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 fourth and final study, “Organising Production Technology Into Most Responsive States – 3D Print Machine Enabled Networks (OPTIMOS PRIME)”, which is being led by Prof. Duncan McFarlane at the University of Cambridge and involving researchers at both Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh.
A major challenge for manufacturing supply networks is that of making operations lean for cost and efficiency reasons while at the same time maintaining a level of responsiveness that enables the organisation to respond to changing demands for customised products and requests for spares and repairs, along with demonstrate resilience to delays in the supply base in manufacturing operations. This project will examine the possibility of integrating 3D printing (and more broadly additive manufacturing) into conventional production environments, exploiting the ability of 3D printing to provide a rapid response customisation capability to supplement existing facilities. In particular it will focus on how the technology can be used to underpin spares and repair services which are often at odds with mainstream production.
The objectives of the project include the development of a simple control architecture that integrates multiple production sites including 3D printing systems; a demonstration system that explores the feasibility of effectively integrating conventional and 3D printing to support late customisation, spares and repairs requests and small batch orders; and an approach for assessing the potential for using a mixed convention / 3rd party 3D printing approach for different industrial conditions. It is anticipated that the information architecture developed for the management of these different facilities will be cloud-based, allowing for a common management and control system to be deployed across multiple sites.