Trade shows often come with an unstated theme. The second LiveWorx conference in 2015 came with the theme: “IoT can be deployed from product development through manufacturing and customer use.” A couple years ago, Siemen’s PLM World users’ conference was all about digital twins. At Advanced Design and Manufacturing in Cleveland last year, presenters and attendees were talking about how small- to mid-size companies were ready for smart manufacturing technology.
At the Rapid TCT 3D printing show last month, the unstated theme on the trade show floor was: 3D printing is ready for product manufacturing. Not just small runs, not just custom production, but honest-to-goodness manufacturing across multiple industries. The buzzword on the show floor was “serial production”—code for “manufacturing.”
Matt Minio, managing director of Objective 3D shares his thoughts on the advancements and popularity of metal 3D printing in the manufacturing space.
According to Wohler Associate analysts, 3D printing has grown into a multi-billion industry that has been picking up the pace since getting onto the scene more than 15 years ago and boasts a footprint across multiple industries. In 2016, the “additive manufacturing” industry, as it is known, grew by 17.4 per cent in worldwide revenues. By 2020, it is estimated that 6.7 million 3D printers will ship.
Companies like Stratasys are experimenting with ways to scale up 3D printing production to make it more competitive with conventional manufacturing methods in terms of the return of investment (ROI) it brings. With automation, the production volume capabilities of these printers increase, and the total cost of production is cut. The result is a more cost-effective product that is created more quickly with minimal manual intervention.
The Future of 3D Printing by Scott Fawcett, MD of Essentra Components
Now more than ever, manufacturers are having to respond to increased connectivity and digitisation in the industry. Driven by the changing demands of customers, manufacturers must be dynamic and flexible, responding quickly to find solutions that meet customers’ requirements. This industry evolution, more commonly known as Industry 4.0, will shape the future of 3D printing. Put simply, Industry 4.0 describes the current transformation of manufacturing practices towards a more automated and data driven model and 3D printing is a vital building block in that evolutionary process. As the rate of technological advancement increases year on year, and with trends such as personalisation and customisation also on the rise, 3D printing will allow manufacturers to stay ahead of the competition and get products to market faster and cheaper than ever before.
According to a report in i-Scoop, the smart building industry is predicted to be worth over $22bn by 2026, meaning it will impact all of our lives and effecting all industries. Technology already has a strong presence in the manufacturing industry through the use of data centres, Wi-Fi and smart devices which monitor the manufacturing processes. Every day, we are seeing more and more companies responding to this development and creating smart factories worldwide.
Most recently, German sportswear manufacturer Adidas announced it will be opening a new manufacturing facility bursting with innovative and technologically sophisticated machines, including 3D printers. The factory will rely on 3D printing technology to reduce manufacturing times and production periods, aiming to produce roughly 500,000 pairs of shoes annually, which works out at nearly 1,370 pairs of shoes on a daily basis.
According to Gartner, 3D printing has great potential. Total spending is predicted to grow at a 66.5% CAGR to $17.7 billion in 2020 with over 6.5 million printer sales. Gartner also predicts that “by 2020, 75% of manufacturing operations worldwide will use 3D-printed tools, jigs and fixtures made in-house or by a service bureau to produce finished goods. Also, 3D printing will reduce new product introduction timelines by 25%.” Enterprise 3D printer shipments is also expected to grow 57.4% CAGR through 2020.
The top priorities related to 3D printing include accelerated product development, offering customized products and limited series and increasing production flexibility. Here are additional 3D printing market forecasts:
- 57% of all 3D printing work done is in the first phases of the new product development
- 55% companies predict they will be spending more in 3D printing services and solutions in 2017
- 47% of companies surveyed have seen a greater ROI on their 3D printing investments in 2017 compared to 2016
GE’s largest and most efficient gas turbine the HA, nicknamed HArriet, has broken its own net efficiency record. Beating previous orders at 63.7% efficiency, the HA is now available at 64% under conditions recorded at a test plant in Greenville, South Carolina. The company attributes this feat to “combustion breakthroughs through constant innovation,” and applying additive manufacturing to a number of the turbine’s key components.
HA efficiency in figures
GE H-Class gas turbines are used by over 70 customers in combined cycle power plants around the world. By redirecting the waste heat generated by a gas turbine to a steam turbine, combined cycle power plants produce 50 % more electricity from the same fuel, i.e. natural gas, than a traditional simple-cycle plant.
Just 18 months prior to this new record, a 9HA.01 turbine earned a Guinness World Record for powering the world’s most efficient combined-cycle power plant. At the site in Bouchain, France, the GE 9HA produces enough energy to power 680,000 homes with an output of 605 MW.
Emirates has for the first time used cutting-edge 3D printing technology to manufacture components for its aircraft cabins.
The airline used Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), a new 3D printing technique to produce video monitor shrouds.
Emirates has worked with 3D Systems, a US based 3D printing equipment and material manufacturer and services provider, and with UUDS, a European aviation Engineering and Certification Office and Services Provider based in France, to successfully print the first batch of 3D printed video monitor shrouds using 3D Systems’ Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology platform.
The airline has also 3D printed, received certification for and installed aircraft cabin air vent grills for on-board trials in its first class cabins.
3D printing technology offers countless opportunities to transform the manufacturing industry. 3D printers have expanded a company’s operational capabilities to encompass the use of rapid prototyping. These new developments include 3D printing pumps. Manufacturing pump components can be a costly process, making 3D printing the perfect solution for companies to take advantage of. Materials used for 3D printing pumps can range from polylactic acid to stainless steel, presenting enormous opportunities for companies who adopt the technology in order to improve their bottom line. 3D printing pump components has become particularly beneficial for those who produce complex castings for many pumps including centrifugal pumps, water and sewage pumps, turbine pumps, transfer pumps, fluid flow pumps and many more. Increasing fabrication speed and efficiency while maintaining accuracy and precision are present challenges for manufacturers, and have spurred innovation within the industry to lower costs and deliver a better product to customers. Companies who are putting the power of 3D printing to the test may be eligible to take federal and state Research and Development Tax Credits.
We are still in the early days of 3D printing with respect to the impact that it can deliver both technologically and conceptually. Accepting new ways of designing parts is the first step. From there, we need technology that can help us deliver on the promise of complexity.
If the global engineering and manufacturing community plans to keep unlocking the full potential of industrial 3D printing, together they will have to keep rethinking the fundamentals of design engineering and digital factories of the future.
The Global 3D printing community has grown exponentially since it was invented in 1983 by Charles Hull. The industry has established industrial verticals like aerospace and medical due to major adoption from several leading organizations to satisfy complex needs. Companies that utilize 3D printing are looking to lightweight parts, to create new channels for thermal heat conductivity, which explore new material mechanical properties.
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.
Kirk Rogers, GE Additive’s Technology Leader, explains how new approaches to 3D printing will reshape the next century of manufacturing.
Since its first major foray into 3D printing with the LEAP engine fuel nozzle, GE has consistently tested and redefined the upper limits of additive manufacturing . When most companies were experimenting with ABS plastics to create colorful approximations of their final product, GE was laying down metal powder and blasting it with lasers to forge a highly complex fuel nozzle with a geometric complexity and durability impossible to reach by conventional machining.
Since acquiring Morris Technologies, the company behind the Direct Metal Laser Melting (DLML) process used for the nozzle, in 2012, GE has gradually added onto its manufacturing empire, creating GE Additive. Last year, GE acquired 74% of Arcam AB, a Swedish maker of Electron Beam Melting (EBM) machines, as well as 75% of the Germany-based Concept Laser, to leverage its DMLM technology.
By 2020, GE expects to invest $3.5 billion in additive manufacturing. The entire industry was worth $6 billion in 2016, according to Wohlers Associates.