How to Accelerate Your Journey to Scaling Additive Manufacturing
4 min read
Additive manufacturing (AM) has the power to completely transform manufacturing businesses. According to a study by Jabil, up to 90% of manufacturers believe that additive manufacturing is essential to future-proofing their businesses. And as many as 80% of manufacturers already use it to prototype and innovate. But how can your business scale to make it a core part of your manufacturing processes?
Discover insights from the Hannover Messe International presentations of Kristel Van den Bergh, Director of Innovation, and Stefaan Motte, Vice President of Software.
Overnight success stories take time
Every so-called overnight success story was years in the making. Careful planning, learning, and strategy are required to make any business transformation a success. While additive manufacturing has been in use by many businesses for years, few have scaled to make it a central part of their manufacturing processes. There are several reasons for this which are common with adopting any changes to business processes. Often there are concerns that the changes may involve high risk and high cost, compromise on quality, and take a long time to deliver a return on investment.
However, when digital transformation strategy includes adopting additive manufacturing techniques, there are ways to overcome these challenges. One of the best approaches is to seek out guidance from people further along the journey. Experts in additive manufacturing technology, design, processes, and software solutions can help to flatten your business’s learning curve. Before setting out on a journey to unknown territory, you need an experienced guide and a detailed map. Enter Materialise expertise in the form of Mindware and the Magics Process Tuner. With more than three decades of experience developing and using additive manufacturing technology, we can help you to go further on your additive manufacturing journey sooner.
Two essential properties for adopting AM
There has never been a better time to adopt additive manufacturing for large-scale production. In order to make the most of additive manufacturing in the future, businesses need two essential properties:
- A catalyst for change: an urgent and important reason to invest in the journey to large-scale additive manufacturing
- Direct access to knowledge, experience, and capabilities to overcome the specific challenges that come with adopting new technologies
Kristel Van den Bergh, Director of Innovation, speaking during Hannover Messe International 2021
CNH Industrial, an agricultural machinery manufacturer, is a perfect example of what can happen when these two properties come together. For several years, CNH Industrial recognized the benefits of digitizing their inventory so that they could order spares more quickly and prevent overstocking. The company had made some investments towards this goal over the years, but the real catalyst for change arrived in spring 2020. Their supply chain was impacted by the Covid pandemic shutdown, cutting them off from a small but vital part manufactured in China. They turned to additive manufacturing and asked Mindware, our AM consultancy team, for help. With no 3D design of the part, an existing sample was reverse-engineered by Materialise’s experts to 3D print the crucial component. Thanks to this clever workaround they kept their assembly line running throughout the pandemic.
One year later, with our support, CNH Industrial estimates that half of their manufacturing facilities use additive manufacturing for end-part production, with more planned. Their once-distant ambition for digital inventory is looking more and more real each day.
Supporting businesses already using AM
Mindware also supports businesses to accelerate product development as part of their additive manufacturing strategy. Hyundai Automotive was already using additive manufacturing when they sought additional support with a design challenge. They were developing a lightweight manual inspection jig for assembly workers on a mass-production line. Our experts developed a fully functional 3D-printed jig that was both more accurate and 50% lighter than the milled aluminum version. So, in addition to solving the design challenge, there were important health and safety benefits for the workers who will use the jig.
How software platforms can speed up your industrial AM adoption
In addition to getting help from the experts at Mindware to scale your additive manufacturing processes, our intuitive Magics Process Tuner is available as a SaaS. Without a solution like this, AM service providers experience obstacles such as high risk, high costs, and a long return on investment when adopting AM in large scale production. This powerful software helps your business to optimize and fine-tune your printing process. It makes switching to 3D printing more affordable and sustainable by doing these three things:
- Automating steps (for example, creating virtual labels)
- Applying clever statistics
- Relying on smart simulations to predict corrupt, or faulty samples
Stefaan Motte, Vice President of Software, speaking during Hannover Messe International 2021
Using these techniques can reduce the cost per parameter set by 50%, which makes additive manufacturing lower risk, lower cost, and gives a quicker return on investment. It greatly speeds up the process for companies to come to sustainable manufacturing at volume using additive manufacturing. Magics Process Tuner is an intuitive online platform that can be accessed through a web browser or API. It can speed up the process and reduce the complexity that many businesses encounter as they scale their additive manufacturing operations.
“Using these techniques can reduce the cost per parameter set by 50%, which makes additive manufacturing lower risk, lower cost and gives a quicker return on investment. It greatly speeds up the process for companies to come to sustainable manufacturing at volume using additive manufacturing.”
Alongside the Process Tuner, another way in which we’re accelerating our roadmap to cloud-based software is through recently acquiring an option to buy Link3D — a company offering additive workflow and manufacturing execution software systems.
By joining forces with Link3D, we’ll be better positioned to provide customers aiming for serial additive manufacturing with a solution to plan, manage, and optimize their AM operations supported by our 30 years of experience. This software will accelerate the process of scaling 3D printing and reduce its complexity as part of a connected, industrial manufacturing process.
These cloud-based software platforms will help companies avoid errors, reduce waste, and speed up their additive manufacturing journeys while giving them seamless, cost-effective access to our complete and integrated 3D printing software suite.
Whether your business already uses additive manufacturing to prototype or wants to progress an established strategy, our experts’ knowledge, experience, and understanding of this powerful technology will help you to get the most from it.
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