As someone who’s spent time at 3D printing service bureaux, I know taking an idea all the way to final 3D printed part often entails a lot of trial-and-error. It’s crucial to perfect the process, especially when it comes to navigating the path to mainstream manufacturing as there’s little time for trialling and limited room for error.
3D printing already is a great asset for shortening New Product Introduction (NPI) cycles and accelerating time-to-market for a range of products. The aerospace, dental and medical markets have benefited from early adoption while most other sectors are just beginning to consider 3D printing for tooling or making products in small quantities.
To take advantage of 3D printing as a viable production solution companies must adopt best practices to mitigate risk and apply manufacturing rigour from design to delivery.
To take advantage of the broadening application of 3D printing, manufacturers need to consider how the technology could fit into five key areas for their businesses.
With its continuing advancement, broad application of 3D printing by industrial manufacturers might not be far away. To unlock its value, however, industrial companies will first need to determine how it can fit into their business and technology landscape.
It is a prospect worth considering, given that 3D printing is an example of the growing investments in digital technologies that can add speed, precision and capacity to the production of complex products. This is particularly important because the increasing demand for tailored products and services will require greater agility and flexibility. The 3D printing industry, estimated to reach $17 billion by 2020, is part of a shift from traditional supply chains to digital supply networks designed to help manufacturers respond more quickly to demand.
Boston, Massachusetts is coming into its own as a hub of advanced technologies, championed by an expanding array of strong businesses and fed into through a wealth of prestigious local institutions of higher education. 3D printing is, unsurprisingly, thriving in such an environment, and strongly featuring in this picture is high-strength 3D printing company Markforged, founded in 2013 by CEO Greg Mark. I recently enjoyed the opportunity to visit Mark and several members of the team at the company’s headquarters in Watertown to discuss technology on their turf rather than at 3D printing shows around the country.
The Watertown facility is new to Markforged — my visit was, in fact, just three days after the team moved into the 43,000-square-foot space. The move was necessary, as the young company has been growing quickly with some impressive recent upticks in business. Markforged, now 85 employees strong, outgrew its former 16,000-square-foot HQ in Cambridge, and is already working to fill the new capacity, with the team expected to expand beyond 100 members by the end of the year. The growth in space and personnel is supported by some serious business increases, as Markforged reports more than 300% growth since the start of 2017, which they note as being more than any previous year in the history of the company. Strong sales led to achieving profitability in the first half of 2017.
Lighter parts, more durable parts, increased design freedom, on-demand part production … all are great, and all just scratch the surface of what additive manufacturing can do.
Now that 3-D printing is safely beyond the hype phase and has become an established part of many companies’ product development and manufacturing processes, there has been a greater understanding of the technology’s technical and business advantages. With that, more users are benefitting from lighter and more durable parts, increased design freedom and on-demand part production.
But that’s just scratching the surface of 3-D printing’s potential.
3-D printing is continuing to make inroads into the manufacturing value chain, but most current solutions don’t meet necessary speed, cost and quality standards necessary for broad adoption. How can we change that?
3-D printing has long shown promise, but it still has yet to gain deep manufacturing market penetration. Throughout the manufacturing value chain, there are many use cases where 3-D printing can be used, but the reality is that very few manufacturers are leveraging 3-D printing in any significant way.
In looking at the manufacturing value chain, one sees the places where it is currently gaining adoption and areas where strong possibilities exist, but most current solutions do not meet the necessary speed, cost and quality standards necessary for broad adoption.
Consider a step-by-step approach to implementing AM in your manufacturing operation.
With additive manufacturing taking the entire manufacturing sector by storm, companies that have adopted the various AM capabilities are seeing increased design flexibility, greater supply chain efficiency and quicker access to production parts than ever before. Sometimes referred to as 3D printing, many AM experts and industrial forecasters tout these technologies as the wave of the future. But, before investing time and capital into a complete revision of your production process, consider a step-by-step approach to implementing additive manufacturing into an ongoing manufacturing operation.
Multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young executive Channing Flynn examined the implications of 3D printing and rising interests of global corporation and conglomerates in an article published earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review. Flynn believes executives must analyze the opportunities 3D printing provides in optimizing inefficient operations.
In particular, Flynn’s analysis of 3D printing and its potential in a wide range of industries sets a focus on the adaptability and flexibility of the technology. As an executive of a multi-billion dollar firm and an expert in the field of taxes and payments, he perceives four main applications of 3D printing that could substantially reduce capital costs and human labor in most corporate operations:
- Distribution of Tangible Goods
- Online Purchases Printed at Will; Impact on ROI
- Cost of Traditional Manufacturing Process Overtake Value of 3D Printers
- Optimization of Operations