The ability to 3D print spare parts in a moment’s notice is exactly why NASA is experimenting with zero-gravity 3D printing, but this application can also be a huge advantage down here on earth. German national railway company Deutsche Bahn has also recognized the advantages of low storage costs and custom-fitting production, and is hoping to apply that to their own rail network in the near future. To realize this, they have just set up a collaboration of companies, startups and research institutes called Mobility goes Additive, which will explore possibilities and promote end-product 3D printing.
The existence of Mobility goes Additive has recently been confirmed by Deutsche Bahn’s innovation manager Stefanie Bricwede, who talked about their plans and ambitions during the 3D Druck für Automotive conference in Ettlingen, Germany. As she explained at the event, they decided to set up a separate cluster of partners to increase the focus on ground-based mobility. 3D printing innovations, she says, are currently mostly being driven by the aviation industry and therefore dictated by an obsession with weight. But companies like Deutsche Bahn focus on completely different advantages, and therefore require a different approach.
A report from Clare Scott at 3DPrint.com on the events in Cleveland, Ohio.
I spent my day yesterday sitting in the main ballroom at Cleveland’s Ritz Carlton hotel with a few hundred attorneys, business leaders, and academics from across Northeast Ohio to discuss how 3D printing is changing how we do business. It was the second annual 3D Printing Conference hosted by Benesch Attorneys at Law, a prominent law firm whose focus areas include intellectual property law – a hot-button topic in the 3D printing industry right now. Unsurprisingly, intellectual property issues were a primary focus of the conference, formally entitled “What Every Business Must Know Today About 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing.”
So what does every business need to know about 3D printing? In short – everything. The speakers and panelists, who ranged from manufacturing leaders to college professors, all emphasized, repeatedly, that every business, no matter what the sector or client base, needs to get familiar with 3D printing – and fast. Dave Pierson, Senior Design Engineer for the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), opened his presentation with a quote he attributed to 3D printing industry expert Terry Wohlers: “If you are not running in this space, you are already falling behind.” That was the consensus shared by everyone who presented yesterday: businesses, if you don’t leverage 3D printing, your competitors will, so start implementing it now.
Industry demands such as lightweighting are requiring suppliers to take an active role in developing new products with new materials at a faster pace. Robust 3D printing services are helping to meet this demand.
As automation software and connected machinery continue to undergo technological advances, manufacturing suppliers find themselves in the advantageous position to help companies from nearly every major industry develop products faster and more cost-effectively than ever before, thereby enabling innovation and rapid commercialization.
To fully leverage this modern-day manufacturing automation, it is important for manufacturing suppliers to recognize the current trends and challenges that product designers and engineers from different industries are facing — automakers are tackling stiff fuel economy regulations, an aging population is demanding user-centric devices, aircraft developers are working diligently to replace obsolete consumer technology on planes as well as to lighten the load to meet fuel-efficiency targets.
The best manufacturing suppliers recognize and adapt to these important industry trends by offering manufacturing services that help meet industry expectations and regulatory mandates.
It seems that 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, may be crossing a threshold from a period of hype and experimentation into one of rapid deployment and maturation. The technology has long been touted as a potentially revolutionary development for manufacturers. That optimism quickly gave way to a chorus of skeptics and falling stock prices.
But 3D-printed parts and products are quickly making their way into end products — from a printed car to athletic shoes to a working NASA rocket engine. 3D printers are helping small companies prototype and manufacture at low costs with increasing quality while industrial 3D printers, once almost exclusively used for prototyping, are being rolled out on production lines. Filaments are getting stronger, resolutions higher, and a wider variety of materials can be printed with additive manufacturing, including metals.
So has 3D printing delivered on its promise of a manufacturing revolution?
Most hearing aids in the U.S. are now custom-made on 3D printers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first 3D-printed pills. Carmakers have started using 3D technology to produce parts. And last year saw the first demonstration of a digital printer producing multilayer, standards-based circuit boards. Imagine the changes afoot in the pharmaceutical, medical device, automotive, and consumer electronics industries.
3D printing is poised to redefine global manufacturing and distribution. It could upend supply chains, business models, customer relationships, and even entrepreneurship itself. It may do to physical goods what cloud computing is now doing to digital services; what the PC, internet, and smart mobility have done to personal computing; and what outsourcing did to software development and business processing — take mass distribution and innovation to the next level while realigning the very geography of work and trade.
3D printing is here, and it’s poised to change everything. Research firm RnR forecasts a $30.19 billion market by 2022, with almost 30 percent annual growth. Advances in additive technologies and materials are opening incredible new possibilities for academics, health care, manufacturing, government, retail, you name it.
They’re also blurring supply chain lines in a way that will challenge your customers.
Before 3D printing, traditional production methods meant products had a “design for manufacturing” process. 3D printing enables manufacturing for design. Anyone can easily and quickly prototype new products or give existing items a radically different look and feel. But there are also pragmatic uses. Consider a power plant that depends on turbine blades, which need to be replaced from time to time at great expense. By using 3D printing to repair some blades, the utility no longer needs to buy as many new ones.
This is great for the customer, terrible for the blade maker. That’s what happens when the line between manufacturer and customer blurs.
When talking about exciting new advancements that are coming to the supply chain, the discussion will always usually end up focused around 3D printing. Rightly so, as the 3D printer has opened up new opportunities never before possible in the supply chain. Rather than having to wait for a specialized part, companies can now print the part they need right on site. This can be a huge time and cost saver for companies involved in projects, but when looking at the overall supply chain worldwide, 3D printing is a pretty niche example. Even with 3D printers popping up everywhere, changing the way companies rely on the supply chain, there will always be limitations.
Sure, 3D printers might be able to print space habitats on Mars, but they can’t print everything and there will always be a need to transport an item(s) from one destination to another. 3D printing is revolutionary, but there is another absolute game changer about to deploy in the supply side that is an evolution; self-driving trucks. When looking at the amount of freight moved just in America alone, there was 9.2 billion tons (primary shipment only) moved by truck representing 67% of the total tonnage moved in 2011.
A broader understanding of 3D printing’s value to the supply chain is increasing investment plans across industries worldwide. Gartner research found that 65% of supply chain professionals are using or will invest in 3D printing over the next 2 years as they recognise its ability to produce product and augment manufacturing operations.
The first 3D printing technology was invented 30 years ago. Over time more uses of 3D printing throughout the supply chain have been developed, especially in aerospace, healthcare and general industrial manufacturing. For example, 3D-printed personalised medical devices—hearing aids, dental implants and braces, and prosthetic limbs—are more common than many people realise. Recent advances in hardware, software and materials are making 3D printing a more viable process across the supply chain even as its adoption remains low.
With 3D printers becoming increasingly accessible, less expensive, and able to create objects out of a range of materials, the additive manufacturing industry is poised to change the way we think about the goods we produce. And with this new technology comes questions about the implications—how will it affect people, the environment?
John Hornick, partner and litigator with the Finnegan IP law firm and author of 3D Printing Will Rock the World, believes that 3D printing will “herald a green industrial revolution.” TechRepublic talked to Hornick to learn four reasons why.
Skeptical about all the hype around 3D printing technology? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet, says SearchCIO columnist Harvey Koeppel.
The buzz about 3D printing comes with the usual pontification that occurs every time a new technology passes the novelty stage into the realm where real money can be made. Canalys, a market research firm, predicts the global market for 3D printers and services will grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion in 2018, a compound annual growth rate of 45.7%.
Thirty-two years after Charles Hull created the first functional 3D printer, pundits are hailing the “new” technology as everything from disruptive innovation to the next Industrial Revolution. But you won’t find me badmouthing the Johnny-come-lately labels. Personally, I believe the current descriptions vastly underestimate the potential impact of 3D printing technology and its inevitable derivative technologies.