Industrial Additive Manufacturing

Readiness to take on Industrial Additive Manufacturing

Enabling revolutionary progress

Enabling revolutionary progress

How can Additive Manufacturing avoid a glass ceiling?

“The success of additive manufacturing solutions at the industry level will only come about by defining, implementing and complying with manufacturing standards.
Today we are still lacking many of these steps.”

Gregor Reischle
Head of Additive Manufacturing, TÜV SÜD

Monday March 25, 2019

The additive manufacturing industry is growing fast. According to one 2018 industry report, the AM industry currently exceeds $7.3 billion worldwide – up from $5.1 billion just two years ago. However, despite this impressive growth, the future of the additive manufacturing sector faces a range of structural obstacles which will need to be addressed sooner or later. These include fundamental changes to business models, processes, training and standards.

Unless the industry as a whole deals with these issues now, it will run into a ‘glass ceiling’ which will impede further growth.

NOT business as usual: transforming the future of manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing presents a range of significant potential benefits to businesses - but these can only be achieved if they are willing to make some fundamental changes. One of the most intriguing changes AM may have on the industry is in terms of business models. Here are just a few examples:

  • Mass production -> personalised production
    Manufacturing runs typically produce hundreds or thousands of units in the same way. AM will allow businesses to customise every single unit in a run to the customer’s desires, if required. However, the challenge is that the effort required for quality assurance is much higher and requires a new approach to certification.
  • Centralised supply chain -> decentralised supply chain
    In traditional manufacturing, most products are made in a central location, before being distributed to customers. AM will allow the small-scale production of goods in smaller ‘brand workshops’ close to customers, however this would mean that these workshops need to build up their manufacturing expertise.
  • Central storage and waste -> low waste, low storage
    Manufacturers today must mass-produce products then store them until they are sold, which can result in significant waste. AM will mean manufacturers can produce the exact number of parts required on demand, thereby cutting waste and storage costs. The challenge here is the assurance of part quality and IP rights which is why TÜV SÜD offer certifications and software solutions.

Done right, AM clearly provides enormous potential benefits to businesses and their customers, in terms of cost, reduced waste and more reactive production. But, this will also require a significant change in business models and practices. Unless firms make serious structural changes to the way they produce their goods, Additive Manufacturing’s benefits cannot truly be realised.

How to initiate change processes to become “i AM ready” and benefit from AM’s potential

For a manufacturing business to become industrialised Additive Manufacturing ready (i AM-ready), significant changes need to be made throughout the business. These include:

  1. Company Management
    AM will only bring limited benefits unless the wider business strategy is changed to accommodate it. You cannot simply ‘add’ an additive manufacturing section to a production plant – the benefits will be minimal. Instead, for AM to achieve its potential, a business must develop a wider strategy for AM, including development of the marketplace and planning for new customer segments and distribution models.
  2. Customer Management
    For customers to accept goods produced using AM, they will need assurances that those products are of the same (or higher) standard as they have come to expect through traditional manufacturing processes. This will require manufacturers to put their products through testing and certification to gain customer trust. During the early market stage in particular, companies need to consult their clients on the value of AM and to teach additive manufacturing design.
  3. Order Management
    Producing large numbers of 3D printed items will require very different processes to traditional manufacturing. There will be greater emphasis on CAD and CAM preparation, as well as new methods of testing and quality assurance especially for regulated industries.  Manufacturing centers need to have an agile and structured order management procedure in order to fulfil the demands of high quality, rapid prototyping and small series orders.
  4. Production Management
    For AM to succeed, the production process itself needs to be adapted according to the pitfalls related to the specific technologies. To assure a reproducible, traceable manufacturing workflow, the task of production managers will be very different to what was done before; from handling materials, to scheduling and ordering materials, right through to post processes.
  5. 3D Printing
    The process of 3D printing itself will also introduce unique new challenges to the factory floor. Staff will need to be retrained to use and monitor 3D printing hardware, as well as understand how to assess output. Each system manufacturer and 3D technology comes with its own specific challenge for machine operators, which they will need to learn and supervise.
  6. Post-Processing
    On completion of a piece, manufacturers will need to develop new processes for unpacking and delivering final parts. The level of automation in this sector needs to increase significantly. For both powder bed fusion metal 3D printing and plastic 3D printing, the support removal processes are major pain points which need to be automated.  Powder recycling, sorting and other post processes such as heat treatment, milling, colouring and finishing also need to be seamlessly integrated.

This new approach to manufacturing will require businesses to make significant changes to their processes. Making these changes requires investment and long-term planning – but failure to do so will mean 3D printing cannot reach its full potential. Without these changes there will be inconsistency in output and standards and customers will lack clarity on the right products for AM and its full potential.

Indeed, as the AM sector grows, there have been growing calls for regulation of Additive Manufacturing, to ensure customers get the best end-product – and this is especially so in highly regulated sectors such as healthcare, aerospace and automotive.

Certification will differentiate between AM businesses and industrial AM ready businesses

Manufacturing centres can’t shoulder all the responsibility; technological solution providers such as hardware, software and material manufacturers need to adapt their products to the requirements of industrial additive manufacturing.

The industrial AM sector is going through a period of rapid growth. However, as Gregor Reischle, TÜV SÜD’s Head of Additive Manufacturing suggests, the sector will run into a ‘glass ceiling’ unless it begins putting into place processes which can regulate the sector, demonstrate the highest quality, and set standards. Currently, TÜV SÜD bridges the gap of technological readiness and the proof of concept for AM manufactured products.

At present, relatively few 3D printing businesses are certified, and the market is something of a ‘Wild West’. For customers, this means confusion and uncertainty – it’s almost impossible to know which manufacturer, or which technology is ready for industrial AM, and which will let them down. And for manufacturers themselves, this lack of clarity over standards means they must develop their own quality standards and testing models in-house – which is costly, time-consuming and hard to verify.

Certification, therefore, is not only necessary for the industry, it’s also welcome. It will allow high quality businesses to differentiate themselves, improve customer trust and therefore allow the industry to flourish.  

At TÜV SÜD, we’re actively working to improve and enhance global AM standards, and have developed our industrial AM ready initiative (i AM Ready) including  training courses to help certify businesses in the sector. We’ve also launched the first certified industrial additive manufacturing centres for 3D printing in Germany which coincide with the DIN standard and ISO/ASTM standards. These efforts will help AM firms move the sector beyond its glass ceiling.

To learn more about the i AM Ready (industrial Additive Manufacturing Readiness initiative) training and services, click here.


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