Friday, June 19, 2015

Disruptive Innovation Changing Manufacturing

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Since being coined the "Third Industrial Revolution" by The Economist in mid-2012, 3D printing has captivated the imaginations of investors and enthusiasts as a technology that offers the potential to fundamentally change the way the world manufactures.
While in total dollar terms the 3D printing industry currently generates a trivial amount of revenue compared to worldwide manufacturing activity, which generates upward of $12.8 trillion annually, it can still be viewed as a disruptive innovation changing manufacturing.
What is 3D printing?On a high level, 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process, meaning it builds objects one layer a time -- the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, or machining, in which a solid block of raw material gets cut or milled down into its final shape.
Compared to machining, 3D printing doesn't require tooling to create objects, which can limit a part's geometric complexity. In other words, 3D printing invites complexity in manufacturing that would otherwise be impossible to produce with subtractive manufacturing techniques.
The other major benefit of 3D printing over subtractive manufacturing is that it doesn't create as much waste material, which can be quite cost-effective for manufacturers when they are working with costly materials such as titanium.
Although it's difficult to estimate the size and scope of the worldwide subtractive manufacturing industry, the CNC machining market, which covers a large subset of subtractive processes, is worth about $90 billion per year. Of that $90 billion, 3D printing could have the greatest disruptive impact in CNC machining applications with high complexity and material cost.   
From prototypes to final productsWhen 3D printing was first invented in the 1980s, it offered a cheaper and quicker way for product designers to make prototypes and therefore bring products to market faster. Although this use case still holds true today, the data suggests that the future of 3D printing will be increasingly tied to using the technology to produce parts that end up in final products.
According to Wohlers Associates, a leading 3D printing insights firm, the market for 3D-printed parts that end up in final products expanded by 66% in 2014 to $1.75 billion in revenue, representing about 43% of the 3D printing industry's total revenue for the year. To put this growth rate in perspective, it more than doubled the industry's annual growth rate of 35.2%, suggesting that there's a strong underlying shift in how the technology is being used.
To be clear, 3D printing for final products isn't just being used to produce trivial trinkets or your next smartphone case. General Electric, for instance, has turned to metal 3D printing to manufacture its next-generation fuel nozzle for its upcoming Leap jet engine, which will take to the skies in the coming years.
By leveraging 3D printing, GE was able to consolidate the number of components needed to create a jet engine fuel nozzle from 20 conventionally manufactured parts down to a single 3D-printed component. This reduction resulted in a fuel nozzle that's five times stronger and 25% lighter than its conventionally manufactured counterpart. All told, GE has plans to produce upward of 85,000 3D-printed nozzles to meet the demand of the next-generation engine.
To put this figure in perspective, 85,000 3D-printed fuel nozzles is a huge number for 3D printing, and will likely make history as the largest mission-critical production run of in the history of the technology. However, compared to more conventional means of manufacturing, it's pocket change compared to processes that can produce millions of units with ease.  
Putting it into perspectiveAccording to Wohlers Report 2015, the worldwide 3D printing industry generated $4.1 billion of revenue in 2014, and is expected to exceed $21 billion in revenue by 2020. Looking beyond 2020, if 3D printing grew to represent 1% of the entire worldwide manufacturing industry, it would be worth in the neighborhood of $128 billion.
On one hand, it appears that 3D printing's ability to produce complicated parts at a cost-effective price suggests there's tremendous potential for 3D printing to easily disrupt certain areas of more traditional manufacturing.
On the other hand, it could be a very long time until conventional manufacturers view 3D printing as a serious threat, considering 3D printing is slow as molasses. The layer-by-layer nature of the technology inherently struggles with speed, which doesn't make it well suited for large-scale manufacturing applications that demand speed. Although breakthroughs around speed are expected to be made in this future, this limiting factor will likely keep the technology off large-scale manufacturing runs for the time being.      
At the end of the day, no one can know with certainty the disruptive threat that 3D printing poses to conventional manufacturing. To me, 3D printing offers the most promise in areas where it could be used to create fundamentally better products than its conventionally manufactured alternative. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The 3D printing revolution you haven’t read about

Posted on 12 Jun 2015 by The Manufacturer

3D printing

The advent of 3D printing is ushering in a fundamental change in the operation of manufacturing supply chains, says Antony Bourne, global manufacturing industry director at software provider IFS.

As the Global Industry Sales Director at IFS, Antony’s responsibilities include acting as the Global Industry Director for Industrial Manufacturing and High Tech
As the Global Industry Sales Director at IFS, Antony’s responsibilities include acting as the Global Industry Director for Industrial Manufacturing and High Tech.

We’ve read the articles and watched the TV stories. It’s yesterday’s news that the 3D printing revolution is one of the most promising technologies to emerge in recent years. We’re well-versed in the fascinating array of use cases for this technology—from healthcare, to housing, to handicrafts. (One of my personal favourites is the printed hearing aid—a device that’s transformed a labor-intensive industry).
3D printing is much bigger than its hype and it’s already a part of today’s manufacturing business. The technology is proving indispensable in research and prototyping, and for creating unique and obsolete parts—in particular for the automotive and aerospace industries.
But one area of 3D printing that’s not had its due time in the spotlight is the slow but unstoppable march towards a completely new way of managing manufacturing processes. As 3D printing ushers in a new era of securing the right parts at the right time, we’re seeing a fundamental change in the supply chain and it’s time to start considering what this means for your business.

Change is good 

3D printing won’t replace high-volume manufacturing, but the ability to print-on-demand for parts is hugely attractive. The technology makes it possible to print and have parts in a few hours, without the need to buy large volumes, and with positive implications for the environment as customers source products locally, and quickly.
This change means fundamental disruption to the supply chain. It dramatically reduces lead-time and reactiveness, and presents immediate opportunities for make-to-order manufacturing. Rather than keeping spare stock on hand, parts can be printed as needed from a stock of materials. For industries where storage for parts inventory is limited, this is welcome news. We may even see manufacturers source 3D-printed parts on their own premises, bypassing the supply chain altogether.
In the near term, 3D printing is creating demand for smaller, hyper-local premises. But the future ramifications for the supply chain are huge—in particular, the need to have information systems in place to protect the integrity of the new manufacturing process.

Change is challenging

The onset of the 3D printing revolution poses new challenges for assuring the quality and authenticity of products. Competitors attempting to reverse-engineer products will be able to do so far more rapidly since there is no need to develop the likes of tools, dies, fixtures and jigs. That’s why, come 2018, 3D printing will have triggered the loss of at least $100bn per year in IP, globally.
So how can manufacturers ensure they are purchasing genuine replacement parts for industrial equipment? And how can equipment manufacturers be sure that equipment they sell to customers is under warranty and uses genuine parts? Part serialization—the type of functionality normally associated with highly regulated industries such as defense—may become attractive across the board. We’ll see attempts to embed ‘DNA’ into 3D-printed parts, and the development of processes capable of checking for DNA matches.
Part serialization can be achieved in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Blueprints to be downloaded for printing should have a serial ID attached to them that corresponds to the serial ID in the ERP application. This way, it’s possible to ensure warranty issues are not compromised and quality standards are maintained.
ERP will be essential for supporting these authenticity measures and controlling stock at every level.

ERP supports change

Accommodating 3D printing within an ERP system requires a few considerations. All manufacturers using 3D printing will need process manufacturing software in their ERP application to integrate traceability and provide fast access to data on DNA and blueprints being applied by different plants.
It will be more important than ever to maintain records of the chemical components that make up parts. While 3D printing might reduce inventory for spare parts, an enterprise application will need sufficient forecasting functionality to determine the amount of raw materials to be consumed—and how much usage the 3D printer will receive. Manufacturers will need to be able to carry out regular quality checks to determine if parts conform to specifications and requirements.
It’s not an exaggeration to claim that 3D printing is revolutionary. After all, it’s capable of fundamentally changing supply chains and the way in which things are produced.
As the most cost-effective and streamlined way of addressing the unique authenticity and stock challenges associated with 3D printing, ERP systems are proving paramount in the new age of manufacturing.
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