Additive manufacturing is disrupting business models, products & supply chains. A Structured approach & collaboration with experienced vendors can help overcoming the challenges to adoption.
In my previous blog post, I discussed the ability of additive manufacturing to disrupt the product development lifecycle. By enabling 3D printing of complex geometries, it helps eliminate the need for expensive tooling and assembly equipment, while allowing personalization, boosting performance, and reducing operational costs and lead times. These factors are encouraging companies to adopt additive manufacturing or industrial 3D printing technology to manufacture end-products and not just prototypes. According to Wohlers Report 2016, the 3D printing industry was estimated to be at $5.17 billion in 2015, registering a growth of $1 billion over the previous year. The sale of industrial metal 3D printers too went up by 45% in 2015.
If you are looking to include the technology in your manufacturing mix, the following four aspects should be considered:
Ensuring thorough assessment
This is the primary challenge encountered by automotive, aerospace, industrial equipment, and medical device manufacturing companies while adopting additive manufacturing. As thousands of parts are assembled to develop a complete product, manufacturers have to carefully assess each part to determine their suitability for additive manufacturing. Another daunting task is to select the right-fit solution from the seven major classes of additive manufacturing processes defined by ASTM International. Further, unlike conventional processes, the absence of should costing tools such as Boothroyd and Dewhurst makes it difficult to estimate the cost of implementing additive manufacturing. Therefore, adopting a structured approach to analyzing the potential of additive manufacturing can simplify the assessment process.
Leveraging the design potential of additive manufacturing
Design engineers typically design parts suited for manufacturing and assembly rather than performance, especially in the case of conventional manufacturing. However, to derive the full potential of additive manufacturing, it is imperative to design parts specifically suited for this technology. This requires an approach that focuses primarily on improving product performance. Certain limitations, such as the need to maintain minimum wall thickness, the distance between features, surface finish, and tolerances, should be considered while designing the additive manufacturing process. You will also need to explore ways to compensate for the lack of strength and rigidity in products manufactured through the additive manufacturing technology. Collaborating with 3D printing service vendors that have in-depth knowledge of the additive manufacturing process, as well as requisite product and domain knowledge, can help address these challenges.
Managing material and manufacturing requirements
Overcome the barriers with a collaborative approach
Additive manufacturing is not only a disruptive manufacturing technology, but also a driver for new business models, products, and supply chains. While the challenges in adopting this technology may appear daunting, collaborating with experienced vendors can help accelerate its adoption. To mitigate these challenges, manufacturers can start by identifying components and assemblies through a structured framework. Vendors with an in-depth understanding of the technology, coupled with advanced design capabilities, can help address these challenges. You need to partner with vendors who can supply sample parts for validation, and are ready to tailor their quality processes to your requirements. They should also have the capability to provide comprehensive reporting and the test specimens required for regulatory approvals. Doing so can help you quickly counter the challenges and move to mainstream production.