Did you know? Europe’s Largest Port - The Port Of Rotterdam has taken an initiative that will save millions of dollars for companies whose vessels enter the port. The port has opened an Additive Manufacturing Lab that can produce parts on-demand. An example being the World’s first Certified 3D Printed Propeller.
Does this initiative excite you? This example has changed the way we manufacture products.
Gone are those days when technologies such as 3D Printing were used only for rapid prototyping of parts. Now, these technologies have been extended to manufacture end-use parts which has opened a new field of rapid manufacturing. Let us develop an understanding of rapid manufacturing.
What is Rapid Manufacturing?
You might be thinking that it’s 3D Printing. NO, it’s not the same. This technology has made rapid manufacturing possible. Rapid manufacturing is a broader term.
When we use rapid prototyping technologies for manufacturing end-use parts we term the manufacturing process as rapid manufacturing. Our next question would be - What are those technologies? While there are multiple technologies available, all of these technologies can be categorized into two technologies. They are additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing involves 3D Printing Technologies while subtractive manufacturing involves CNC Machining Technologies. There is one more kind of manufacturing known as hybrid manufacturing. When we use additive and subtractive manufacturing in a particular sequence to manufacture a product, we term it as hybrid manufacturing.
Essence of Rapid Manufacturing:
The essence of rapid manufacturing lies in the possibilities opened by it. They are
- Customization : Businesses can customize their products according to customers' needs at no extra cost.
- Quick turn-around time : We can manufacture parts as fast as in 1 day.
- Material Optimization : Since, it’s computerized there will be less errors and hence optimum material will be used by the machine.
Who can use Rapid Manufacturing?
Given below are some of the best examples.
An individual can make customized products for himself/herself. Also, an individual can make customized gifts for others.
A man wanted to make his proposal special, so he built a customized proposal ring. There is a story on how he made his customized proposal ring.
A Startup can use rapid manufacturing for the R&D stage as well as for the end-use product.
Agnikul Cosmos , a space startup in India had begun their startup with the dream of bringing space within everyone’s reach. They manufactured Agnibaan, a 18m long rocket which can carry a maximum payload of 100 kg and can reach 700 km in Low Earth Orbit. The heart of the rocket is a 3D Printed single piece engine as opposed to putting 1000’s of components through fabrication.
An aerospace manufacturer can use rapid manufacturing for developing sophisticated tools or for manufacturing precision components with quick turn-around time.
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have set a Guinness World Record by producing the world's largest solid 3D printed object - Trim and Drill Tool. Measuring 17.5 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, 1.5 feet tall and 1650 lbs in weight, it took only 30 hrs to print this tool. The tool will be used by Boeing in the manufacture of wings for passenger aircraft.
A business giant can use rapid manufacturing for leveraging its business by gaining an extra competitive edge.
Gillette in partnership with FormLabs has launched Razor Maker. Customers can order customized 3D printed razor handles in a variety of designs and colors with the option to add custom text. Customers can design a handle which is unique to their lifestyle and preferences.
Ways to Incorporate Rapid Manufacturing in Business:
There are two ways:
- Set up your own plant
Outsourcing can be done through on-demand manufacturing. On-demand manufacturing enables rapid prototyping of product designs and/or mass manufacturing as and when required, and in desired quantities. On-demand manufacturing is achieved through Manufacturing as a Service (MaaS) platforms. MaaS platforms use online systems to connect customers to manufacturers. A platform user has to upload a design file. The user then receives a quotation. Once the user accepts a quotation, manufacturing begins and after the part is manufactured, it is delivered to the user.
Benefits of MaaS platforms :
- Capital Investments : No need to spend capital on procuring and installing the technologies.
- Inventory Costs : As parts are manufactured on-demand, inventory cost is reduced.
- Saves Time : No need to spend time searching for manufacturers.
Now that we have developed an understanding of rapid manufacturing, the next step for a start-up, small & medium enterprise or a larger business is to figure out a way to integrate it into their manufacturing strategy.