Implemented properly, additive manufacturing can significantly reduce material waste, reduce the amount of production steps, inventory being held, and reduce the amount of distinct parts needed for an assembly. But you need a strategy to make it work.
Jim Williams is the vice president of Aerospace & Defense, MANTEC & Program Development at 3D Systems.
Table of Contents:
Pillar of Affordability #1: Value Stream Mapping
Additive manufacturing as a rule uses only the materials needed for the part, which dramatically reduces waste during production. It also doesn’t experience the long lead times you would typically have in making molds, casts and finished (direct to manufacture) parts in certain materials.
But, your ability to scale your AM manufacturing is based solely on adding more and more 3d printing machines, which, compared to massive production line manufacturing, doesn’t bring value.
During your value stream mapping, where you aim to reduce lead times and waste, AM can do just that. It can bring your Buy-to-Fly ratio almost down to 1:1 as opposed to 30:1 in many traditional methods. This is particularly important when working with very expensive or precious metals, especially if the products are of a limited edition or a short run.
AM also means that if you need usable parts almost immediately, then you can have them, rather than having a lengthy lead time to create new tooling.
Additive manufacturing can reduce the amount of steps in a production process, both in tool making and direct manufacturing, reducing the need for manual assembly, even to the point where the entire assembly of the right part might be printable.
Pillar of Affordability #2: Design for Performance
When a design change is made late in the process, especially after tooling has been made, costs of that change rise significantly. Often those costs are expensive enough to mean that the design change may not be implemented unless the product is critically flawed. This means that minor design changes, those ‘nice-to-have’ additions, will probably not be incorporated into the product until a much later stage when new tooling is required.
AM technologies can alleviate these issues by delivering very short lead times for parts and tools that can easily incorporate a design change. This means that instead of discouraging design changes, a company can focus on making the best product without having to worry about the effects this would have on production timelines and costs.
As design for performance becomes realistic, manufacturers have the best products available, the latest designs, and latest changes and updates, without having lengthy product time-to-market.
With better quality products, you should be able to get and retain happier customers, more satisfied customers, less returned products, and a better reputation.
In addition, additive manufacturing processes can significantly reduce and possibly eliminate the total amount of tooling required, making it a much more minimal part of the cost equation.
Pillar of Affordability #3: Reducing the Bulk
Each part needed in an assembly increases the amount of fasteners, clips, glue etc., which adds weight, bulk, cost and complexity in assembly. Essentially, the fewer the parts you have in an assembly, the better it will perform.
AM parts can be manufactured in a more complete state thus reducing the amount of ‘connective tissue’ required to put them together and decreasing part count. Many materials in AM are so good now that they easily match traditional materials in performance and specification. The reduced part count means fewer fasteners, means less cost and less weight in the assembly.
AM can also mean that you can lower the supply chain count – fewer parts that break and fewer parts to replace. Fewer links in the supply chain reduces logistics, shipping, out-sourcing out-time and energy. Energy is a national asset and a national focus.