Maine Pointe: How 3D printing will impact the global supply chain

3D printing is touted as one of the most disruptive developments in manufacturing and beyond. UK-based Simon Knowles, Chief Marketing Officer at Maine Pointe, reflects on the impact the innovative technology can have on supply chain management. He outlines potential benefits of the technology and five ways it will impact the supply chain. 

How 3D printing will impact the global supply chain

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process which uses a three-dimensional digital model to create a physical object by adding many thin layers of material in succession, subsequently lowering cost by cutting out waste. This is radically different from current, subtractive production methods where up to 90% of the original block of material can be wasted. Although we tend to think of it as a new technology, the first 3D printer was introduced nearly 30 years ago.

So far, issues such as durability, speed and protection of intellectual property rights have prevented 3D printing from entering mainstream manufacturing. However, the industry is making rapid advancements and it’s only a matter of time before we see it significantly impacting global supply chains and operations. According to the Global Supply Chain Institute (GSCI), “some supply chain professionals predict 3D printing will eventually rival the impact of Henry Ford’s assembly line.” This technology has the power to help companies significantly reduce costs, overcome geopolitical risks / tariffs, improve customer service, reduce their carbon footprint and drive innovation for competitive advantage.

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How is technology involved in jewellery making?

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3D printing has opened a range of opportunities for a lot of sectors, improving the efficiency of the manufacturing and production process. 

Talking about her business, Shoes by Shaherazad, which specialises in jewellery for shoes, Shaherazad Umbreen says: “I’ve experimented with 3D printing a lot, as it allows low-cost testing of product designs. In the past, going directly to metal-bashing techniques meant that if a design didn’t look right, then precious time (and costly metals) were lost. 

“Now, I design in CAD, print in 3D, and only then when the design is just right do I then use the 3D mould to create a piece of jewellery. Many of my designs are in 22 carat gold, so this new process has saved me thousands of pounds and hours of time.” 

In the jewellery industry, 3D printing works by using CAD to create 3D printed wax or resin models of jewellery. These are then used to cast delicate pieces with the fine metals — 3D printing with precious metals to begin with would be overly costly. These moulds mean that separate sections of metal don’t need to be soldered together, creating a more solid and complex piece of jewellery. 

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How 3D printed eyewear frames began, at Hoet

Bruges-based Hoet Studio can be considered one of the first pioneers in seriously introducing 3D printing for eyewear frames production. The studio, led by Bieke Hoet, has been 3D printing frames since 2011 and is to date the only manufacturer of luxury 3D printed metal frames in its Couture collection. Hoet began 3D printing frames with support from local company Materialise (also headquartered in Belgium, in nearby Leuven). The two companies have since collaborated on multiple projects which have been instrumental in creating an entirely new vertical for AM. Now, the two roads cross again in this interview which we propose to our readers for the occasion of our AM Focus on Eyewear.

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3D printing a biological war

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has published a new report, in which it voices concerns over the potential risks of 3D printing if misused.

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The report, titled ‘BIO PLUS X’, discusses concerns over the potential for advancements in 3D printing to contribute towards the creation of biological weapons.

A recent surge in the development of bioprinting, in which cells and tissue are printed, has caused fears over biological warfare. Also known as ‘germ warfare’, the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses have the ability to kill or incapacitate humans, animals, or plants.

Recent advancements in biotechnology has made it faster and cheaper to manipulate the genetic make-up of organisms, from bacteria to humans. The use of 3D printing has also made creating low priced customised equipment and prosthetics possible in the biomedical sector.

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Will 3D printing be a catalyst for the 4th industrial revolution?

According to HP Inc., the outlook of the future includes using new inks and agents that will allow 3D printers to work voxel by voxel to apply specific capabilities or control material properties. For example, adding color information to show wear and damage to a part, or embedding codes for traceability or anti-counterfeiting.

Marga Bardeci, 3DP Applications & Business Development Manager of HP, Inc. spoke at the ISTA European Packaging Symposium in Amsterdam earlier this month, and said that in the future we could see only “on-demand” products with less resultant shipping and inventory due to products that will be produced locally.

Though 3D printing is used mostly in prototyping now, the manufacturing sector offers great potential for 3D printing, according to Bardeci, with the following potential impacts on the supply chain:

  • Near sourcing – decrease in shipping
  • Mass customization and personalization – lower inventory levels
  • Parts on demand – service parts logistics

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Cummins sells first metal part from its own 3D printer, eyes high-volume production

Cummins has sold its first metal part printed on one of its own 3D printers, moving the company a significant step closer to the exciting potential of additive manufacturing.

The part was a low-volume bracket for a customer in Cummins’ New and ReCon Parts division and did not have a current supplier. The company is focusing first on printing low-volume parts as it studies how best to use 3D technology in higher volume manufacturing.

“With this technology you can really unshackle the designer to do things you just can’t do using traditional forms of manufacturing,” said Brett Boas, Director-Advanced Manufacturing at the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.). 

Cummins employee Devin Hunter cleans a 3D printer at the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus, Indiana, before another round of printing.

Parts can be made lighter, stronger and more effective using metal 3D printing compared to parts created using more traditional methods that employ molds, molten metal and equipment to precisely cut and shape the part.

3D printing creates three-dimensional objects one ultra-thin layer at a time. If the part doesn’t come out quite right, the designer can simply change the computer design file and print it again; a much faster process than using traditional manufacturing techniques to build a test part.

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CNH Industrial 3D prints its first spare part

The company produced four spare parts for fitment on buses and agriculture equipment.

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According to Automotive Logistics, the company produced four spare parts for fitment on buses and agriculture equipment. Each product can be printed within 24-36 hours with the optimal amount of resources.At the time of this publication, CNH did not disclose which parts were made.

Since the spare parts were printed in plastic, CNH is now conducting tests to enable future production of metal components using the technology. 3D printing offers the benefit of local, on-demand manufacturing and removed the need for small-scale deliveries, maximizing efficiency in the aftermarket supply chain, Automotive Logistics reports.

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Despite growth, 3D printing represents only 0.1% of global manufacturing

Interest in 3D printing technology is increasing across a variety of industries, as well as among hobbyists using it for their own projects—but this interest has not yet translated into mass adoption, according to the Q1 2019 3D Printing Trends report, published by 3D Hubs on Wednesday.

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The year 2018 saw a great deal of investment in 3D printing, according to the report, with companies interested in the technology investing in startups, while established firms like BASF acquired startups to bolster their own portfolio.

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3D printing and the power industry: How technology is transforming the sector

Investors, both public and private, will be able to buy tokens through an initial coin offering (ICO) that represent 1W of the solar power project.

3D printing or “additive manufacturing” is the process of joining materials to make objects from three-dimensional model data, usually layer upon layer.

In 2017 the 3D printing industry was worth $7bn, up from $3bn in 2013 and by 2025 it is expected to account for over $20bn all over the world.

Additive manufacturing (AM) has found its application in different sectors of the power industry, both in building prototypes and in mainstream production leading to process simplification and operational efficiency.

AM can produce components with complex geometries, consume fewer raw-materials, produce less waste, have reduced energy consumption and decreased time-to-market.

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3D printing and product liability: Interview with James Beck of Reed Smith

James Beck is the senior life sciences policy analyst at Reed Smith. James is specialized in product liability, personal injury, especially in very large and very complex cases. Active in law for over thirty years he has been involved in cases U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit and the Supreme Court. He is involved in mass torts, many amicus curiae briefs he is an award-winning expert in his chosen fields who writes often about the law. Over the past few years, James has taken an active interest in 3D Printing, especially with regards to product liability. He is part of Reed Smith’s 3D Printing team who take an active interest in all things printed. Reed Smith itself is a 1500 lawyer law firm with 28 offices around the world and over a billion dollars in revenue. It is both nice and significant when people like that take an active interest in our industry and technology. We interviewed James to find out more about 3D printing and the law, specifically product liability.

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