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Pathfinding Flexible Manufacturing

MAR 29, 2018

Raise3D strives for Pathfinding for Flexible Manufacturing.

Raise3D is launching the Pro2 Series: a new series of printers developed with industrial-grade components, to be used flawlessly in Flexible Manufacturing solutions based on desktop 3D printing systems.
In the appearance, Pro2 Series look very much alike N2 Series, but we are talking about two different grades of printers.
The Pro2 Series printers are one of the fastest in dual printing, the accuracy is 16x higher than the market standard, usability is greatly improved, and its reliability will be a differentiating factor in the segment.
Even if the N2 Series has been acclaimed as a top printer in its category, a tremendous effort was put to take the Pro2 Series to the next level. We can confidently say that new printers are the cream of the crop and are ready to Pathfind Flexible Manufacturing.
In our roadmap, also being relevant for our vision, will be the offering from late September of Raise3D Corporate Package Services; and by the end of 2018, the first customized solutions for selected Vertical Markets. This will conclude the first stage of our vision to Pathfind Flexible Manufacturing.

 

Why is Flexible Manufacturing so important?

The quality-of-life during the 20th Century improved as never before. Today, in most modern societies, people live longer and happier than before. The modernization of society increased the demand for high quality and low-cost products, for which mass production was the answer.
Mass production improved our lives, but it came with a heavy burden: to produce a high standardization and rigid processes were required. Due to mass production, it is very common to see people of different countries, cultures, life-style or beliefs using the same exact products, despite their deep cultural differences. This process happened much to the benefit of customers, who saw their purchase power growing rapidly and adapted to a more consumerist lifestyle.
Over the last decade, however, several factors are changing the way we think, act and do. From the previous globalized thinking that was shaping society, we are now living a world of increasing individual expression, where most people want and can express themselves as unique individuals. This process is creating a demand for exclusive and original products and experiences.
This rapid changing of consumer preferences puts under heavy pressure the standard large and rigid batches required by mass production. About 40 years ago, industries like steel or clothing went already through a process of reducing the scale of production to gain flexibility. But most manufacturing was still waiting for the disruption that could bring economic sense to smaller batch production.
The answer is now arriving with the general adoption of Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3D Printing) in manufacturing.
Additive Manufacturing is making it possible to address a high level of customization at a reasonable cost and with high quality. Additive Manufacturing can be used for rapid prototyping, for bridge manufacturing, or even as for production, as it can often be the most convenient manufacturing option.
The business case for using Additive Manufacturing over traditional manufacturing is clear[1]:

[1] This is a general analysis. The analysis may be different for a specific manufacturing process

For the coming years, traditional manufacturing is likely to keep being the option for high volume production with standardization. When it comes to lower volume batches, however, 3D printers already beat traditional manufacturing – and the break-even batch size is rising.
Additive Manufacturing will undoubtedly play a significant role in future manufacturing. But there are still some barriers to overcome that may be slowing the adoption. Changing efficient and certified processes, like those of traditional manufacturing, entails a deep analysis of the alternatives, that requires:

Knowing the existing product and process certifications;
Understanding the implications of the whole manufacturing process;
Knowing final product mechanical performance;
Ensuring stability in the supply chain;
Analyzing AQL data.

The Additive Manufacturing Industry is working on these factors, but they certainly remain a reason to hold much of the change to happen, in particular when the ticket to start using Additive Manufacturing is still somehow high.

While we all move along this learning curve, there is one level of Additive Manufacturing that may soon facilitate and be part of that transition: Desktop FDM 3D Print Factories or, as we call it, Flexible Manufacturing.

Flexible Manufacturing systems allow the creation of affordable (from 50K USD) manufacturing capacity, that can be efficient for batch sizes from 1 till a few thousand, easy to learn, easy to maintain, easy to upgrade and easy to scale-up.

Flexible Manufacturing pushes to the limit the advantages of Additive Manufacturing, by offering high flexibility also in terms of:

Materials and Colors used;
Parallel production of parts of different materials;
Parallel production of different batch sizes.

Besides playing a role of its own for lower batch sizes, Flexible Manufacturing can be a safe and sound entry-level to Industrial Additive Manufacturing.

 

Smart Manufacturing and Flexible Manufacturing

Flexible Manufacturing is also an essential component of Smart Manufacturing.
According to Deloitte University Press, “The smart factory is a flexible system that can self-optimize performance across a broader network, self-adapt to and learn from new conditions in real or near-real time, and autonomously run entire production processes. (…) The concept of adopting and implementing a smart factory solution can feel complicated, even insurmountable. However, rapid technology changes and trends have made the shift toward a more flexible, adaptive production system almost imperative for manufacturers who wish to either remain competitive or disrupt their competition.”

Also Agnieszka Radziwo, Arne Bilberga, Marcel Bogersa, Erik Skov Madsenb, in their paper “The Smart Factory: Exploring Adaptive and Flexible Manufacturing Solutions define Smart Factory as “a manufacturing solution that provides such flexible and adaptive production processes that will solve problems arising on a production facility with dynamic and rapidly changing boundary conditions in a world of increasing complexity.”
So, Flexibility is a key driver for the Smart Factory.
In Sculpteo’s “The State of 3D Printing – Edition 2017”, respondents of their questionnaire pointed “offering customized product and limited series” and “increasing production flexibility” as top priorities related with 3D Printing:

And according to a Jabil-sponsored 3D Printing Trends survey, “Most manufacturing stakeholders (93%) report that they expect growth, including 38% that expect to at least double their use of 3D printing for production parts and 19% that expect their product use to increase dramatically by a factor of 5 or more.”

Being ready for Flexible Manufacturing will soon be a key competitive factor.

Are you prepared for the transition?
If you want to know how Flexible Manufacturing can create value for your Corporation, contact us to inquiry@Raise3D.com