3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing for businesses
What is the difference?
In this area we apply the definitions used by the internal manufacturer Stratasys. They talk about 3D printing in the first phase of the product development. This includes prototyping, testing and experiments to explore advantages of the technology. Due to this, the concept of 3D printing falls into the creative phase, with additive manufacturing for the active and economic implementation in businesses. A possible exception is illustrated by this video to the right from Zortrax M200 with their practical application at Bosch. Both companies combined there knowledge and skills to benefit from each other.
In additive manufacturing, we speak of the practical implementation, which can and mostly is very different between businesses. This includes process savings such as the assembly of components since they are already printed in one piece. Another example are stock-keeping through 3D printed spare-parts manufactured Just-in-Time (JiT). Additive production can also inherit product modifications and design advantages through the technology. For example bionic structured lead to lighter components with less material consumption while even increasing the stability.
3D Printer in Businesses
The right model for the creative phases as product development or prototyping
When using 3D printers, as defined above, there are several possibilities and applications for enterprises. These strongly dependent on the printing methods, quality of the 3D printer and your strategic goals.
Desktop 3D printing as a service
This path is less an application 3D technology for your business than to starting your own 3D printer company. We do not go into this further, because books like “How to make money with 3D printing” already described this in detail. At the moment, the biggest issue in the 3D printing industry are the high competition versus limited employees with the necessary skills. On the one hand, everyone can print objects with their own 3D printer. On the other hand, there are professional providers such as Alphacam targeting precisely this customer segment. The advantage for your company in this situation is that you can use this service on the market cheap.
As a service provider, you can either build your customer segment directly or be supplied with queries from platforms as 3DHubs. The site developed away from private providers using the FDM technology to industrial SLA method suppliers.
2. Semi-professional 3D Printer
The transition to professional 3D Printers away from desktop models is fluid and difficult to determine. The same applies to their applications which depend on the model as seen with business like Bosch from the video above. Models that fit into this category are more professional 3D Printers such as those from Xioneer Systems or those from the traditional manufacturer 3D Systems. The application areas are similar to the first point above, while the production of larger components or high-quality prototypes is possible at the same time.
3. Professional additive manufacturing
This level utilises large-scale 3D Printers able to print with different materials and processes in the conceptual phase. Therefore, prototypes cannot only be tested in plastic, but also in other materials such as metal or ceramic. The first step is to validate the possibility of printing with such a machine to then analyse its economical potential. In generally, such use of large 3D Printers is profitable in combination with traditional machines. The only exception are businesses selling in small batch-sizes which is more cost-efficient with additive manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing in businesses
The implementation and utilisation of advantages through 3D printing technology
As already described above, additive manufacturing is the practical use of the technology after the test phase. In such cases machines such as those manufactured by the German manufacturer EOS are used. The fact that additive manufacturing has already taken a serious step into todays economy is illustrated by research and efforts of Institutes in this industry around the world. The 4 areas and process benefiting the most from 3D printing are:
Design, material and conception
For two reasons this has become particularly interesting in 2016. On the one hand, special materials were created with which one can modify the quality of a component or product. On the other hand, an innovative product can be created within a very short time through a slimmed design process with prototypes. Bionic forms for example applied to motorcycles significantly reduce material consumption can and increase stability. Companies such as the FIT AG have specialized in this field and can even provide small batch sizes with their additive production. We would be pleased to forward you to one of their consultants, whom we can recommend from personal experience. If you prefer a automated software solution, we can recommend you Meshify.
This topic covers areas as warehousing or just-in-time production. The above video from Bosch is an example of this category, because the 3D-printed auxiliary tools are optimized in a cost-effective manner. Furthermore, 3D scanners (solutions), such as those from 3Digify, can support warehouse processes in storing and supplying spare parts. This approach counteracts risks of just-in-time productions as spare parts are printable in case of logistical delays. The replacement print still takes a lot of time, but it is still reasonable for certain objects that are quick to replicate and difficult to deliver. The same applies to spare parts which are printable on-demand, in comparison to unnecessary stockings. In addition, new spare parts would have constant costs per piece compared to high initial costs in traditional processes.
We see the greatest advantages and potentials in saving from the assembly of several components at once. Through additive production complex objects are producible in one piece instead of individual components which have to be assembled later. This simplifies the supply chain and logistics of traditional production. Furthermore, it enhances the stability of the object and allows smart bionic designs for saving resources. In sum, 3D printing increases the quality and reduces waste, costs while simplifying processes.
Bosch a benchmark for future technologies and already includes additive production as component for enhancing traditional production processes. In combination with technologies such as the industrial revolution 4.0, individually customized products are possible mass markets. More details are available at Bosch Rexroth Showcase i4.0 which try to implement 3D printing in production processes. These are relatively new and forward-looking approaches which are still applicable today. This goes from hybrid forms all the way to full-fledged products from machines through additive production. Even today, additive manufacturing is applicable for mass markets for highly personalized articles in medicine such as prostheses. Our most favourite example are hearing aids, for which already the entire industry has switched to 3D printed products. Hence, it is important to analyze the most profitable degree of utilization for your business.
This subcategory is not an advantage of the additive manufacturing in itself as finishings are offered to other production systems as well. The issue with 3D printed parts are their unfinished look and surface, mostly unfavorable for the respective application. This results in the need of finishings to match the desired design goals. For example, no layers from 3D printing are visible afterwards as with traditional methods.
Conclusion: Ultimately, complex requirements require a precise analyzation and professional recommendations
Whether you are a start-up, small, medium sized or large company, all you need are key information and business goals. This is enough for us to develop first recommendation and potential applications for you.
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