Q&A: Unlock a Bright Future With 3D Printing

Q&A: Unlock a Bright Future With 3D Printing

Mar 19, 2019

By Manufacturing.net Ben Schwauren, CTO and co-founder of Oqton, discusses how even the smallest advancements in 3D printing can unlock a bright future for factories that meets new industry demands. Manufacturing.net: How can additive manufacturing lead to a more agile operation? Ben Schrauwen: There are a few key ways that additive manufacturing can result in a more agile manufacturing operation. One commonly discussed is that additive hardware ‘doesn’t care’ about what it’s creating. A 3D printer generates thousands of unique pieces at an equal effort it takes to generate thousands of identical pieces. This allows manufacturers to remove cost and time barriers when setting up production, particularly for smaller batch sizes. Further, the complexity of a part is not an issue in an additive process. For example, parts with internal structures can be additively built as one piece, rather than multiple pieces that require assembly as via other methods, speeding production and also reducing opportunity for failure or error. The other important way that additive lends agility is in its ability to support rapid iteration. Small changes to the design file can immediately be implemented in the produced part, offering manufacturers increased opportunity to test, iterate and bring more valuable products to market, quicker. Manufacturing.net: What would it take (skill, training, expense, etc) to see 3D printing at work in factories? Ben Schrauwen: Additive technology has been at work in prototyping labs for decades, but it’s struggled to drop cost in order to make the shift into the production environment. Cost of the machine currently accounts for between 60 to 80 percent of total metal production AM expenses. But cost continues to decrease and machine quality increases as more competition enters the market. A bigger issue is that the machines and accompanying software tools are too hard to use, requiring lengthy training including expensive trial-and-error in order to become familiar. Additive tools have to become smarter on their own in order to take the burden off their operators. Skilled engineers shouldn’t have to repeatedly work through the same issues because the hardware or software isn’t intuitive. Manufacturing.net: What changes can we expect to see in the industry if there is greater adoption of 3D printing?...

Welding breakthrough could transform manufacturing

Welding breakthrough could transform manufacturing

Mar 7, 2019

By Heriot-Watt University Featured on Phys.org Scientists from Heriot-Watt University have welded glass and metal together using an ultrafast laser system, in a breakthrough for the manufacturing industry. arious optical materials such as quartz, borosilicate glass and even sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like aluminium, titanium and stainless steel using the Heriot-Watt laser system, which provides very short, picosecond pulses of infrared light in tracks along the materials to fuse them together. The new process could transform the manufacturing sector and have direct applications in the aerospace, defence, optical technology and even healthcare fields. Professor Duncan Hand, director of the five-university EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said: “Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties—the high temperatures and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter. “Being able to weld glass and metals together will be a huge step forward in manufacturing and design flexibility. “At the moment, equipment and products that involve glass and metal are often held together by adhesives, which are messy to apply and parts can gradually creep, or move. Outgassing is also an issue—organic chemicals from the adhesive can be gradually released and can lead to reduced product lifetime. “The process relies on the incredibly short pulses from the laser. These pulses last only a few picoseconds—a picosecond to a second is like a second compared to 30,000 years. “The parts to be welded are placed in close contact, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two materials—we achieved megawatt peak power over an area just a few microns across. “This creates a microplasma, like a tiny ball of lightning, inside the material, surrounded by a highly-confined melt region. “We tested the welds at -50C to 90C and the welds remained intact, so we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions.” Read more...

Robots could bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

Robots could bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

Mar 6, 2019

By Robert Dalheim, Woodworking Network How could robots potentially bring jobs back to the U.S.? If American companies invest in them. Industrial automation robots improve factory productivity, maximize repeatability, drastically reduce errors, and lower long-term costs. As more companies adopt automation technology, a vast amount of workers are expected to lose their jobs. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that up to 800 million global workers will lose their jobs by 2030 because of robotic automation. The study, which assessed 46 countries and 800 occupations, found that one-fifth of the global workforce will be affected. Industrial, richer nations could see one-third of their workforces displaced. But robotic and tech industry executives say robots can help the U.S. reshore jobs, especially from low-cost countries like China. How? American companies who adopt robotic automation will have an advantage over their Chinese competitors because of relative wage rates. Robots will cost the same for both Chinese and American companies but Chinese companies will benefit less as their labor cost advantage is lessened. “Despite the fact that automation will continue to eliminate some low and mid-skill jobs, it decreases cost and restores competitive advantage, making more reshoring possible,” says the Reshoring Initiative (RI), an organization focused on bringing jobs back to the U.S. “More reshoring and less offshoring means more manufacturing jobs.” “Automation helps developed countries more than developing countries,” RI continues. “Automation reduces the labor hours required to produce goods and shifts the mix toward higher skilled workers. Compared to China, the wage gap is smaller at higher skill levels. Additionally, automation can actually be more costly in China because machinery is subject to their Value Added Tax.” Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of robot maker ABB, is an executive hopeful about automation and reshoring. “Automation technology can help U.S. factories get production costs to Chinese levels,” he told Barron’s Business. There may be fewer workers in a factory, but there was no factory before, Barron’s summarized. The cost of robots is less than a dollar an hour, says tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa. He says an entire economy could be built with highly automated robots. The Reshoring Initiative says the impact of automation on jobs is exaggerated thus far. For the last two...

Disruptive Technologies Are Changing Automakers’ Needs…

Disruptive Technologies Are Changing Automakers’ Needs…

Feb 19, 2019

“Disruptive Technologies Are Changing Automakers’ Needs, Creating Opportunities for Suppliers” Autonomous, electric, and connected vehicles require new designs, new suppliers By Mark Shortt, Design-2-Part Magazine   Carmakers in North America, Europe, and Asia are doing a lot of things today that they’ve never done, or even attempted to do, before. When you consider that the crown jewel of their research and development efforts—self-driving cars—is rewriting the rules of how cars are designed, manufactured, and used, that starts to make more sense. “When you look at autonomous driving, it still is amazing to me that you could sit in a car and it drives itself,” said Ken Beller, vice president of sales and marketing at The Weiss-Aug Group, a group of manufacturing companies headquartered in East Hanover, New Jersey. “It stops at red lights and parks itself, and that’s truly amazing.” Self-driving, or autonomous, cars are part of a larger trend currently sweeping the global automotive industry: the development of what are known as ACES—automated, connected, electric, and shared—vehicles. In a major announcement last March, General Motors said that it plans to begin producing self-driving cars, without steering wheels or pedals, in 2019. Along with the car, GM plans to start a commercial service centered on an app that enables people to hail rides. General Motors said that the car, the Cruise AV (autonomous vehicle), is based on its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle (EV). It will be produced at the same plant where the Bolt EV is produced—GM’s Orion Township plant in Michigan. GM took a major step toward commercialization of the vehicle after it acquired Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous vehicle technology, in 2016. The car is part of GM’s efforts to enable a future with “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.” General Motors’ efforts to commercialize autonomous cars at scale were bolstered last May, when the SoftBank Vision Fund announced that it would invest $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings LLC (GM Cruise). In a statement announcing the funding, Michael Ronen, managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, said that “GM has made significant progress toward realizing the dream of completely automated driving to dramatically reduce fatalities, emissions, and congestion. The GM Cruise...

Introducing the Industrialization of Additive Manufacturing

Introducing the Industrialization of Additive Manufacturing

Feb 14, 2019

By Phil Schultz, executive vice president of Operations at 3D Systems Featured on Manufacturing.net Manufacturers stand at a crossroads of two competing visions. They can either continue with traditional factory processes or they can embrace the challenge of Industry 4.0 and create physical products with a fully digital ecosystem. For those who embrace digital, the industrialization of additive manufacturing (AM) is key. Traditional factory processes have been fine-tuned over the years for process repeatability, part durability, efficient workflows, and low operational costs. These processes predate the digital revolution. Many times these processes also include high labor costs, significant up-front production costs, and safety issues. Today, new marketplace demands are pushing industry to increase speed and agility. Competitive pressures require shorter production cycles and fast product ecosystem evolution. The industrialization of additive manufacturing will allow companies to respond to these demands with digital speed and accuracy. Digital processes have an undeniable ability to drive down operational costs, especially when applied across all processes and not in a selective fashion. Key 3D printing technologies are ready to serve as the strategic backbone of industrial innovation. New materials, technologies, design solutions, and digital workflow processes are readying the factory floor to become the Digital Factory.  Additive manufacturing is disruptive by nature, impacting both supply chain and manufacturing processes. AM business analyst Dr. Wilderich Heising of Boston Consulting Group sees a shift taking place in AM. In prepared remarks at the Formnext Conference in Frankfurt in November 2018, Heising said process optimization in manufacturing is driving new speed capabilities in AM. He said the ability to increase build rate by up to five times at the same quality translates into a total reduction of machine cost per part by more than 50 percent. Such increases will mean break-even production costs can move to much higher volumes than available today. Manufacturers will invest in Digital Factory technology when they see it bringing a balance of innovation and ecosystem maturity. For some that means lowering labor costs and improving safety. To others it means the ability to create previous unbuildable parts and to rapidly move from one product design to another. For most manufacturers, printing in production volume will be the fundamental...

Manufacturers Added 6 Times More Jobs Under Trump Than…

Manufacturers Added 6 Times More Jobs Under Trump Than…

Feb 4, 2019

“Manufacturers Added 6 Times More Jobs Under Trump Than Under Obama’s Last 2 Years”   By Chuck DeVore, Forbes The federal government released its first jobs report of 2019, showing that nonfarm payroll grew by 304,000 in January, far above economists’ consensus estimate of 170,000. The average monthly gain in 2018 was 223,000. Over the past year, average hourly earnings were up 3.2%. After revising its data for past periods, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment grew by 5.1 million jobs in President Trump’s first full two years in office, a 3.5% increase. Private sector payrolls grew by 4.9 million, a 4.0% increase. By comparison, over the same 24-month period, the economy added 5.0 million jobs in former President Obama’s last two years in office, with private sector employment up by 4.7 million. Significantly, growth in manufacturing jobs continued to show strength, with 13,000 jobs added in January. Over the past two years, with the encouragement of the Trump Administration’s red-tape cutting policies and the tax cut and reform law passed in December 2017, manufacturers added 467,000 jobs, more than six times the 73,000 manufacturing jobs added in Obama’s last two years. Looking at Trump’s first two years, the revised BLS data shows that more than two manufacturing jobs were added for every one job added in government at the federal, state, and local level. In contrast, under Obama, almost five government jobs were added for every one manufacturing job. Since Pres. Trump took office in January 2017, employment in manufacturing has increased 3.7%. Over the same period during the last two years under Pres. Obama, manufacturing payrolls grew by only 0.6%. The sluggish growth in manufacturing in the latter half of the Obama years led to President Obama remarking in June 2016 that manufacturing jobs “are just not going to come back.” Weeks after Trump’s election—and in response to candidate Trump’s promise to bring back manufacturing jobs—New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, an economist, said, “Nothing policy can do will bring back those lost jobs. The service sector is the future of work; but nobody wants to hear it.” Trump’s deregulatory and tax policies have confounded his critics and benefited the...