Updated: Feb 11
What does it take for manufacturers to integrate 3D printing in their design and manufacturing processes? We spoke with four Additive Manufacturing experts to get their unique perspectives.
MAKING THE IMPOSSIBLE - POSSIBLE
Dror Danai, CBO | XJET
For over a decade companies in the AM arena are talking about mass production using AM. This may be very interesting and allow AM teams to dream about capturing an industry of over 10 Trillion USD (the manufacturing industry). In reality, the existing manufacturing technologies are a result of a long perfection process that developed since the end of world war 2 if not earlier. This includes machining, molding and many other technologies. When parts are used in a variety of applications and end products, these technologies will provide a good enough part in a very attractive cost due to a supply network that is global and efficient.
Where is the room for AM and why can AM companies get valuations of many millions (and beyond) ? The answer is simple. The unique layer by layer approach allow AM to create the impossible. Parts that have great value in many applications that are being investigated for decades with little success become possible with the geometry that AM allows.
For example, XJET showed at Formnext 2019 an antenna that is made of Ceramic as a dielectric material. The creation of a passive antenna with high performance will allow the easy beam steering of very short waves. This is needed in very high frequency 5G communication or for VTV (Vehicle to Vehicle) applications where line of sight is a must and the transmission of for short distance. The recreation of very tiny features, the smoothness of hidden components and the 100% density of the parts allow the creation of huge amount of devices that was impossible before in the lack of any manufacturing process that could create such a result.
5G Ceramic Antenna - Printed with XJET Carmel Industrial 3D Printer
The same is true for a complex probe that was designed as a part of a solution to treat early stage tumors and prevent and remove completely the chance of breast cancer. Once again, the ability of AM to make impossible parts open the door to an application that was searching a manufacturing solution for almost 2 decades. There are many more examples that shall change the future and is only possible with the advantages of AM.
DRIVING A TWO-LANE ROAD (WITH 2 CARS)
Idan Cataife, Sales Director | LEO LANE
From my angle in the AM ecosystem, I see that most of the enterprises and large companies that are dealing with AM are looking to create the “king’s highway” right from the get-go. Their goal is to master all elements of AM such as the perfect materials, the printing technology, post-processing, end-to-end software, supply chain, regulation issues and so on before implementing AM in production. Creating the king’s highway takes time, resources and in most cases, I’ve witnessed that it makes little progress until the “big launch” arrives.
At the same time, some organizations decide to take the “service road”. Here the best examples I see in the market are companies that decide to implement AM initially for their internal existing needs. They still like to maintain the must-have key elements such as security, control, and traceable AM workflow. This normally revolves around jigs, fixtures, and tooling (sometimes even emergency spare parts), and in most cases while using the more simple, inexpensive printers and materials. This approach is a fast lane to mastering the potential of AM for your operation and is already solving ongoing issues for the organization (time to market, downtime of machines, etc.).
Beyond that, it takes the organization one step forward towards the bigger picture by operating multiple printers in multiple locations and allowing the organization to operate an inner supply chain in a secure, controlled & traceable manner. This could be the basis for an on-demand distributed AM workflow designed for end parts, series production or any other business model, paving the way to the organization’s King’s highway.
Scaling Up Manufacturing with LEO Lane Solution
From my perspective I’d say, don’t give up the detailed, thorough (sometimes agonizing) creation of the king’s highway, but see if you can open a parallel simple and effective road that could give you almost instant results, conclusions, data and sometimes also gets your management support on your AM initiatives at the same time.
UNLOCKING THE BENEFITS OF 3D PRINTING
Omer Blaier, Co-Founder & CEO | CASTOR
While most manufacturers have successfully integrated 3D printing in their research and development processes to produce prototypes, the adoption of this technology is still relatively low in later stages of the production processes. One of the biggest challenges in the adoption of industrial 3D printing is lack of information and in-house expertise which are necessary to unlock the full benefits this technology has to offer. In other words, while 3D printing technology is rapidly progressing, engineers are overwhelmed thousands of data sheets of new materials, machines and processes. This deters engineers from exploring new technologies as they seem too complex and niche. One engineer described to us his journey in trying to better understand the recent developments as an experience when he feels he is “…trying to jump on a moving train going at 200 km/h”.
CASTOR Decision Support Software
Slowing down advancing technologies to on board new users obviously isn’t going to happen. Moreover, like any problem caused by thousands of data-points, a software solution must be put in place to help human beings make better decisions and to bridge this knowledge and experience gap inhibiting the mass-adoption of 3D printing technology in the production stages.
CASTOR’s decision-support software was developed to address this bottleneck specifically. It conducts an automated technical and economic analysis on assemblies or parts a manufacturer wants to produce. It informs the user when it is beneficial to use 3D printing instead of traditional manufacturing methods while providing him with the best-suited 3D printing feedback and recommendation for each part.
Using CASTOR, manufacturers have a clear gateway to integrate 3D printing in their manufacturing processes, resulting in reduced lead time, elimination of costly spending on limited quantities and increased production flexibility. A good example is Stanley Black and Decker that used CASTOR to integrate their first 3D printed metal part in its production line, saving 8 weeks of lead-time and 50% of the cost in the process.
3D PRINTING REVOLUTION IN ELECTRONICS
Amit Dror, Co-Founder & Customer Success Officer | NANO DIMENSION
It’s becoming clear that additive manufacturing gains momentum and constantly expands the range of production possibilities. The introduction of Additively Manufactured Electronics (AME) by Nano Dimension is another evolutionary step towards a true flexible, customized on-demand and distributed manufacturing environment that will expedite the Industry 4.0 revolution in the coming years. This solution comes to bridge the gap between printed circuit boards (PCB) and semiconductor Integrated Circuits.
Additively Manufactured Electronics (AME) serves cross-industry needs. Today the stronger need for AME solutions arrives from Aerospace and Défense industries, where the need for high-mix low-volume parts is clear.
Electronics and electromechanical subassemblies are integral enablers of autonomous intelligent drones, cars, satellites, smartphones, and in vivo medical devices. They necessitate iterative development, IP safety, fast time-to-market and device performance gains, thereby mandating AME for in-house, rapid prototyping and production. Looking to the horizon we can expect industrial scale production coming from the Automotive industry and from the Electronics Consumer goods industry.
However, the journey toward manufacturing requires a wider end to end view and a collaborative approach. The traditional world of Electronics design works with Electronic design automation (EDA) tools, AKA electronic computer-aided design (ECAD) software. The world of mechanical design works with CAD software environment. In the past the two worlds of Mechanics and Electronics were apart while each designer created in their own world and they were integrating the end parts at the assembly line. In order to benefit the full advantage of AME, the design environments need to merge.
PCB Printed by Nano Dimension DragonFly 3D Printing System
One of the missions ahead is to connect the worlds of CAD and ECAD in order to create a true seamless design environment. This will open up the possibilities to a one-stop-shop design that may include, for example, the plastic box, with relevant sensors, antennas and electronics circuitry – All designed at once and created in a single AM step. 10 years ago, this may have be considered science fiction – But it’s already here. The demand exists and the players along the value chain are starting to react to it: Design tools companies, system manufacturers, product design customers and finally manufacturers who adopt the industry 4.0 principles.
We live in exciting times. It’s our role to expedite the connectivity between the links and lead the world of production into the era of a truly full AM, including Electronics.