The world is undergoing some radical transformations related to the concept of “motorized transport.” This term was once synonymous with the automobile and the internal combustion engine, along with the conventional infrastructure supporting this technology like asphalt roads, filling stations and repair shops.
However, new technologies are rapidly expanding this category to include a variety of experimental transport solutions like gas-electric hybrids, fully-electric autonomous cars, eBikes, hyperloop elevated trains, jetpacks and flying cars. Given these advancements, it’s difficult to predict which approach will best fulfill our need for personal transport. However, I can safely say that metal 3D printing will be an even bigger part of the solution than it is today.
The German automotive manufacturer, Audi, has integrated the Stratasys J750 3D printer into its design operations.
The printer, the world’s only full-colour, multi-material 3D printer, has been adopted by Audi to innovate and accelerate its design process.
The firm has found that it is able to produce prototypes efficiently and effectively through additive manufacturing.
At its Pre-Series Centre in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi has been able to reduce the prototyping time for its tail light covers by 50% since implementing the Stratasys printer, against methods such as moulding and milling.
“Design is one of the most important buying decisions for Audi customers, therefore it’s crucial we adhere to supreme quality standards during the design and concept phase of vehicle development,” explains Dr. Tim Spiering, Head of the Audi Plastics 3D Printing Centre.
Manufacturers are missing the board perspective on 3D printing. They need to completely reconsider their manufacturing processes.
3D printing technology has been around for decades, mostly used for creating prototypes. Advances in the technology have allowed 3D printing to morph into additive manufacturing (AM). When making one-offs or spare parts, 3D printing becomes a simple alternative to machining or molded parts. However, everything changes when it comes to production manufacturing. AM becomes a disruptive technology when you can print a single assembly that was previously 15 separate parts.
“The vast majority of those working with 3D printing still don’t see it in a broad enough perspective. They take this component or part that they’ve made for years, and say, ‘What would it take to 3D print it?’ It takes more time and money, and so they say this doesn’t work for us,” Jack Heslin, president and VP of business development at 3DTechTalks and Lazarus3D, told Design News. “But they’re not redesigning their manufacturing to take advantage of 3D printing. If they do, they might find that what was 100 parts will be 10 parts or less. That will affect their time-to-market, their accounting, their cost, everything.”
Efficient serial production – true additive manufacturing – is the real game changer. Four case studies demonstrate how scaling up to serial 3D printing production represents a huge opportunity for manufacturers.
Yorkshire-based Labman Automation creates custom laboratory automation and robotics equipment; this fast-growing small business has been working with Materialise for three years to produce bespoke parts for its machines.
“Our job is to be creative and the design freedom of 3D printing gives us free rein to come up with interesting and novel solutions for our customers,” says Rob Hodgson, Inventor at Labman Automation.
A startup working to build 3D-printed concrete towers for land-based wind turbines now wants to do the same for offshore projects.
The towers and foundations for offshore wind turbines currently being deployed at sea, and the even larger machines under development, are so massive that shipping the components via road or rail is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible.
To address the issue, a startup founded by a former National Renewable Energy Laboratory engineer aims to use concrete additive manufacturing, also known as 3D concrete printing, to build turbine towers and foundations at or near ports for less money and in less time than with conventional methods.
In an article for Coindesk, Michael J. Casey, the chairman of CoinDesk’s advisory board who is also a senior advisor for blockchain research at MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative, wrote about the implications of blockchain technology for the supply chain. While several logistics companies are raving about how their industry will be disrupted for good, Casey points out another emerging technology that, if used in conjunction with blockchain technology, can restructure the industry even further:
“…the biggest change for global trade is yet to come,” he wrote. “That will be when the Internet of Things, 3D printing and other automating technologies finally free manufacturing from the constraints of geography. At that moment, blockchain technology could come into its own, enabling an entirely new paradigm of decentralized, on-demand production and forcing a realignment of global economic power.”
MCRC is a cooperative research center dedicated to helping Australian companies increase their global relevance through research-led innovation in manufacturing. Its latest project involves a partnership with Downer’s Mineral Technologies business as well as the University of Technology Sydney Rapido advanced technology development unit. The three organizations will work together to research solutions that will advance ways in which composite polymers are used to manufacture mineral separation equipment and create new manufacturing technologies.
3D printing will be involved in the project, which is anticipated to run over a three-year period. The work will take place at a new additive manufacturing facility at the University of Technology’s Broadway campus, and will involve Rapido, a rapid prototyping unit established by the university in 2016 to help industry, government and community partners transform ideas and problems into solutions and products.
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 is transforming certain industries – so why hasn’t it been widely adopted in the pharma sector? There are likely to be a number of barriers to entry for 3D printing in this field, including identifying how to make it economically viable. Whilst a number of the key patents relating to 3D printing have expired and certain 3D printers have become cheaper, the printers and inks required for the 3D printing of pills are not yet readily or cheaply available. In addition, 3D printed pills are still being researched. Even when these challenges are overcome there is the further potential difficulty of changing the supply chain; switching from centralised to local manufacture and the supply of “inks” to enable the 3D printing of a pill instead of the pill itself.
However, as can be seen from some of the opportunities that this technology provides, there doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing adoption of 3D printing; it can be used to complement a company’s existing manufacturing techniques.