The COVID-19 pandemic has not only generalized remote working for IT companies but also for the manufacturing industry. The necessity for running safe operations during the pandemic has brought disruptive changes in the manufacturing and supply chain with the help of data technologies and cloud systems. From digitizing shop floor scheduling to tracking variables, operations have been moved online to enforce the self-distancing norms. Further, additive manufacturing or 3D printing has enabled the industries to ease production, layer by layer, with the help of 3D printers. Now, most manufacturing industries are eager to take the challenge in critical times and leverage this technology to keep manufacturing in motion.
But, the COVD-19 pandemic is not the only reason behind this change. In 2016, HP took the 3D-printing initiative followed by Mercedes-Benz Truck, and even GE and BMW embraced it, besides Nikon for its startup Carbon. Thus, the potential of this technology was being recognized before the pandemic by industry leaders from all over the world.
The additive manufacturing sector had a market size of $11.58 billion in 2019 and was predicted to grow at a CAGR of 14% from 2020 to 2027. The COVID-19 outbreak may have stalled this growth a little, but it’s still in the minds of manufacturers as a feasible and safe solution to ramp up manufacturing amidst the pandemic.
There’s no doubt that 3D printing has helped essential workers in the pandemic by increasing the production of protective shields and PPE kits. The industry has also been able to meet the increasing demands for implants by supplying 3D implants for major surgeries. In other words, people have already realized the immense benefits of remote manufacturing through 3D printing, which will make them invest more in the technology in a post-pandemic era.
Which industries can benefit from remote 3D production?
Remote production is undoubtedly the new age of manufacturing, as the manufacturers can handle production lines from anywhere in the continent. It will also improve localized production, as observed in recent times with the help of portable 3D printers and Smartphone connectivity. Additive manufacturing has helped create highly complex structures and spare parts for many industries, and in the future, these industries will lead the way to the decentralization of the manufacturing models.
Let’s now shed some light on the industries that are going to benefit from this trend:
Fashion and apparel
The fashion industry is probably going to garner huge benefits from 3D printing technology. It will give the designers and textile workers the freedom to create comfortable fabrics and unique designs without much hassle. As they can invest in 3D printers and learn all about additive manufacturing quite easily, it won’t be long before they start depending less on the distant manufacturing units for producing fabrics and clothes in bulk. It won’t be wrong to assume that this trend is going to be as revolutionary as the invention of the sewing machine.
Hardware and electronics
Numerous tools are required to produce hardware parts, like drills, driver bits, fasteners, and many more. With the 3D printing technology at the disposal of the manufacturers, they can print these tools easily at the local stores. They need not get the tools from anywhere else, thus taking a step towards self-sufficiency. They can also create customized tools and equipment required to build and repair hardware components with 3D printers easily.
For electronic devices, additive manufacturing can take customization to a different level altogether. For example, if someone wants a bigger screen on his/her Smartphone without changing the dimensions of the phone itself, 3D printing can help achieve that. Although the additive manufacturing technology has not yet gone that far, surely, it’s on the way to penetrating the electronic industry soon.
This is one of the biggest sectors that embraced additive manufacturing quite some time ago. It has been using the technology to build composite parts and cutting down manufacturing costs of the same. This apart, it has been used to design prototypes easily and cost-effectively by making intricate castings from the CAD files in a 3D printer. From fuel tanks to castings of complex cases, lightweight parts of the engine, structural hinges, and transmission housings, additive manufacturing has seen quite some development in the aerospace industry and is sure to see more in the coming days.
Construction and real estate
When aerospace can take the plunge and save so much on additive manufacturing, why should construction and homebuilding be left behind? The contractors experience a lot of difficulties in transporting and assembling concrete components and foundation piers and managing logistics in real-time. All these can be simplified with 3D printing, which can be handled remotely and on-site. The costs of transport will also be cut down drastically, as the 3D printers will ensure the localized manufacturing of these heavy materials.
If aircraft parts can be 3D printed, why not automobiles? Companies like Kor Ecologic, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and XEV are already working on 3D printed cars with about 90% of their parts manufactured through 3D printers. Although the technology is mainly being used in prototyping and designing today, the days are not far when car makers will create unique models with end-to-end additive manufacturing. The remote production technology will also help them design and create models from any part of the world, thus extending their reach in the global market.
However, adapting to the technology won’t be a cakewalk for most of these industries. There are certain challenges that they need to overcome with time. What are these challenges? Read on!
Most 3D printers use plastic filaments that may increase environmental pollution as the by-products end up in landfills. Moreover, the printers also use about 500 times the energy used in injection molding, which, again harms the environment. Last but not the least, they also exhaust several harmful nanosized particles in the air. To minimize such issues, effective recycling of the by-products will be necessary, as well as using renewable sources of electrical energy to run the printers. The manufacturers should also work towards establishing a properly-ventilated space to run the printers to reduce health hazards.
Lack of standardization
The 3D printing processes don’t follow any universal standards, which, many a time, affect the quality of the finished materials. As it flourishes on remote production, the standards of the products are inconsistent and sometimes, inferior. This can be resolved by developing standards across industries for additive manufacturing processes, and currently, the 3D printing sector is working on the same.
Lack of awareness
Most manufacturers are unaware of the nitty-gritty of 3D printing, and there aren’t enough knowledgeable and experienced professionals to offer help. As a result, unskilled engineers are unable to perform as per the expectations, thus leading to a common notion that 3D printing isn’t for everyone. The situation can be improved by including additive manufacturing in the training process of the engineers, asking them to get adapted to the new technology and learn everything there’s to learn about it.
In additive manufacturing, the importance of the design surpasses that of the object itself, as anyone can design the components from anywhere in the world. Therefore, the threats of cybercrimes increases, as unauthorized organizations can get their hands on unprotected designs that may be the intellectual property of the company. The designer’s liability increases in such cases, and issuing copyright becomes mandatory. It also invites legal suits for the mishandling of the design of potentially-harmful things, like firearms or defense equipment. Does this mark the end of 3D printing for such materials then?
Of course, not!
If the designers and manufacturers take it upon themselves to protect the digital, as well as physical aspects of the designs through top-grade cybersecurity measures and ensure all connected devices have the same level of protection, the threats will automatically decrease. These apart, reliable systems should be developed to evaluate the integrity of the designs and check them for copyrights, if any. This will stop any individual or company from stealing designs from another and selling them off.
Latest 3D printing trends manufacturers should know about
It’s important to gather as much knowledge as possible about the 3D printing trends that you may see in the coming days. So, let’s get on with them:
- Bioprinting– In 3D Bioprinting, a material called bioink is used to create tissue-like structures that imitate the natural tissues in our bodies. This trend is going to find a wide range of applications in the medical and bioengineering fields.
- Composite printing – This trend will mostly be seen in the aerospace and automobile industries along with the consumer goods manufacturing sector. It will help reduce the costs of manufacturing for composite materials, like fibers or resins.
- Increase in MES solutions – Manufacturing Execution Systems will take 3D printing a notch up by streamlining and digitizing remote additive manufacturing with proper workflow management.
- High-volume manufacturing – At present, 3D printing is limited to low and mid-volume production levels because of the various challenges that manufacturers are encountering in the process. However, this is bound to change, as technologies like metal-binder jetting will combine with additive manufacturing to increase printing speed and accuracy.
How Additive Accelerator can help?
The experts at Additive Accelerator can help provide you with any kind of 3D printing consultation, evaluation, and execution with their extensive knowledge and experience in the technology. We can help find additive manufacturing solutions that are profitable, scalable, and transferable, after giving you a complete analysis of the same. If you’re new in this field and wish to know more before integrating the technology in your manufacturing sector, we are the professionals you should get in touch with before making any decision. Our knowledge and experience will help you take on every challenge that you may face without compromising on the immense potential of additive manufacturing.
Let’s join hands to revolutionize the manufacturing industry at large and bring remote production to the forefront with 3D printing!