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