render factory mass production and manufacturing obsolete. Its exciting potential lies more in its capability to simplify the production of highly complex and customizable products and spare parts – and this could bring logistics and manufacturing closer together than ever before.”
With all of its accomplishments – including world’s largest defense contractor, and a presence in all 50 states and 70 countries – you might think Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, MD) would already have mastered additive manufacturing.
But like manufacturers around the world, some of Lockheed’s experts are struggling to answer questions posed by 3D printing, according to Robert Ghobrial, additive manufacturing lead for the company’s training and simulation location in Orlando, FL.
“Should we invest in the technology today or wait until it’s faster and cheaper?” Ghobrial has asked himself. “Should we have a centralized or localized printing model?”
Ghobrial spoke at SME’s “Additive Manufacturing Applications: Innovations for Growth” seminar in October, at advanced energy technology accelerator NextEnergy, in Detroit.
He traced his work with 3D printing back to 2012, when his team received some MakerBot printers that largely went unused. Even as recently as 2014, he was mostly making trinkets from the Thingiverse digital design company, Ghobrial said.
Leading figures from UK industry have joined forces with academia and government in the UK Additive Manufacturing Steering Group
Our world is evolving rapidly. A growing, longer-living population, a generation of digital toddlers, a changing climate and reducing natural resources are but a few examples of changes we face. Technology will be at the heart of our response. The speed and manner in which we develop new technologies to a position where industry can reap the full benefit of their potential will be critical to building a successful and balanced UK economy. It is also at the core of what the High Value Manufacturing Catapult is set up to do.
Consumers today are already familiar with personalizing their favorite treats by molding them into unique shapes or printing edible messages on cakes, chocolate and flowers, among others. What if you could customize any product in the future to suit your preference – from shoes to even houses? While some may perceive this to be a pipe dream, the fact is that this is actually a reality. New Balance just introduced 3D printed shoes last April, and in China, Huashang Tengda successfully built a two-storey house in just under two days!
3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, a process that allows us to seemingly create objects such as bicycle frames and toys out of thin air. Manufacturing and supply chains have typically been all about assembly lines, warehousing and shifting products outwards from the point of manufacture. 3D printing is now revolutionizing the way products are manufactured and distributed.
The circular economy (CE) aims to radically improve resource efficiency by eliminating the concept of waste and leading to a shift away from the linear take-make-waste model. In a CE, resources are flowing in a circular manner either in a biocycle (biomass) or technocycle (inorganic materials). While early studies indicate that 3D printing (3DP) holds substantial promise for sustainability and the creation of a CE, there is no guarantee that it will do so. There is great uncertainty regarding whether the current trajectory of 3DP adoption is creating more circular material flows or if it is leading to an alternative scenario in which less eco-efficient localised production, demands for customised goods, and a higher rate of product obsolescence combine to bring about increased resource consumption. It is critical that CE principles are embedded into the new manufacturing system before the adoption of 3DP reaches a critical inflection point in which negative practices become entrenched. This paper, authored by both academic and industry experts, proposes a research agenda to determine enablers and barriers for 3DP to achieve a CE. We explore the two following overarching questions to discover what specific issues they entail: (1) How can a more distributed manufacturing system based on 3DP create a circular economy of closed-loop material flows? (2) What are the barriers to a circular 3D printing economy? We specifically examine six areas—design, supply chains, information flows, entrepreneurship, business models and education—with the aim of formulating a research agenda to enable 3DP to reach its full potential for a CE.
Aero engineers are turning to additive manufacturing for fast production and better product design. What will this mean for traditional aircraft?
At the 2016 Berlin air show in June, Airbus unveiled the first ever aircraft to be made using 3D printing. With a name derived from the phrase ‘Testing High-tech Objectives in Reality’, Thor weighs in at just 21kg and measures less than four metres in length. To observers, it resembles a large model aeroplane and was easily dwarfed by the other aircraft on show. But Airbus sees it as a testbed for a radical change in the way aircraft are built. Whereas traditional production methods such as milling involve manipulating a solid block of material, additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, ‘grows’ products by building up materials layer by layer. Taking this incremental approach, rather than using a solid block of material, allows for the creation of products with incredibly complex structures that would be very difficult to achieve, or in some cases impossible, using traditional methods.
Thor is not the only example of Airbus’s recent 3D-printed innovations – the company has also used 3D printing to attempt to replicate structures found in nature, and so create parts that are stronger yet lighter than is possible with traditional machining and assembly. “Nature has developed a lot of different design methods,” says Peter Sander, head of emerging technologies and concepts at Airbus.
Modular bathrooms, complete kitchen concepts and even a whole house has been constructed using 3D printing technology. It marks the dawning of a new era in the construction of places, spaces, services, tools and parts. But how is 3D printing changing the face of our industry – for good and for bad?
“As the technology is refined, 3D printing could mark a
new era in building houses,” states the recently published Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) Farsight 2016 report. “[Through 3D printing] every component can
be produced to exact specifications to reduce or even eliminate construction waste. Additionally, the technology allows for the production of complex shapes, helping to create sturdier structures using less materials and meeting a growing consumer preference for personalised design,” the report states.
Experts also predict the technology will print modern-day necessities such as plumbing, and even electricity, at the same time as a home is being constructed.
It’s long been a lament of astronauts: If only there were pizza in space. So a couple of years ago, NASA awarded a US$125,000 grant to a mechanical engineer to solve the problem. He produced a prototype 3D printer that “prints” layers of food out of powdered cartridges. First comes a layer of dough (cooked via a heat plate at the bottom of the printer); then some tomato powder, water, and oil for a sauce; all topped by a mouthwatering “protein layer.” A 3D-printed pizza has to be at least better than freeze-dried.
If 3D printing can deliver pizza to outer space, what can it do back home? That’s becoming less and less of an idle question as the 3D printer continues to move away from its origins as a bulky, ultra-expensive plaything for hobbyists and early adopters.
A couple of trips away from the office in recent weeks have served to reiterate to me the position of the 3D printing and additive manufacturing industry within a much broader context. It’s always a good thing when this happens I find, as it gives me a much wider perspective — both personally and in the way that I approach my work. Sometimes I am guilty of focusing too closely on the minutiae and forget to take a breath and look at the bigger picture within a much larger framework. Thus I am grateful when opportunities arise that allow me to take stock. And so even as 2016 heads towards its close, the bigger picture I speak of is worth considering from a couple of angles.
When I attended IMTS recently, I was wholly struck by the vast size of this trade show; four buildings at McCormick Place were filled, some on multiple levels, with swathes of companies (2,407 of them) offering every conceivable manufacturing product and service. It was immense! The Additive Manufacturing Pavilion was dwarfed by comparison, and did not cover even 1% of the floor space. It was by no means insignificant, and it drew considerable interest and visitor numbers, but it drew a poignant analogy. Moreover, even while appreciating where additive technology currently fits within the spectrum of manufacturing technology in terms of size and revenues ($5 billion versus multi-trillion) the considerable optimism for its current application and future potential is equally real.