New technologies around 3-D printing are creating great opportunities for manufacturers to produce parts and products on-demand. 3-D printing will reduce inventory costs while increasing production speed, especially as new materials enable 3-D printing to become even more flexible.
Thank you to Accenture Digital for presenting this episode.
3D Printing and the Product Lifecycle
3-D printing is having a significant impact on product lifecycle management. Manufacturers are looking at using 3-D printing for additive manufacturing and are now able to create unique customized products for their customers.
3-D printing allows a company to build new designs for prototyping, manufacturing, tooling, and custom products that they were not able to do in the past, given this new capability of on-demand printing.
One of the things that we’ve been exploring is looking at how 3-D printing can be used not just in creating end-consumer products, but also creating opportunities for spare parts and maintenance. We’ve created something called the Printability Index, which helps a company understand which of their products could be 3-D printed more cost effectively. That takes into account of things like the size of the product, material out of which the product is made, how often that product is used, and what the holding costs are for that inventory.
When you think about spare parts, companies are now able to evaluate whether or not 3-D printing will be more effective or not. And the same goes for manufacturing customized end consumer products. With something called “ultra-postponement,” manufacturers are now able to postpone the production of a product until a customer places the order. And then they can print these products on demand, precisely the way a customer is looking for that product.
It’s an extremely powerful concept. As the technology matures, it provides increased speed with new materials that we’re able to print in: metals, advanced plastics, even organic materials. As the accuracy of this printing improves, we’ll be able to 3-D print or additive manufacture more and more products.
Some of the challenges that we need to look out for include optimizing for this new manufacturing capability. Being able to decide between traditional manufacturing, and when you should evaluate or use 3-D printing. We’re starting to create models around that take into account the amount of demand that’s coming for the product and the cost of printing, manufacturing, and holding that product, to predict if the company can use 3-D printing.
As the advances in this area continue, we think there’s a tremendous opportunity, and we actually see this as one of the most disruptive technologies in the manufacturing or product lifecycle management areas.