6 ways 3d printing is transforming lean manufacturing
One of the key technology trends in the manufacturing sector at the moment is 3d printing, or additive manufacturing. It has been recognised as a potential industry game changer due to its innovative nature but also because of its lean characteristics. 3d printing has the capacity to reduce waste, save time and thus save money and in a sector, which is constantly being challenged in those areas, it’s no wonder it’s garnering a lot of attention.
SEE MORE: The future of lean manufacturing
Lean manufacturing best practice and 3d printing go hand-in-hand. Manufacturing Global finds out why.
1. Easier prototyping
Prototyping in its traditional sense is a wasteful process and one that is prone to errors. It involves drilling, cutting and removing materials, which is also very time consuming and labour intensive. Furthermore, prototyping is often outsourced to a third party, which results in marked up prices and delays. 3d printing provides an alternative solution, which is less expensive, less wasteful and quicker. Manufacturers are also more likely to complete this process in-house.
2. Easier customisation
Manufacturers constantly have to adapt to changing consumer demand and the days of one-size-fits-all are behind us. 3d printing gives manufacturing companies much greater flexibility because it does not require molding and cutting like traditional methods – 3d printing machines can also be easily reconfigured so each product on the same production line can vary as needed. The ability to customize the production line allows manufacturers to diversify and meet consumer demand, while running a leaner operation.
3. Greater creativity and efficiency
3d manufacturing allows for greater flexibility and thus creativity. Due to the fact it is cheaper to ‘take risks’ and create new products, manufacturers are experimenting more, which in-turn leads to new processes, products and greater levels of innovation. 3d printing gives manufacturers creative freedom to design while still in the concept stage, before a prototype even enters the equation. As a result, they are wasting less time with trial and error, which is traditionally associated with prototyping. They also reduce the amount of materials that fall by the wayside, and they make much more efficient use of their time.
4. Improved consistency
Once properly programmed, a 3d printer can create a consistent product time and time again. Not only does this improve product quality, but will also ensure complete efficiency along the production line.
5. Reduced lead times
Inflated lead times are anything but lean. Wasted time often results in corner cutting further down the production line, which in-turn leads to wasteful mistakes. Due to the consistent nature of 3d printing, manufacturers know what to expect and can set more accurate and reduced lead times.
6. Lower prices
Manufacturing firms are constantly under pressure to produce goods at lower prices. 3d printing makes this possible owing to a reduction in the number of steps required to see a product from concept to production. 3d printing also reduces the amount of material needed. Those savings of both time and material can be passed onto the end consumer.
Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.