Additive manufacturing’s role in Industry 4.0
Real time data processing, M2M communication, flexible manufacturing processes and high degree of customization could revolutionize how products are and will be manufactured.
Additive manufacturing has evolved rapidly over the last few decades and today there are a wide variety of commercialized additive manufacturing processes. They are most commonly referred to as 3D printing or 3DP.
Fundamentally additive manufacturing starts with electronic/digital data file for the product (CAD), data and product design is optimized for the additive manufacturing process. This optimized data package is then sent to the additive manufacturing machine which either prints the part layer by layer.
Additive manufacturing advantages
Additive Manufacturing (AM) offers a wide variety of advantages over the conventional manufacturing (CM) process
- Most CM processes are “subtractive processes” which requires the use of excess material (commonly referred to as engineered waste) to manufacture the products or part. AM process also requires excess material in the form of construction supports however the percentage of the “engineered waste” is significantly reduced.
- In general CM processes require higher number of process steps where AM technology now has evolved to hybrid machines where multiple process steps can be combined in one equipment.
- Customization and flexibility is feasible for CM processes however the overall investments in time and capital are significantly higher than what AM can offer
- CM processes typically rely on overall scale to achieve lower manufacturing costs where AM utilizes high degree of digitization and automation to eliminate various costs
Additive Manufacturing limitations
- Material selection and physical properties
- Manufacturing processes are still being refined
- Solutions for high volume production are still being developed, etc..
Additive Manufacturing History
Additive Manufacturing began in 1984 Chuck Hall developed stereolithographic process where a UV laser sintered/cured a resin layer by layer. The process repeated as each layer is fully formed until the desired product/part is completed.
Additive Manufacturing Latest Developments
- 5 Emerging metal 3D printing technologies
- 3D printing of carbon fiber
- 3D printing Cellulose, most abundant organic polymer
- UK’s MTC partnership with Stratsys
Additive Manufacturing and Industry 4.0
The additive manufacturing process is fundamentally based on digital M2M communication and hence will play a pivotal role in the future of manufacturing processes. The Aerospace, Automotive and Medical industries has already embraced AM for many aspects however many other industries are looking at AM for revolutionary uses.
NASA is reviewing using AM for “making” tools needed for space exploration vs carrying them. Main stream automakers are thinking about using AM for high degree of customization and reducing the product development lead times. Medical device manufacturers are considering highly customized and personalized medical devices.
Companies like Local Motors is re-imagining how automobiles are built by localizing the production facility and 3D printing a large number of the components.
Industry 4.0 will result in cyber-physical-systems where real time data is shared and decisions, controls and priorities are updated from upstream and downstream processes and machines.
Additive Manufacturing process with it’s digital fundamentals is best suited to capitalize on the implementation requirements of Industry 4.0.
Additive Manufacturing of the future
Digital information will be securely shared about the demand for a product or parts, along with process steps and processing parameters – such as type of material, process speed, post build operations, etc.. The cyber-physical-system will also include downstream processes such as dimensional and aesthetic confirmation. It is highly feasible that the entire product or part will be finished with minimal intervention.
Data security and traceability will be paramount to ensure that AM products and parts meet the ever demanding industry requirements.
One of the challenge with the implementation of industry 4.0 is to ensure that the vast amounts of data is used suitable tasks; for example closed loop control of machines, predictive maintenance, process step parameter alteration and life-cycle quality, as well as resource optimization.
Additive manufacturing, however, clearly has an advantage to compress time-to-market of products and is, therefore, is a competitiveness-enhancing technology.
AM is evolving rapidly and it’s penetration rate is creating a compelling business case for addition investments by businesses and governments. Development of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication for AM is of critical importance in order to be able to most effectively harness the capabilities of AM by the implementation of more effective closed loop control, process data analytics and secure file transfer, as well as robust upstream and downstream process integration.
The author, KetanDeshpande, lives in Minnesota and writes about a variety of topics in his blog such as global economy, market and industry trends, successful strategies for businesses, and others. Leveraging his global strategic leadership experience from the manufacturing industry to offer insights in to how businesses can meet the sustainable growth and profitability goals.
Ketan Deshpande is also passionate about sustainability and renewable energy; he curates and shares latest updates in his blog posts. Recently the Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency(SMMPA) of Litchfield, Minnesota, endorsed Ketan Deshpande for an energy conservation project.
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Blog by Ketan Deshpande, Minnesota, MN
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