Tag Archives: manufacturing

Energy Resilient Manufacturing

The deadline for the submission of Expressions of Interest to the EPSRC’s “Energy Resilient Manufacturing” call was today. Here at Bit by Bit we realised that we should submit something given the overlap between the call and additive manufacturing, and the relatively low effort involved in submitting a proposal.

As the call described:

Research ideas should have the potential to revolutionise the usage and management of energy in the manufacturing industry, significantly reducing the need for energy as an input to the manufacturing process and/or increasing the resilience of manufacturing to uncertainties in the energy supply.

Developing some initial ideas led to five project ideas, three of which spoke directly to 3D printing. We expanded upon these three ideas as far as possible within the very short word limit of the Expression of Interest form. Here are the three proposals we developed, each of which provides (1) a summary of the idea, and (2) an explanation of how the idea fits the scope of the call.

Proposal 1

Idea: 3D printing allows the on-demand manufacture of customised products. How does its potential for more localised production, lower design complexity and replacement parts help decouple economic growth from energy consumption?

Fit to call scope: The adoption of 3D printing by UK industry could transform supply chains and dramatically reduce energy consumption across the manufacturing network. More localised production and lower design complexity will create shorter supply chains, with the reduced number of production and transportation stages leading to step-changes in energy consumption.

Proposal 2

Idea: How does the distributed and localised nature of 3D printing improve UK manufacturing’s resilience to energy disruptions? This project will focus on the manufacturing flexibility offered by 3D printing.

Fit to call scope: Individual, smaller-scale 3D printing sites have lower energy requirements than conventional manufacturing. A distributed network of 3D printing sites could allow production to be better matched to available energy supply, thereby improving the resilience of UK manufacturing to disruptions in energy supply.

Proposal 3

Idea: 3D printing allows replacement components to be produced at lower cost, enabling repairs that were previously economically unattractive. Remanufacturing and service-based business models with lower energy requirements may be realised.

Fit to call scope: Extending product life through the use of 3D printed replacement components reduces the need for new products to be manufactured, significantly reducing energy consumption in the manufacturing system. The 3D printing of replacement components may enable a ‘design for repair’ ethos and new service-based business models to emerge.

While we think that each of these are worth exploring, we were unfortunately limited to the submission of just one proposal. Of the three it was Proposal 1 that we decided to submit. We now wait to see if we’re accepted to pitch our project idea at one of the events later this month.

Image source: http://white-white.deviantart.com/art/Energy-255906119

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Where’s 3D printing now?

There’s an excellent interview in the November 2013 issue of TCT Magazine with the founder and CEO of EOS, Dr Hans Langer. For us as researchers it’s a great look into the history of one of the pioneering AM equipment manufacturers.

One of the things we hope to do during this project is to gain a realistic perspective on how 3D printing will affect manufacturing. There’s been considerable media hype around consumer-grade 3D printing, something that Dr Langer addressed in the interview.

“Consumer 3D printing is still at the peak of the inflated expectations, whereas industrial 3D printing has already been through this and is now climbing the slope to ‘enlightenment’. Consumer technologies are very interesting because they introduce people early on to the thought processes behind layer manufacturing. In the early days a lot of our work with customers was changing their expectations and teaching them how to design for the layer-by-layer process. Nowadays more engineers are familiar with the benefits and the constraints and in future we hope this won’t be an issue for us!”

As he comments, education is an important element in gaining acceptance for a new technology, both in terms of educating customers as to the potential of the technology, as well as how to use and get the greatest benefits from the technology. The shift from rapid prototyping to direct manufacturing has also meant a need to gain production acceptance . It’s now less about the freedoms that additive manufacturing delivers and more about meeting the benchmarks set by other manufacturing technologies and then doing something extra. As EOS CMO Dr Adrian Keppler comments:

“In the past a user of an additive manufacturing system would look at the parts from their machine and say ‘this part looks nice, I can use it.’ Now they want the right material, mechanical properties and even microstructure that is available from their existing techniques with the freedom of the AM process as well. We now have to combine something known, such [as] casting, forging, milling with the characteristics only available to AM”

What we’re seeing is something that the Kano model helps explain. The design freedom that a 3D printer can provide is a delighter feature – but to be adopted in a production environment then it’s also got to be able to satisfy the basic production requirements and be comparable in terms of performance (ie throughput).

Image source: http://www.eos.info/about_eos/history