IMTS Conference - The 3-D Printing Dilemma: Ensuring Capacity Meets Growing Capability

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Description:

Complex global supply chains leave manufacturers and their customers vulnerable to external risks. Over the past few years, more manufacturers have started to integrate localized 3D printing into their supply chains to add flexibility, resiliency and responsiveness. In 2020, many manufacturers experienced supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, driving home the need for flexibility. As more manufacturers look to 3D printing to fill this need, there needs to be an increased focus on advancing the infrastructure required to support 3D printing. While there are effective print technologies in the market that meet different customer needs, the infrastructure beyond the printer, from design tools to production standards, has not witnessed as much development or innovation. In order to truly disrupt manufacturing, the industry must come together to focus on advancing the “nuts and bolts” of additive manufacturing:  

  1. Integration into Manufacturing Workflows- 3D/additive manufacturing solutions are not seeking to replace traditional manufacturing techniques. Instead, the goal is to have manufacturers adopt a hybrid approach, using a combination of traditional and additive techniques to make them more efficient and effective. To achieve this, the industry must focus on making the technology easy to integrate with manufacturing execution systems (MES) and computer-aided design (CAD) software, while also providing the same level of service as traditional techniques.
  1. Design for Additive- As 3D/additive manufacturing integrates with traditional manufacturing, the industry must develop design tools that provide manufacturers with the information they need to be most efficient. Instead of just using the 3D technology to print parts designed for traditional manufacturing techniques, we need to provide manufacturers with the tools to take full advantage of the technology and optimize the part using 3D printing.
  1. Standards- To ensure quality production, there must be uniform standards or certifications across the 3D printing industry. While several certification bodies exist in the industry today, in order to give customers confidence in the product, there needs to be a consolidation of these bodies and one universal standard.
  1. Reliability and Predictability of Technology- 3D printing/additive manufacturing still cannot provide the same level of repeatability and quality as traditional manufacturing techniques. Manufacturers using 3D today need to do a quality check on every part, which slows down the process and drives up costs. As a result, manufacturers only use 3D printing in a small subset of parts where the advantages outweigh the time and costs. Moving towards closed-loop systems that can adjust for quality during the production process and cutting down on the amount of post-production processes, which increase the potential of defects in parts, will improve overall quality and repeatability.
  2. Changing Attitudes- The central cost metric that manufacturers focus on today is cost per part. The reality is that 3D printing will always struggle to compete with traditional manufacturing techniques in a 1:1 comparison of cost per part. But with traditional manufacturing, there are other costs not represented with this metric, including storage costs and wasted material costs. To demonstrate the true value of 3D printing, we need to convince manufacturers to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Conference: IMTS Conference

Type: Manufacturing Technology


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