Additive manufacturing applications in your production equipment: an essential intermediate step

Companies are increasingly aware of the advantages offered by additive manufacturing (AM). The first steps have been taken, but the business model allowing AM to drive innovation often lies far ahead into the future. An excellent intermediate step is to integrate AM into the production equipment. 

Limited to prototypes 

AM is currently used widely in the development of prototypes. The technology allows companies to gather a lot of knowledge at the development stage where the risks tend to be lower. The ultimate dream of these companies is to eventually print the end products in 3D. For many companies this is an enormous step: insufficient know-how, or excessive investment risks often form the barriers. 

Applying to the production equipment 

It is a good idea to use AM technology in conjunction with production equipment. Within the four walls of the company you can acquire experience with the technology by initially 3D printing components for the production machinery, or the production tools and devices. This helps to lower the investment risks while you learn more about deploying the technology over a wider range of applications, and without having to invest in 3D printers as production machinery. 

Integration with production equipment 

This also launches the dream of effectively printing end products in 3D. The 3D printers themselves then become an effective component of production equipment and can be combined with other production technologies. However, some research and development is needed in order to integrate 3D printing optimally with the rest of the production equipment. This would appear to be the path that industry is taking to achieve effective production with 3D printing. 

The increasing popularity of this approach can also be seen in Gartner’s ‘Hype Cycle’ for upcoming technologies: in 2014 and 2015 more AM applications were found within the context of production than in the area of product development. Sirris also sees a reflection of this trend and is increasingly asked about issues such as industrial 3D printing, 3D printing and the supply chain, or the protection of intellectual property and 3D printing.  

Gartner’s ‘Hype Cycle’ illustrates the increasing application of AM in production processes 

Towards innovative and efficient business models                                           

Once sustainable integration of AM in your production is complete, you will have built up the necessary knowledge and experience. The supply chain will be shorter, you will be able to produce small series more cost efficiently and your stocks will be lower. Although these advantages alone will not necessarily make your products better, stronger or perform better. 

In order to make growth and innovation actually happen, you will have to analyse all the possibilities available with AM within your own production development.  Only by anchoring AM onto the two axes of production and product development will you be able to evolve a business model in which you are able to benefit from all the advantages offered by AM. In other words: AM production in combination with new products is a step towards the development of innovative business models that have greater levels of added value. And this is exactly where Sirris can offer you full support. 

Helping you
More than 20 Sirris experts with years of experience and extensive know-how are ready to help you on your way. Please contact us.
In our annual report for 2015 you can find out how Belgian companies together with Sirris have integrated AM into their processes.