How distributed and agile manufacturing power new business models

3D printing, aka Additive Manufacturing, is changing the way things are made; and not just on a small scale or prototyping sense, but changing the way global scale production gets done.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

Gartner believes that in 2018, 3D printing will accelerate new business model innovation. Here are some of the 3D printing predictions by Gartner:

"3D printing enables organizations to shift from designing for ideal manufacturing to manufacturing the ideal design. With the shift will come changes to your business model." - Gartner

As background, 3D printing is called "additive manufacturing" because -- unlike legacy processes that generally involve cutting, chopping or bending metal, plastic or wood ("Subtractive manufacturing")-- additive involves material being applied or "layered in" by way of a digital design specification.

This approach gives engineers and product makers more possibilities from a geometric standpoint, and reduces waste considerably. The questions that have lingered concern speed, material strength, and cost overall. Lingered until now.

New materials, new printers and new eco-systems are emerging -- and changing the economics considerably.

This digitally based "additive" process has vast implications across the entire lifecycle of a product, from the way things are designed and prototyped, to the way they are built as well as delivered and distributed. This also has implications from a supply chain disruption standpoint.

The other implication is that 3D printer devices can be networked and virtualized very much like servers, in order to distribute work effectively, and get manufacturing done closer to the point of consumption.

These implications spell out a major shift in the economics of manufacturing, open up new design opportunities, and improve supply chain and aftermarket dynamics. Additive technology will change manufacturing in the same way the PC changed the finance industry.

The 2018 Worldwide Semiannual 3D printing Spending Guide from International Data Corporation (IDC) shows global spending on 3D printing (including hardware, materials, software, and services) will be nearly $12.0 billion in 2018, an increase of 19.9 percent over 2017. By 2021, IDC expects worldwide spending to be nearly $20.0 billion with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.5 percent.

According to the Wohler's Report 2018, the overall Additive Manufacturing industry has grown 21 percent year over year and the industry has expanded by more than $1.25 Billion, reaching $7.3B in revenue for 2017. This growth does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon with revenue projected to be $11.7B in 2019 and $27.3B in 2023.

Additive Manufacturing growth can be attributed to four main benefits:

1. Speed

The desire, and often the need, for quickly getting to market is not limited to any one industry. Whether it is footwear, transportation, medical, or even white goods, speed to market is key. 3D printing gives companies the ability to create designs quickly, manufacture the part, test to meet quality control guidelines and adjust the design if needed. What might take months and significant investments in injection molding tools, now can take a few days or a couple of weeks.

It also enables fast design iterations. In some cases, 16 or more design iterations are possible in the time it takes to produce one run with injection molding. Additionally, customized parts can be created providing the personalization that so many consumers demand today.

2. Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM)

With additive manufacturing designers can enjoy the freedom to design without constraints of traditional manufacturing techniques. Without the limitations, such as draft angles or minimum clearances for injection molding, designers can focus on form and function which can result in part consolidation and a lower Bill of Materials (BOM). For instance, a part that use to take 39 individual pieces to manufacture with injection molding can now be consolidated into two 3D printed parts. This reduces the costs of assembly and production considerably while still providing the solid functionality of production parts.

3. Distributed Manufacturing

A unique benefit of Additive Manufacturing is allowing brands to bring production much closer to the end user. Local distribution lowers costs and turnaround times, which result in less downtime.

Within the Heavy Equipment industry, for example, in the past when a part broke it could take several weeks to get a replacement part. The part would have to be ordered from the warehouse, shipped to an authorized dealer, and then delivered to the customer. With 3D printing, the one replacement part can be printed at a local print factory and delivered to the customer within a couple of days or even hours, depending on the part. This allows companies to reduce their inventory significantly which reduces their overall costs.

4. Supply Chain Consolidation

Through 3D printing, companies can consolidate their current supply chains and free up capital that was previously attributed to part inventory. By implementing just-in-time manufacturing methods that are made possible with additive manufacturing, the inventory of companies shifts from physical parts to raw digital files. This in turn reduces costs and waste of traditional manufacturing methods.

Jabil, one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced innovation, engineering and manufacturing solutions providers, recently announced their "Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network". They understand the potential of Additive Manufacturing and as such have cloud-connected a network of people, processes, machines and work orders together, to dramatically change how this company delivers services to its product (OEM) customers.

Included in this connected ecosystem, they have increased their expertise and Design for Additive Manufacturing capabilities; extending their machine capacity to facilities in the United States, China, Hungary, Mexico, Singapore and Spain.

Further, a variety of 3D printing machines have been installed across the Jabil footprint for high-speed sintering, fused filament fabrication, polymer and metal laser sintering and other processes, to address emerging customer needs. At Jabil's Singapore facility, they demonstrate true just-in-time manufacturing with HP's Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF) printers. Jabil produces over 140 parts for the MJF printers.


Jabil Singapore Additive Manufacturing Center

"Jabil's digital thread fuels a growing footprint of 3D printers and additive manufacturing capabilities to benefit customers through localized production, consolidated supply chains, reduced costs and faster time-to-market," said John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing, Jabil. "Our new Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network is the connective tissue that scales globally to integrate every printer, facility and work order across our enterprise and crystallize our vision of truly distributed manufacturing."


Jabil's Additive Manufactoring Network

3D printing is beneficial to companies that want to offer personalization, and want to get closer to the point of consumption within their markets, as well as just plain get there faster. It's also beneficial, in terms of design freedom and accomplishing greater geometries with fewer parts, or parts consolidation all together. As the additive manufacturing industry continues to grow with speed and urgency, innovative companies will be incorporating 3D printing into their manufactured processes for production parts.

The promise of additive manufacturing is more than 'just in time' delivery of products. The real promise of 3D printing is the opportunity for companies to develop new business models, meeting the ever exceeding expectations of the connected stakeholder. In the digital economy, where the new currencies are speed, intelligence and mass personalization at scale, the ability to identify new business model opportunities will depend on greater adoption of agile and distributed manufacturing as a key component of digital business transformation.

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