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.
Online shopping is already streamlined, presenting anyone who’s trying to start consumer 3D printing at home with many challenges to overcome.
3D printing is becoming more economically accessible. Despite this, we don’t see everyone running out to buy a printer. While some think cost is the main impediment, it’s often competition and knowledge that cause a lag in adoption.
For general mass-produced products, the competition is tough. Online companies are delivering products straight to the consumer’s door in a day or less. While 3D printing might be faster and cheaper, online ordering is ubiquitous. And ordering online doesn’t require the consumer to do anything. While 3D printing is becoming more user-friendly, nozzles still clog and parts still wear. Still, some printer manufacturers boast that users don’t need to do anything but make sure there is filament in the machine. With self-leveling beds, and notifications sent straight to a user’s smartphone, hassle-free does sound possible.
It is proving a useful tool in enabling companies from multiple sectors to revolutionise their supply chains and 3D printing can also achieve significant cost-savings
Transforming computer-designed ideas into physical objects by applying layers of materials with a 3D printer is moving beyond early-use cases in manufacturing to make logistics more efficient and reduce costs across the supply chain.
MH Development Engineering, specialists in engineering bespoke systems and products, installed a 3D printer to enhance both its manufacturing business and systems design for research and development.
When creating systems that solve engineering problems, the company must be able to test concepts quickly. The 3D printer has aided this process by allowing prototyped parts to be created overnight.
A FedEx and 3D printing venture has been expected for some time.
From 3D printed drone-delivery, to on-demand bureau services, postage and shipping companies are investing in the future of additive manufacturing.
In the latest news from the logistics sector, FedEx has announced that it will be launching a new, 3D printing oriented, company under the name FedEx Forward Depots.
The company is the product of a company-wide structural realignment, dedicated to “customized,” “convenient,” and “intuitive” services.
Van, truck, plane, or 3D printing? Fedex is committed to customer deliveries. Image via FedEx
FedEx and 3D printing
When UPS started offering on demand 3D printing services in 2013, many predicted that FedEx would be quick to follow. A case study from 2014, featuring 3D printed medical implant manufacturer Stryker, in fact shows that FedEx has been paying keen attention to 3D printing, and the idea of “Going local” with manufacturing.
“Currently, some medical device companies are delivering 3D printed implants manufactured around the world to hospitals within 24 hours,” reads the company case study.
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
Another tool in the supply chain toolbox, on-demand additive manufacturing promises lower inventories and costs, plus less waste.
The inability to perfectly correlate demand with supply has been a key riddle for supply chains and logistics throughout history. Too much product is a glut. Too little is a scarcity.
Striking a balance is hard, so suppliers use sophisticated algorithms to take their best shot at how much of their products will be needed at a certain time and a certain place to meet an uncertain demand. Couple that with the need to produce products in large quantities to achieve economies of scale and the issue is exacerbated.
To deal with this, suppliers produce products in large quantities in low labor cost countries, ship and store those products near their customers, hoping that their demand projections turn out to be accurate. This projection is always imperfect, especially considering that the value of inventory in the United States alone was $1.8 trillion in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Assuming an inventory carrying cost of 25 percent, that’s $450 million U.S. companies pay each year to hold that inventory.
3D printing is gaining wider use in the automotive sector. A new case study shows how Local Motors, an autonomous and open source vehicle manufacturer, is using 3D printing to save time and money.
The Phoenix, Arizona based company has a stated focus on low-volume manufacturing, and operates using micro-factories.
Producing vehicles on demand presents a number of unique challenges, including logistics issues such as handling inventory and supply chain management. Suitable solutions may not always be available off-the-shelf.
Local Motors and their “Olli” driverless shuttle project while no longer solely a prototype is not aiming for mass-production stage either. The case study produced by U.S. desktop 3D printer manufacturer, MakerBot, shows how 3D printing forms an essential part of Local Motors’ workflow – and specifically shows one of the key advantages of 3D printing.
With its capability and widespread use, 3D printing has evolved from being a novelty to becoming an integral part of the manufacturing process. Whether you’re developing a prototype, or seeking to create an on-demand, customizable product, it’s time for businesses to consider the technology.
The 3D printing market is projected to grow from US$5.2 billion in 2015 to US$26.5 billion in 2021. Even if 3D printing penetrates only 5 percent of the global manufacturing economy, research by Wohlers Report estimates that it would reach US$640 billion annually.
Globally, 70 percent of businesses are getting hands-on experience with 3D printing. Asia-Pacific accounts for only 27 percent, indicating an ample amount of room for improvement to expand the 3D printing industry in the region.
Greater China as well as both emerging and mature markets in the Asia Pacific region are expected to experience a combination of large 3D printer shipments and high growth rates through 2020.
3D printing may have burst onto the scene a few years ago with much hype, but it hasn’t yet revolutionised industrial sectors as some analysts exuberantly predicted.
However, forward-thinking Mining organisations are realising that industrial-scale 3D printing in the mines could skim costs from their operations and reduce the frustrations of equipment downtime. By 3D printing the spare parts and replaceable components that complex mine machinery requires, Mine Operators can gain greater control over the supply chain and ensure smooth running of the mine’s equipment.
At the RAPID & TCT Show that took place in Pittsburgh in May, Stratasys took a significant step into higher volume, continuous production additive technology when it unveiled it’s expandable, rack-like ‘Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator’. As the name implies, the unit is not ready to be sold as yet, but it is being trialled by select customers and Stratasys believes it represents a key shift towards realising 3D printing for the mass market.
The platform is composed of a modular unit with multiple print cells working simultaneously and set out like racks in a data centre. It is driven by central, cloud-based architecture that is designed to produce parts in a continuous stream with only minor operator intervention, automatically ejecting completed parts and commencing the build of new ones.