3D printing of spare or replacement parts according to demand has many economic benefits for commodity manufacturers and suppliers, and its use in industry is also increasing.
A large portion of 3D printing production is dedicated to supplying parts, and I say spare parts rather than replacement parts because those parts are printed on demand. This is an important distinction that takes into account the cost of warehousing and the large amount of space required for warehousing in all parts supply chains. But reducing physical inventory isn’t the only reason companies and organizations around the world are adopting 3D printing to provide parts on demand. Here are some other reasons:
* Shorter lead times – By printing a part at a machining center close to the customer, virtually all shipping and logistics time is eliminated, so the part arrives much sooner. In important programs, the time difference of one or two weeks is significant.
* Cost Savings – A 3D printed part may cost more than a machined or injection molded part, but after factoring in load and storage reduction, as well as the resulting cost savings, 3D printing is often the more economical option due to less machine downtime due to Availability of a previous part.
* Recycled Parts – Eventually, any part ceases to be produced, either because it has become obsolete with a newer iteration of the part, or because the manufacturer has discontinued it. In such a situation, customers who are still using devices that work with those discontinued parts are in a tough spot. Meanwhile, on-demand 3D printing can revive discontinued parts and extend the life of aging equipment.
* Larger Inventories – One of the most difficult aspects of managing physical inventory is forecasting which parts will be needed and how many are in stock. Parts don’t always fail within their expected lifespan, and even if they do, it’s still very practical to track the working life of each customer part. When a supplier miscalculates demand, they either end up with excess inventory, incurring additional costs for them, or they don’t have enough spare parts to meet customers’ needs, which imposes additional costs on them and on the customers. A German railway company is using 3D printing to extend the life of its trains with discontinued 3D-printed parts. On-demand 3D-printed digital inventory allows suppliers to meet the unexpected needs of their customers without all the storage costs.
* Customization – Similarly, 3D printed parts can be offered in different colours, textures and textures. It can also be easily customized and branded. Again, these features come at no additional cost in 3D printing.
* Increased Performance – The days of unsustainable 3D printed plastic prototyping are long gone. Today, 3D printed metals are harder than synthetic metals, and many other 3D printing technologies offer parts that are on par with parts produced through traditional manufacturing.
Early adopters of 3D printing
From national militaries to international companies, the list of companies that use additive manufacturing to provide parts to their customers is growing. German railway company Deutsche Bahn is using 3D printing to extend the life of its trains with out-of-function 3D-printed parts. The French Army is increasing its readiness by 3D printing parts in the field. Bentley 3D uses parts to recreate the 1929 Blowers, and other auto companies use 3D printing to help their customers preserve vintage cars. CNH Industrial reduces downtime of agricultural and transportation equipment for its customers by producing custom 3D printed parts.
The military is modernizing the production method with additive manufacturing
3D printing is no stranger to the US military as it has used many additive manufacturing techniques in a variety of different applications. Among other things, the Army has used to turn plastic bottles into 3D-printed radio brackets, the Navy is developing smart 3D-printed parts with built-in sensors, and the Army is building the world’s largest metal 3D printer. Currently, the Army is expanding the use of additive manufacturing to provide more spare parts for soldiers. The Army Chief of Staff is responsible for the initiative in this area.
One of the goals of this plan is to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. About $25 million has been spent on wheel hub equipment, which currently only fills about a quarter of the depot there, and the Army Chief of Staff wants it at full capacity. A few dozen warehouses, arsenals and factories have been selected and will work with the center to maximize its working capacity and efficiency.
He doesn’t want to cause unnecessary problems by replacing existing supply chains, but he does want to help lift that burden off the ground with 3D printing, he says. I need to influence and interact on the battlefield. So if anything happens, I want to be able to replicate that ability and do that.” Currently, he’s focused on developing the digital communications and database systems that will power the center. Links to other sites and departments.
Marine equipment and parts supplier ShipParts.com recently announced that it is adopting 3D printing to provide parts to customers more quickly. Reducing downtime is a matter of life and death in the marine industry, as ships are often parked hundreds of miles from shore.
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