Integrate additive manufacturing successfully into your business and you’ll take control of your production and profits.
Additive manufacturing (AM) could transform your production process and maximise your profits. But what does it take to adopt this game-changing technology successfully into your business? From assessing business values to choosing your hardware, here are the first steps into additive manufacturing.
Adopt an additive manufacturing mindset
Back in 2011, when The Economist ran the eye-catching headline ‘Print Me A Stradivarius’, the world awoke to the possibilities of additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing). The technology was a true game-changer, giving businesses in every sector the power to innovate products, personalise styling, disrupt market norms – and ultimately increase the bottom line. A decade later, you only have to scan Tri-Tech 3D’s clients – in industries from automotive to medical – to appreciate the almost infinite uses of additive manufacturing.
But deploying additive manufacturing in your own business shouldn’t be a snap decision or leap of faith. The companies that have adopted additive manufacturing most successfully into their long-term operation are those that have done more than simply buy the hardware. A seamless transition to AM will take a clear strategy and a new culture across the entire workforce, from senior management to the factory floor. As Fast Company Magazine editor Bill Taylor says of additive manufacturing:
You’re not buying a piece of technology or hardware, you’re buying into a new mindset and a way of doing things.
Make a business case for additive manufacturing
Before adopting additive manufacturing, the first step should be to draw up a detailed business case. Instead of being led by technology, you need to assess the potential business values of AM to your individual operation – whether that’s the streamlining of supply chains, low-volume manufacturing, or assembly consolidation – and develop a strategy to help achieve them.
Ask yourself the hard questions. Which KPIs will you be tracking? Do you have the qualified personnel on the payroll to make additive manufacturing work in practice (or will you need to send your staff on a training course)? The clearer your vision of the potential benefits and challenges of additive manufacturing to your business, the more likely you are to secure the company-wide buy-in that is essential to make the transition to AM.
A key decision at the outset is whether to buy the additive manufacturing hardware outright, or use a service bureau to produce AM parts for you (this lets you try out the technology without committing, but you’ll obviously pay a premium per product). Remember that there’s a third way, with Tri-Tech 3D offering flexible rental contracts on our full range of state-of-the-art 3D printers, as well as providing refurbished printers – and even the option of trading in your old model.
Keep in mind, too, that a 3D-printed part may appear more expensive than one created with traditional manufacturing techniques. But it’s vital to look at the bigger picture and recognise that the price of manufacturing is just one factor. With additive manufacturing offering a host of benefits – from slashed lead times to economical low-volume manufacturing – the knock-on benefits to your bottom line can be huge, more than offsetting the price-per-part.
Choose the right additive manufacturing platform & materials
With so many different 3D printers, materials and software out there, dipping a toe into the world of additive manufacturing for the first time can be a little bewildering. To deploy additive manufacturing effectively, it’s critical to think carefully and logically about the right tools, materials and approaches for the products you intend to manufacture.
Fundamentally, there are five core criteria against which every AM part is measured: surface quality, accuracy, strength, colour and cost. The challenge is achieving the ideal balance of these qualities so that your AM product meets the necessary standards while protecting your bottom line.
The design process, too, makes a huge difference. Adding ribbing to a polymer, for example, will boost strength and accuracy, while for steel, a generative design will maximise accuracy and strength. If you find that one aspect of an AM part exceeds requirements (eg. its surface quality is better than necessary, but it costs too much to produce), try altering settings like laser speed and cycle time, in order to reduce one quality, improve another and achieve a balance. With additive manufacturing, you’re in control.
Plus, don’t forget, at Tri-Tech 3D, our expert team is always on hand to help, whether that means talking you through our comprehensive range of 3D printers and materials to help you decide what’s best for your business – or training your team with a range of 3D print training courses, built around you.
Tri-Tech 3D offers a complete package of services including initial specification and supply of 3D printing hardware, software, onsite 3D printer installation, staff training, and full product support. Call us today on 01782 814551, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our contact form.