Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: The enabling role of 3DP in redistributed manufacturing: A total cost model

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2015. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we introduce the second study, “The enabling role of 3DP in redistributed manufacturing: A total cost model”, which is being led by Dr Martin Baumers at the University of Nottingham.

The diffusion of 3D Printing (3DP) is creating an environment in which manufacturing innovation is flourishing. While the technical feasibility of redistributed manufacturing through 3DP has been demonstrated across many industry sectors, its economic foundations are not fully understood. At present, manufacturing supply chains are based on the logic of sourcing components from external suppliers, which often are globally distributed. 3DP offers the ability to bring both the manufacturing operation, as well as the component supply chain, close to the point of consumption.

The ability to regain, or reshore, manufacturing through 3DP, however, depends on a favourable business case. At present key variables underpinning this business case are not fully measured and understood. This project sets out to develop a total cost model for 3DP manufacturing operations, as a fundamental precursor to defining viable businesses cases for redistributed, as well as novel, manufacturing applications.

To date costing approaches of 3DP have largely focused on investments (i.e. capital expenditure) and consumables (i.e. materials). Analyses of these “well-structured costs” have observed that fully utilising the available machine capacity forms a prerequisite for efficient operations. This principle is shared with traditional manufacturing, which exhibits significant economies of scale, and as a result, global supply chains.

This stands in contrast to 3DP where the underlying reason for the different requirements towards full utilisation is that 3DP is inherently parallel. Moreover, existing analyses of 3DP resource consumption have largely ignored hidden or so-called “ill-structured” costs relating to build failure and ancillary manual processes, such as part finishing and support removal, and, perhaps most importantly, cost relating to or unintended product variation. This omission has come at the expense of industrial applicability, also leading to a lack of realistic decision tools for the support of 3DP technology adoption, which are an essential prerequisite for adoption and successful diffusion. This project therefore proposes to conduct a series of experiments to establish the empirical parameters needed to develop a realistic and comprehensive costing model fundamental to redistributed 3DP.

This feasibility study aims to reconcile two clusters of research questions of particular interest for the diffusion of 3DP in redistributed manufacturing settings. Firstly, it is necessary to establish an understanding of 3DP as a parallel digitally integrated manufacturing technology capable of operating in a redistributed setting. Improved cost models will describe configurations minimising overall monetary cost, energy consumption, and in many cases also waste caused by unintended variation. Secondly, unlike conventional manufacturing, the parallel and digital design-driven nature of 3DP also gives rise to network effects in 3DP. Network externalities can improve the value, or benefit, of an individual process as the installed base of such platforms increases. Both clusters are vital to understanding the viability of platform-type 3DP operations in redistributed settings.

This study will be conducted by three partners: the Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Group at the University of Nottingham, the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, and Digits2Widgets.

The project is led by Dr Martin Baumers, Research Fellow at the 3D Printing Research Group within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham. His research interests are the financial cost and energy consumption of various additive processes as well as the benefits that can be derived from adopting Additive Manufacturing. Martin concentrates on the development of novel approaches to production costing, process energy consumption modelling, automated build volume packing and product complexity measurement. In 2012, he completed a PhD on the economics of additive manufacturing. Since then, he has written a number of academic papers and media articles on the topic and has contributed to additive manufacturing projects in aerospace, automotive and the medical sector as a researcher. He was awarded the Best Research Paper Award at the Sustainable Design & Manufacturing Conference in 2014 for his paper “Is there a relationship between product shape complexity and process energy consumption in Additive Manufacturing?” This feasibility study is his first as a principal investigator.

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Strategic Technology & Innovation Management Research Day – 2nd June, Cambridge

The Centre for Technology Management at the Institute for Manufacturing in Cambridge is holding a free to attend Research Day with industry in order to generate research insights into the following six strategic technology and innovation management topics:

  • Keeping roadmapping alive
  • Testing a supply chain collaboration roadmap toolkit
  • Post-processing and analysis of roadmapping workshop outputs
  • Identifying critical decisions for technology development projects
  • Valuation workshop – enrichments and headstarts
  • Portfolio balancing: an analysis of practical methods used in manufacturing-oriented companies

In each session, the lead researcher will introduce their current research activity in the area and frame a discussion within the topic. Participants will benefit from engaging in and influencing early stage research, meeting like-minded individuals, and learning from the experiences of other participants.

More information about the event and registration details can be found here.

Abstract submission to Cleaner Production conference

The Global Cleaner Production & Sustainable Consumption Conference is currently accepting submissions of abstracts until 29th May. Together with IfM colleagues Mélanie Despeisse and Anna Viljakainen, Bit by Bit researcher Simon Ford has submitted the following abstract to the conference.

Extending product life through additive manufacturing: The sustainability implications

Novel combinations of advanced production processes and business models offer opportunities for more sustainable production and consumption. One of these production processes, additive manufacturing (AM, also known as 3D printing), has been proclaimed as a revolutionary technology that will transform the industrial landscape. By creating products layer-by-layer it mimics biological processes and is inherently more resource efficient than traditional subtractive methods of production.

Adopting AM has a number of sustainability benefits. The technology can allows companies to redesign and simplify components, products and processes for dematerialisation; be more material, energy and cost efficient in various life cycle stages; customise products according to customer preferences; extend product life through repair and remanufacturing; move towards service-based business models; decouple social and economic value creation from environmental impact; and embrace circular economy concepts.

A growing number of examples can be found of products that are being redesigned for AM to become more resource efficient. However the number of documented cases at other lifecycle stages is sparse. In this paper we focus on one of these neglected stages, the repair, refurbishment and remanufacture lifecycle stage to ask:

How can the application of additive manufacturing enable product life extension?

AM can create new business opportunities for reuse, repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing but companies are only just beginning to discover the implications of using this technology on extending product life cycles and closing the loop. We propose that AM may be best exploited through the adoption of service-based business models. Such business models align business and sustainability interests, thereby decoupling the social and economic value created from the environmental impacts of production and consumption. Within the primary research question we therefore investigate the following sub-questions:

  • How are companies using additive manufacturing to repair, refurbish and remanufacture products?
  • How is additive manufacturing facilitating service-based business models?
  • How do such service-based business models extend product life?

To answer these questions we adopt a case study-based approach of companies that have implemented AM. Our preliminary findings indicate that the availability of AM is changing how organisations approach the repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing of products and leading to the adoption of business models in which product life is extended.

AM enables product life extension through the design of more durable products and components. The GE LEAP engine which comes into production in 2016 will include AM components that are five times more durable than those currently used. Another way AM can extend product life is the make-to-order model. In this model inventory waste is minimised as spare parts can be produced locally only when needed, with lower energy intensity processes. This is particularly the case with modular and upgradable components, which are inherently more easily replaced. Early examples include Bell Helicopter and Hoover. Bell Helicopter has started to produce spare components for its environmental control systems using AM. Meanwhile, Hoover has begun to release selected 3D model files for some attachments and components through the online 3D printing portal, Thingiverse.

AM enables the extension of product life through remanufacturing existing products. Caterpillar is at the forefront of remanufacturing and has been using additive cold spray techniques in its engine remanufacturing for many years. Caterpillar manages to recover 94% of engine products at their end-of-life. Following the use of AM to remanufacture the engine components, remanufactured engines can be sold in which less than 40% of the components are new.

The availability of AM technologies for repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing creates incentives for companies to adopt service-based business models. Such business models can align sustainability and business needs. For example, they have proven highly profitability for companies in the aerospace sector where providing maintenance services allows the manufacturer to satisfy its customers’ needs for a high level of flight utilisation. Rolls-Royce is famed for its “Power by the Hour” approach. Applying AM further enhances its service-based business model because it allows repairs to be conducted more locally, quickly and cost effectively.

Through examining and reviewing these and further cases, this paper will provide a typology of the ways through which AM can enable product life extension, along with the benefits and challenges of the various approaches.

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Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: Investigating the Impact of CAD Data Transfer Standards for 3DP-RDM

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2015. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we begin with the first study, “Investigating the Impact of CAD Data Transfer Standards for 3DP-RDM”, which is being led by Dr Eujin Pei (pictured) at Brunel University.

Additive Manufacturing is set to play a vital role in the Re-Distributed Manufacturing landscape. The paradigm shift towards a decentralised approach of cloud manufacturing and dynamic production requires tighter standardisation and efficient interfaces between CAD data and Additive Manufacturing. In parallel with technology advancements, it is important to consider the digital chain of information. Although a plethora of CAD formats exist, only some are used for data transfer. The problem is that a true CAD data transfer standard for a 3DP-RDM ecosystem does not exist. The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of CAD data transfer standards within the 3DP-RDM landscape.

This will be achieved in three phases. In the first phase, a literature review will be conducted to understand the data flow from CAD to the process of Additive Manufacturing. In the second phase, we will examine AMF, STEP and STEP-NC formats that are most widely adopted and to investigate the advantages, disadvantages, similarities and differences of these standards. In the final phase, we will interview industry leaders and experts to obtain feedback. Through this survey, we aim to identify the beneficiaries of 3DP-RDM CAD data transfer standards; and which CAD data transfer standard has the greatest competitive advantage for a future 3DP-RDM landscape. We will also investigate the opportunities and requirements for open architecture data transfer standards.

About Eujin

Eujin works as a full-time academic within the Department of Design at Brunel University in the UK. He is the Convenor for the International Standards Organisation (ISO) Technical Committee for Data and Design Guidelines for Additive Manufacture; and Committee Member for British Standards Institution (BSI) AMT/8 for Additive Manufacturing, and BS8888 and BS8887. He is the Associate Editor for the Journal of Assembly Automation, and a Guest Editor for an upcoming Special Issue of the Rapid Prototyping Journal. For further information about this project or to engage in the feasibility study please contact him.

Results of the 3DP-RDM feasibility study competition

As previously reported, 34 submissions across a wide range of disciplines were received in response to our call for feasibility study proposals. Following a rigorous review process, we are delighted to announce that the following four studies have been selected for funding:

  1. Investigating the Impact of CAD Data Transfer Standards for 3DP-RDM – Dr Eujin Pei, Brunel University
  2. OPTIMOS PRIME: Organising Production Technology Into MOst Responsive States – 3D PRInt Machine Enabled Networks – Prof. Duncan McFarlane, University of Cambridge, and Edinburgh University
  3. The enabling role of 3DP in redistributed manufacturing: A total cost model – Dr Martin Baumers, University of Nottingham, and University of Oxford
  4. Redistributing Material Supply Chains for 3D printing – Dr Matthias Holweg, University of Oxford

Congratulations go to the teams that submitted these proposals. We’ll provide more information on the blog about each of these projects in due course.

We’re disappointed that we couldn’t fund more than these four projects. However we will be running a second feasibility study competition in 2016 and hope to receive further high quality proposals.

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