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The Benefits of Augmenting the Additive Manufacturing Lab with Office Systems

Most manufacturing companies and design/engineering consultants know that developing the best products and technologies and beating the competition to market requires fast and frequent design iteration and production using 3D printed parts.

But bottlenecks caused by 3D printers in additive manufacturing labs can delay when engineers get the parts they need and, therefore, design iterations, production and the entire R&D and manufacturing process. Those delays cost companies millions of dollars per year.

Forward-thinking companies looking for new ways to streamline their processes are placing 3D printers right in their engineers’ office space and on the manufacturing floor to complement their lab systems. While they continue to relegate high-volume jobs to their labs’ printers, they use office systems to quickly print one-offs of prototypes, tooling and even end-use parts that cannot be done efficiently on the lab machines. This saves an enormous amount of time and money.

Knowing that low-cost hobby-class 3D printers can’t meet their rigorous strength, HDT and reliability requirements, manufacturers look for an industrial-class 3D printing system that they can place in the engineering office to eliminate these bottlenecks and process inefficiencies, while achieving the same - or better - capabilities and material properties. In fact, one global automotive manufacturer recently told us, “During busy times, our large lab printers get booked for days, so my group is investigating the possibility of having an industrial-grade printer near our desks for smaller, emergency and one-off parts. The zero-post-processing capability of Rize One caught my attention.”

Boston Engineering feels the same way. Their engineers experienced bottlenecks - each waiting up to three days for every part to come back from the lab. After placing Rize One in an office cubicle with the engineers, the engineering team started printing and getting their own parts in one day vs. three days waiting for their lab’s system. That’s because, Rize parts are usable almost immediately after printing. There is no waiting for supports to dissolve in a chemical bath and, therefore, no bottlenecks. Engineers can easily remove the Rize part supports in seconds with their bare hands right at their desks, with no further finishing required. The design approval process happens much faster. Rize parts are also twice as strong as the parts produced in their lab, and watertight, so it’s a win all around. Boston Engineering’s Director of Product Development, John DePiano said, “It’s so convenient. Whenever we need to print a part, the printer is right here. We just print it and we have it. We don’t have to wait for the lab.”

And, as Boston Engineering’s engineers located one floor up see their first floor colleagues printing right in their office and delivering parts in the same day, they too have begun to take advantage of the convenience and part turnaround speed offered by Rize One. While they still send large jobs to the lab, they’re looking to add another Rize 3D printer upstairs to serve the second-floor engineers as the team expands.

One consumer packaged goods manufacturer producing a single product line recently discovered that, on average, completion of four iterations of a design takes four days less per engineer using Rize One vs. their lab system. That four-day difference means Rize is 20% faster per idea per engineer than the lab system and enables each engineer to produce 25% more designs. Alternatively, if desired, it enables the company’s engineers to complete one additional iteration per idea per engineer in less time than it takes the lab to complete four iterations. When that difference extends across the company’s 100 engineers, each averaging 12 unique ideas per year and each requiring an average of four iterations, the time implications become evident. The part delay adds up to 48 days per year per engineer or 4,800 total days of part delay per year across their 100 engineers. That’s a massive bottleneck.

What does the 4,800 days of part delay per year, and therefore, delays in time to market, cost the company? It’s difficult to calculate specifically, but they estimate it could be millions of dollars and excludes the future cost implications of a competitor beating them to market farther down the line due to part delivery delays and/or the risk of sub-optimal designs due to fewer iterations. Companies with multiple product lines would see exponentially greater cost impact.

Contact us to learn how you can implement an industrial-grade office 3D printer to augment your lab system.