Every manufacturing company has to face a number of significant obstacles such as labor disputes, staff reductions, continual quality control issues, supply chain disruptions, inventory management issues and lack of manufacturing visibility. A single advancement that can help the manufacturers get rid of all these issues of traditional manufacturing can prove out to be a magic wand for them. This is where ‘3D printer comes into picture’- a technology that can print plastic, metal, nylon, ceramics, clays and over a hundred other materials including human organs using a person’s cells.
By using 3D printing or additive manufacturing, manufacturers can not only eliminate supply chain disruptions but can also earn the capability of repurposing their plants at the flick of a switch. Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) will now be able to move back manufacturing to ‘their’ markets rather than rely on other geographies for cheap labor.Picture the current situation, when you have to call the customer care to get your faulty refrigerator repaired and it takes days if a part has to be replaced and even longer if the part has to be sourced from another geography. But with this revolutionary technology, you will be able to simply 3D print the part right in your home from a CAD file you downloaded.
The working of these printers is more like printing in two dimensions on a sheet of paper but with an added third dimension. The third dimension is built by creating successive layers until the entire object is complete. The CAD file required for third dimensional printing is created with the use of a 3D modelling program either from scratch or beginning with a 3D model created by a 3D scanner. Along the way, software slices the design into hundreds or more likely thousands of horizontal layers. These layers are then printed one atop the other until the 3D object is done. This might sound like a very complicated task involving millions of dollars but the good news is that the price of these revolutionary devices is now falling down. From around US $ 1 million, industrial 3D printers have gone down to as little as US $ 15,000. Domestic versions are available for as less as US $ 1000 with DIY kits at US $ 500.
According to an IDC survey of 2012, 45% of manufacturers in US admit that they are constantly looking at how factories in the future would be organized. They do so only by focusing on modifications in supply chain, and forecasting with the implementation of cloud, mobility and analytics. Now they must consider the impact of additive manufacturing in their future strategies. Most of their efforts put in improving the manufacturing process efficiency have already been made redundant by these new methodologies of manufacturing. Future factories will have to divert their focus from 'capacity' to 'capability'; from efficient supply chain processes to knowledge based digital processes empowered by smart IT; from relying on existing assets to investing substantially on developing new assets; and simply put, "Innovating".
I am excited about the potential that this technology holds for clients. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.