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How To Use Additive Manufacturing To Improve Your Manufacturing Process-Part 1

Part 1 of a two-part series.

If you head up your company’s manufacturing operations, you are undoubtedly charged with producing better products faster while cutting costs, increasing production up time, not to mention finding a way to efficiently meet customer demands for customized products, all while supporting your organization’s innovation initiatives. These goals sound daunting at best and perhaps even mutually exclusive in some cases.

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the total sales of direct manufactured goods and tooling will reach $800B in sales by 2025. And of that, a minimum of $250B in sales will come from 3D printed products (mostly consumer goods, tooling and direct manufactured products) that will be produced using 3D printing.

With so much revenue predicted from products manufactured with 3D printers, how can you harness 3D printing technology to meet these goals and significantly improve your manufacturing process?

Here are three ways you can use additive manufacturing to improve your manufacturing process.

1. Augment your additive manufacturing lab’s systems

You can augment the 3D printers in your additive manufacturing lab with industrial-class 3D printers placed in your engineering and design offices to speed your R&D process and cut costs; right on the production floor to keep the line running – and running efficiently; and in the field so you can accommodate your company’s innovation initiatives vs. your innovation initiatives being restricted by the limitations of your additive manufacturing lab and its machines.

At first glance, you might think that lab managers would resist this, and perhaps some would. But the additive manufacturing lab managers we’ve spoken with say their labs are over-burdened and they welcome the idea of putting printers in their engineering offices so they can print their one-offs, leaving the big jobs for the lab.

In fact, Gary Rabinovitz, Additive Manufacturing Lab Manager at Reebok, said, A zero post-processing and environmentally-friendly 3D printer would enable our designers to 3D print themselves and reduce some of the workload from the lab.”

And John DiPiano, Director of Product Development at Boston Engineering added about his Rize 3D printer placed in an engineering cubicle, “It’s so convenient. Whenever we need to print a part, it’s right here. We just print it and we have it. We don’t have to wait in the queue for the lab.”

Augmenting your lab’s 3D printers helps reduce bottlenecks created the over burdened lab, speeds part delivery, design iterations and your all-important time to market, all while cutting costs. According to Boston Engineering, “Not only was the purchase price of the Rize 3D printer a fraction of the cost of the FDM system, the Rize material costs are less than half the cost of the FDM materials, and there are no labor, facilities, disposal and material costs associated with post-processing that must be incurred with the lab’s FDM printer.”

For example, a global consumer packaged goods manufacturer documented that Augmenting their Fortus lab system with a Rize industrial-class office 3D printer:

    • Cut their R&D process by 20% (in number of days) per idea per engineer vs. their Fortus lab system
    • Produces 25% more design concepts per engineer than Fortus
    • Or, alternatively, they can turn around an additional iteration in the same timeframe
    • They estimated that part delays due to the post processing required of their lab machine, equals 48 days per engineer/year x 100 engineers = 4800 days in total of part delays per year – they concluded the lab printer costs millions per year in delays compared to their Rize 3D printer

    Similarly, Boston Engineering reports that augmenting their lab system by placing a Rize 3D printer in their engineering office sped part turnaround by 50% and cut costs by the same amount.

    2. 3D print replacement and custom tooling

    3D printing replacement and custom tools, fixtures and jigs right on your production floor – where and when you need them - can significantly improve your manufacturing process.

    This will enable you to:

    • Reduce down time and keep the line running
    • Design and build custom parts in hours instead of days or even weeks
    • Replace your physical inventory with digital inventory to eliminate inventory space, prevent parts from becoming obsolete and ensure you don’t run out of inventory

    All of this significantly streamlines and speeds the production process, while cutting costs.

    3. 3D print short-run, custom end-use parts outside the lab

    The third way additive manufacturing can improve your manufacturing process is by enabling you to 3D print short-run, customized end-use parts outside of the lab, in the field, whenever and wherever they’re needed. Place an industrial-class 3D printer right in your tool shop, auto mechanic shop or your medical office to manufacture one-offs of customized products, including replacement parts, aftermarket and custom auto parts, custom medical and production tooling dental devices and surgical guides.

    Breaking the chains of the additive manufacturing lab and placing manufacturing where and when it’s needed, results in enormous time and cost efficiency improvements and even enables you to offer entirely new, customized products and services that can’t be produced in any other way.

    In fact, within the next few years, you’ll be able to 3D print products such as hearing aids with both hard and rubber surfaces for maximum performance and comfort, antenna, smart sensors, microchip heat sinks, actuators and circuit boards. And it will even be possible to use additive manufacturing to produce products with flame retardent, conductive and static dissipative materials.

    But, what additive manufacturing capabilities are required to enable manufacturers to implement these three process improvements? In next Monday's blog, part 2 of this two-part blog series, we'll talk about what additive manufacturing capabilities are required to enable manufacturers to implement these three process improvements.

    Contact us for more info or to request a quote.