In October 2014 I wrote a blog about 3D printing, the technology behind it and possible impact on Materials Management. http://scn.sap.com/blogs-edit-post!default.jspa?blogPost=115921&blog=68729

18 month is quite a long in a business which is evolving that fast.

Within these period of time several announcements have been made by renowned companies lifting 3D printing onto a new level of manufacturing.
As 3D printing is not new in the area of rapid prototyping or for manufacturing very small batches of items, GE and Airbus is are stepping towards a standard process of manufacturing parts for jet engines or cabin parts for airplanes. 

The advantages for the two companies are obvious.
GE for example is manufacturing fuel nozzles for use in its LEAP jet engine.
The additive process of printing the nozzles uses much less material compared to conventional techniques like welding. Before printing these fuel nozzles each item has to be welded together from about 20 small pieces. This was a labor intensive process and ended up in scrapping a high percentage of the valuable material.  

Instead of solid material from the beginning on, GE is using a cobalt-chromium powder. A computer-controlled laser shoots pinpoint beams onto the bed of the cobalt-chromium powder to melt the metal alloy in the desired areas, creating 20-micrometer-thick layers one by one.
-> Here come the term additional manufacturing into the game.

Additive manufacturing in general conserves material because the printer can handle shapes that eliminate unnecessary bulk and create them without the typical waste.

GEs LEAP engine will use 10-20 fuel nozzles per engine. This adds up to about 25.000 nozzles annually within three years. This is clearly showing that 3D printing has stepped out of the baby shoes of small batches or rapid prototyping.

How this technology does refer to my previous blog?
In my 3D printing blog 18 months ago I was talking about the different “printing” technologies

One technology I was describing was SLS: 

“Selective laser sintering (SLS) builds objects by using a laser to selectively fuse together successive layers of a cocktail of powdered wax, ceramic, metal, nylon or one of a range of other materials”

This is basically the technology GE is using to manufacture the described nozzles for their jet engines.Obviously they did research on the powder material, but from now. It works on many ways. Less waste, new shapes leads to better fuel consumption of the engines, 24/7 availability of the printing machine.

 

Mentioning cabin parts at the beginning let’s talk about Airbus aircrafts.
Airbus revealed that about 1000 parts of their new A350XWB are being 3D printed. The company is using 3D printing to manufacture e.g. a dividing wall in the cabin of the jet-liner. Airbus has joint forces here with APWorks and Autodesk to combine design power with manufacturing excellence. The result is a wall structure weighing 45% less at equal strength. Airbus is stating if applied to the entire cabin and to the current backlog of A320 planes, Airbus estimates that the new design approach could save up to 465,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.T
hat’s worth a thought.

Watch an inspiring speech of Jeff Kowalski (CTO Autodesk)
http://au.autodesk.com/au-online/classes-on-demand/class-catalog/2015/class-detail/11906#chapter=2 

I think the aerospace examples have proven that 3D printing or additive manufacturing can cope with high quality standards as found in the aviation area. Even with large lots to manufacture.

Coming back to materials management.
Let`s think about less complex and less regulated areas of business than aerospace and its norms.
Cars are using more and more plastics in their interior/exterior or engine parts. Cheaper 3D printing technology like Fused Deposit Modeling (FDM) which is a known technology from consumer grade printers could cope with the demand of these manufactured parts.
Currently the spare parts logistics are pretty advanced and deliver on a “next day” delivery schedule or faster. Being that fast it is pretty expensive to speed up that process. A solution could be to print the spare parts directly at the repair shop. The digital delivery of the file could be done in a blink of an eye and since the method of printing is relatively new there is a possibility of speeding up the printing process.  

Or if other 3D printing processes are rising they might be faster than existing ones.
Watch the speech of Joseph DeSimone at TED about “What if 3D printing was 100x faster”
https://www.ted.com/talks/joe_desimone_what_if_3d_printing_was_25x_faster

 

A print on demand at the point of usage would change materials management and handling drastically.
Less stock, less transport logistics, less costs.

 

Let`s see what the next 18 month will bring.

 

Sources:

Airbus: 3D printing: Building from the inside
http://www.airbusgroup.com/int/en/story-overview/factory-of-the-future.html#chapter-05 

Airbus: Pioneering bionic 3D printing
http://www.airbusgroup.com/int/en/story-overview/Pioneering-bionic-3D-printing.html

APWorks:Shaping the future
http://www.airbusgroup.com/int/en/news-media/corporate-magazine/Forum-87/apworks.html  

Jeff Kowalski inspiring speach at Autodesk University in 2015
ttp://au.autodesk.com/au-online/classes-on-demand/class-catalog/2015/class-detail/11906#chapter=2 

3D Printing Industry
http://3dprintingindustry.com/2016/01/04/airbus-is-ready-for-3d-printing-industrialization-in-2016-peter-sander-reveals/

Innovative 3D printing solutions are “taking shape” within Airbus
http://www.airbus.com/newsevents/news-events-single/detail/innovative-3d-printing-solutions-are-taking-shape-within-airbus/  

Materialise is Now Supplying Airbus with 3D Printed Parts for A350 XWB Planes
https://3dprint.com/106132/materialise-airbus-a350-xwb/

New Airbus A350 XWB Aircraft Contains Over 1,000 3D Printed Parts
https://3dprint.com/63169/airbus-a350-xwb-3d-print/

MIT Technology Review: E, the world’s largest manufacturer, is on the verge of using 3-D printing to make jet parts.
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/513716/additive-manufacturing/

GE KPI overview; 100k additive parts will be manufactured by GE Aviation by 2020; 300+ 3D printing Machines currenly in use across GE
http://www.ge.com/stories/advanced-manufacturing

Speech of Joseph DeSimone at TED about “What if 3D printing was 100x faster”
https://www.ted.com/talks/joe_desimone_what_if_3d_printing_was_25x_faster

 

 

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