Industry 4.0 in Additive Manufacturing

5th June 2020

Industry 4.0: How will Additive Manufacturing fit in and shape our future?

A combination of advanced manufacturing techniques with the Internet of Things bring us into Industry 4.0 and the ability to create manufacturing systems that are not only connected but also communicate, analyse and use information to drive further intelligent action back.

Industry 4.0 gives organisations the chance to set up smart factories where interactions are done between products and machines. 3D printing provides a number of opportunities to help reduce time during the design stage, production and even replenishing items when and where necessary.

How does 3D printing fit into Industry 4.0? 

Additive manufacturing fits into the revolution by not only allowing rapid prototyping which was seen as its previous benefit. It can also provide the capabilities to manufacture tools, jigs and fixtures and mass customisation across a whole wrath of industries.

The combination of this within industry 4.0 provides manufacturers the ability to create products that are fast-to-market and customized. Something we have seen recently with the COVID-19 outbreak across the whole world. Individuals were able to not only make their own equipment but rapidly prototype new designs to help fight the outbreak.

These options give manufacturers endless possibilities going forward and can have a profound effect in a number of industries.

Product development

A big new feature of 3D Printers is a form factor that allows them to sit easily within office spaces and be operated easily by staff members. Take the Stratasys J55 printer for example.

The printer allows fast concept models and quality high-fidelity models to be made easily by individuals. This means designs can be altered quicker and feedback provided to allow alterations be made. Rapid prototyping will allow designers to get feedback, revise, alter and ensure better quality products are produced. All this being done at a quicker rate.

With this reduce in design time will allow for products to get to market quicker. A change of this nature means designers and businesses as a whole will be reviewing their business model to help ensure they can compete within their market spaces.

Supply chains

As we have seen in recent times, supply chains can be a fragile thing and easily effected by unseen circumstances. Businesses will be left with questions on how they will ensure they can keep a robust supply chain to ensure their business can remain productive through a number of scenarios. Also manufacturing your own parts using a 3D printer could also be cost effective as a production method and can be brought internally.

Other factors that will affect supply chains are things such as decentralised production and reduced complexity.

Decentralised productions mean that manufacturers will move away from mass production in low-cost countries in favour of more local production. This also brings in the benefit of relying less on imports which will have real importance going forward. Trade-wars and increased tension between nations could lead to difficulties for production to remain stable and the cost of purchasing components globally can increase rapidly in a short matter of time.

3D printing technology also brings down the number of components and processes required for manufacturing. This will pass on cost savings to companies whilst also helping them enhance lead times and reduce time-to-market.

A benefit sometimes overlooked is the “greener” effect that 3D printing can have on a business’s production, overall a more energy-efficient and cost-efficient method. With almost zero-waste being produced, overproduction being reduced and excess inventory all helps reduce the carbon footprint. The “just-in-time” manufacturing will have a whole new meaning.

Inventory and logistics will also need to be addressed, with 3D printing offering a more “on-demand” service the need to send physical goods across countries will reduce. A lower number of SKUs also means it is likely that the need for warehousing and logistics companies will reduce, a cost saving that will be passed on.

Industry 4.0: Supply chain infographic
The impact of 3D printing on supply chains.

Faster and more customised? 

Industry 4.0 allows for quicker manufacturing times and also increased customisation options to consumers. What additive manufacturing allows manufacturers to do is, customise designs easily, and reduces waste by printing only what is needed and the ability to print when and where items are needed.

With designs being able to be saved digitally they can be amended and changed easily to provide customised and improved products to customers. Files being saved digitally it also means they can be returned to at a later date easily should a part or product need to be produced at a later date.

Files being stored digitally allows for parts to be produced on-demand and when needed with such ease. It allows for files to be shared across different locations which will help reduce transportation distances and production times.

An industry taking advantages of the combination of new technology available is Nike. They have taken an approach whereby they can offer high-quality products to their athletes. With real data being captured from the athlete it allows them to make alterations quickly to produce unique products that help improve their performance and comfort.

Digitalisation of Additive Manufacturing

Overall with this new approach it means that additive manufacturing will play a big part in Industry 4.0 and evolve quickly and have a big influence in the way businesses operate. The digitalisation of additive manufacturing will increase going forward and allow greater possibilities for companies. Individuals will be able to react quickly and efficiently to real-time changes with traditional manufacturing methods coming under increased pressures.

New emerging technologies will help provide benefits to a number of industries and allow for individuals to re-think how we design, make and transport goods in both B2B and B2C scenarios. New emerging technologies will also likely see new demands from consumers and expectations will increase that will provide problems for companies that will need to be solved. The companies willing to embrace the changes will see real benefits and these benefits will be able to be passed onto the end users.

If you would like to speak to one of our team members about improving your production and business methods then please get in touch here.

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