How can 3D printing combat industry changes in manufacturing?
Manufacturers are increasingly facing new challenges as they look to stay competitive in the global market place. From changing market forces to the need for increased production efficiency, the issues are broad. And all whilst trying to ensure that the quality of their goods is exceptional and customer response times are kept to a minimum.
It’s clear that manufacturers must innovate in order to tackle these difficulties, and while many are keen to change the way their businesses run for the better, they are also concerned about the mounting pressures around cost and volume of materials used. Today, 3D printing can help tackle some of these challenges, offering transformative advantages at every phase of creation, from initial concept design to production of final products and the steps in between.
Why use 3D printing?
3D printing uses layer based manufacturing techniques which allows any shape or size to be printed using CAD system technologies. This unique way of manufacturing can transform business models by unlocking competitive advantage, and generate new revenue streams as companies can get products to market quicker. It can open up new possibilities such as printing parts on demand therefore reducing the need for high inventories and tooling, as well as helping to reduce waste because it only uses the materials needed.
Manufacturers are already utilising this technology to test new prototypes and reduce time to market, with the global 3D print market expected to grow significantly from $5.9 billion in 2015 to $49.1 billion in 2025, according to PIRA.
Faster product development
3D innovation allows manufacturers to improve their design productivity as well as ensure faster product development cycles, overall reducing the time to market. Compared to traditional manufacturing processes, 3D printing can also open up new avenues in enabling the creation of components that were previously impractical or impossible to produce, such as electrical connectors and bespoke sensor housing created by Canon’s customers. Tool making is also being revolutionised for manufacturing companies as 3D printing can enable the rapid progression and deployment of customised tooling. From short jigs and fixtures to pre-production tools, a range of items can be crafted, delivering a more efficient and cost effective production process. By utilising 3D printing in the product development process, more frequent and improved testing can be delivered earlier in the cycle, meaning the cost for change decreases as the design advances.
In addition to cost savings, the multiple test cycles will allow for quality and efficiency improvements, giving manufacturers the ability to form perfect designs through agile but precise testing. As the product begins to take shape, designers need to verify and test design elements to ensure the new product will function as intended. 3D printing allows design verification to be an iterative process where designers identify and address design challenges to spur new inventions or quickly identify the need for design revisions. Thanks to in-house production, intellectual property for products and parts can also be kept safe.
With PwC estimating that 67 percent of manufacturers are already embracing 3D printing, the technology is creating a platform for innovation in manufacturing and is setting the stage for enhanced productivity, advanced design capabilities and business agility in the years to come.
Sav Jeyendran is Application Specialist 3D Printing, Canon UK
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IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.