The Future of Engineering (Part 2) - Latest Developments in Manufacturing Technologies
Following on from our previous article, where we discussed the 3D printing of a jet engine at Monash University, we wanted to focus on another key area where 3D printing is making a difference.
According to this article in The Engineer, the most well-known use of the technology is producing the products themselves. However, for many manufacturers, one of the most useful aspects of the technology is to use it as part of the manufacturing process.
The field of ‘augmented manufacturing’ or the printing of manufacturing tools rather than the products is a key area where 3D printing is making a big impact. It’s the printing of the components that maintain quality and production efficiency while also being used to manufacture other parts and products that are seeing a large uptake in 3D printing.
John Cobb of 3D printing specialist Statasys says: “These tools are virtually invisible when production is running smoothly, but their importance becomes evident when problems arise.” When this happens, new components need to be designed, manufactured and deployed which can take money and time. 3D printing can provide a fast and accurate method for producing these tools so it’s revolutionising manufacturing, not only for individual businesses but for the industry sector itself.
A recent McKinsey report says 3D printing represents just a fraction of the $70 billion traditional machine-tool market worldwide. Their survey of leading manufacturers earlier this year showed that 40 percent of the respondents were unfamiliar with additive-manufacturing technology “beyond press coverage.” Another 12 percent said they thought 3D printing might be relevant but needed to learn more about it.
Ten percent of the executives in their survey already find the technology “highly relevant.” They see 3D printing’s key business benefit as an opportunity to reduce the time to market as well as reduced tooling and assembly costs. They cited the reducing inventories of spare parts as one of the advantages. Additive manufacturing seems set to change the way companies bring their products to market and respond to customer needs.
The report concludes by saying that, ‘the coming years will bring new opportunities and challenges. Companies with savvy executives who raise awareness, fill talent gaps, and build the necessary organisational capabilities will be well positioned to benefit from this breakthrough technology.’
Is your company ready to take advantage of the opportunities 3D printing presents?
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