FACTORIES, THE CHIEF innovation of the industrial revolution, are cathedrals of productivity, built to shelter specialized processes and enforce the division of labor.
Adam Smith, who illuminated their function on the first page of The Wealth of Nations, offered the celebrated example of a pin factory: “I have a seen a small manufactory… where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. [They] could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins a day… Separately and independently… they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin a day.”
But the benefits of factories suggest their limitations. They are not reprogrammable: To make different products, a factory must retool with different machines. Thus, the first product shipped is much more expensive than the next million, and innovation is hobbled by the need for capital expenditure and is never rapid. More, specialization compels multinational businesses to circle the globe with supply chains and warehouses, because goods must be shipped and stored.
Over the last 5 years, 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has had a tremendous influence in our industry. It is considered the current and future of almost any conceivable form of fabrication. Though this technology has been embraced by enthusiasts from small-time makers to international aerospace ventures, questions about its cost effectiveness are paramount to widespread adoption. Here’s why.
Costs of production for additive manufacturing fall into two categories: “well-structured” costs, such as labor, material, and machine costs, and “ill-structured” costs, which can include machine setup, inventory, and build failure. Right now, most cost studies focus on well-structured costs, which comprise a significant portion of 3-D printing production and are cited by detractors as evidence of cost ineffectiveness. Unfortunately, these studies focus on the production of single parts and tend to overlook supply chain effects, thus failing to account for the significant cost benefits which are often concealed within inventory and supply chain considerations.
Good opinion piece from Rob Enderle
Last week, I was in Spain with HP and much of the conversation was on how 3D printers were going to disrupt and revolutionize manufacturing. However, underneath all of the discussions was a growing concept that the factory itself, as these 3D printers advance and become more capable, would evolve into a huge and vastly more capable 3D printer. Except, rather than printing parts, these huge printers would print things like fully capable automobiles. Granted, we are likely a couple of decades out but talk about disruptive technology revolutions this could be a massive game changer because it anticipates a time when, rather than regional warehouses, Amazon might have regional mega printers.
Let’s talk about that this week.
Evolution of 3D Printers
Until recently, 3D printers were more of a science experiment than an actual tool. The parts, while physically representative, weren’t very robust or, if they were robust, they cost more than most other manufacturing methods. HP’s Jet Fusion printers changed that by producing parts that were about 1/10th the cost of aluminum, had similar strength, but came in around 1/10th the weight as well. Suddenly, we had 3D printers that could produce parts that were arguably better than traditionally produced parts and, rather than being more expensive, they were significantly less expensive.
3D printing can cut costs by accelerating production and reducing tooling costs, work-in-process, and waste. Here are some design considerations for making this happen.
3D printing (aka additive manufacturing) has gone far beyond making prototypes quickly. It is now entrenched in manufacturing, and examples abound:
- The Juno spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin and NASA and currently completing its mission in orbit around Jupiter, carries a dozen 3D-printed waveguide support brackets.
- Activated Research Co. used 3D Printing to develop a new design for its Polyarc gas chromatography catalytic microreactor, bringing it to market in just 15 months.
- Raytheon uses 3D printing for rocket engines, fins, and control components for guided missiles, creating parts in hours rather than days.
- Boeing set a world record in 2016 by building the largest 3D-printed item ever made, a fixture used in building 777 airplanes, reportedly cutting weeks off its manufacturing time.
- Brunswick Corp. relied on 3D printing for air conditioning grills on its Sea Ray yachts, eliminating the need for disposable tooling and speeding product development.
- This air-conditioning grill for Sea Ray yachts was 3D printed.
Oracle’s Supply Chain expert, Dominic Regan, discusses the impact 3D printing is having on the supply chain and how the multinational database giant is supporting the dynamic additive manufacturing market by helping to increase business agility, lower costs, and reduce IT complexity
Oracle is best known for its database services, offered to business since the company started over 40 years ago. This technology background was the platform to expand into applications in the ERP space and several other disciplines including supply chain.
Oracle supports the classic approach to designing products, planning and forecasting supply and demand, focusing on procurement and the sourcing of products in the manufacturing space then providing the logistics of fulfilment via transport and global trade warehouse management before closing that cycle with service, so once a product has been delivered it can manage the repair and maintenance process.
3D printing is going beyond prototyping to help transform the customer experience.
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.
3D printing, aka Additive Manufacturing, is changing the way things are made; and not just on a small scale or prototyping sense, but changing the way global scale production gets done.
Gartner believes that in 2018, 3D printing will accelerate new business model innovation. Here are some of the 3D printing predictions by Gartner:
- By 2021, 75 percent of new commercial and military aircraft will fly with 3D-printed engine, airframe and other components.
- By 2021, 25 percent of surgeons will practice on 3D-printed models of the patient prior to surgery.
- By 2021, 20 percent of the world’s top 100 consumer goods companies will use 3D printing to create custom products.
- By 2021, 20 percent of enterprises will establish internal startups to develop new 3D print-based products and services.
- By 2021, 40 percent of manufacturing enterprises will establish 3D printing centers of excellence (COE). “The long-term goal of a 3DP COE is to become a seamless part of the design and manufacturing process. When successful, the COE has broad implications on use of 3DP in the design, manufacturing and maintenance of products,” – Gartner
Using 3D printing to revolutionise the traditional supply chain in partnership with one of the world’s largest construction companies.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Immensa Technology Labs (Immensa), the UAE’s leading Additive Manufacturing (AM or 3D printing) company, is providing its game-changing ‘Inventory Digitisation’ solution to one of the world’s largest construction companies —the Consolidated Contracting Company (CCC). With Immensa’s solution, CCC is exploring ways to create a digital inventory of its spare parts and components, meaning the company will ultimately minimize import and stock physical parts but can instead produce some on demand from a ‘Virtual Warehouse’.
Eng. Aref Boualwan said “if we can get to a point over the next few years whereby a small percentage of our inventory can be digitized the impact will be significant.” Eng Boualwan, who is overseeing some of CCC’s President Initiatives within disruptive technology implementation, added “what encouraged us to embrace inventory digitization is simplifying the supply chain and the ability to reproduce items in remote areas when and where it is most needed. Also, Immensa’s solution has significant environmental benefits as it ultimately reduce the need to transport products across the world. Ultimately, this contributes to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and cuts waste by producing only the exact number of parts that are needed in close proximity to where they will be used.”
Online shopping is already streamlined, presenting anyone who’s trying to start consumer 3D printing at home with many challenges to overcome.
3D printing is becoming more economically accessible. Despite this, we don’t see everyone running out to buy a printer. While some think cost is the main impediment, it’s often competition and knowledge that cause a lag in adoption.
For general mass-produced products, the competition is tough. Online companies are delivering products straight to the consumer’s door in a day or less. While 3D printing might be faster and cheaper, online ordering is ubiquitous. And ordering online doesn’t require the consumer to do anything. While 3D printing is becoming more user-friendly, nozzles still clog and parts still wear. Still, some printer manufacturers boast that users don’t need to do anything but make sure there is filament in the machine. With self-leveling beds, and notifications sent straight to a user’s smartphone, hassle-free does sound possible.
HP has announced new agreements with industry leaders Jabil and Forecast 3D to drive the future of distributed design, manufacturing and digital supply chains leveraging the power 3D technology.
As the global economy enters what many call the 4th Industrial Revolution, new technologies such as 3D printing are enabling an array of new business opportunities such as distributed design and manufacturing, supply chain services, and increasingly localised production.
“From multinational design engineering and manufacturing, to localised production, industry leaders such as Jabil and Forecast 3D are demonstrating 3D printing’s expanding role in the digital transformation of the $12trn global manufacturing economy,” said Stephen Nigro, President of 3D Printing, HP Inc.
“HP Multi Jet Fusion customers and partners represent critical links in a new value chain that’s rewriting the rules of design, production, and delivery, ultimately ushering in a new era of digital manufacturing.”