Phil Schultz is govt vp of Operations at 3D Techniques. As a seasoned 3D printing exec, he leads all on-demand operations there. Earlier than that, he lead Foxconn’s printing enterprise and spent 25 years at HP, finally main their shopper inkjet providing. I interviewed Phil and loved his measured, considerate responses, which confirmed his deep understanding of the attainable and not possible of additive.
The present disaster has uncovered the brittleness of our just-in-time manufacturing world. Small ripples within the system can propagate, reinforce themselves, and trigger waves that, in flip, construct as much as a storm, collapsing the system. A manufacturing unit in Thailand closing or a freighter being diverted can wreak havoc on the intricate provide chains that join our globalized society. A system that’s so large and world-spanning as international commerce and transport turned out to shatter simply in a troublesome state of affairs. Many international organizations are actually discovering that they should do extra to audit and replace their provide chains. Provide chain resilience as soon as meant that you simply had a couple of provider for important parts. However now everyone knows that we have to look additional to guarantee provide. What position can 3D printing play on this?
Phil differentiates between “short-term and long-term provide chain interruptions.” “Particularly in an emergency…3D printing may also help” and accomplish that a lot sooner than different applied sciences can. If “additive is a contingency or it’s utilized in bridge manufacturing,” it’s typically a wonderful selection. We “don’t want any tooling…and we’re not sure to a geography” with 3D printing “by means of a distributed manufacturing mannequin…or one order being delivered globally” we will reply in a disaster, and we’re “lightning quick.” Particularly for “small elements in runs of a 100, 1,000 or 10,000…additive has the benefit.”
The “draw back with 3D printing is the supplies…that your elements are totally different than injection molded elements,” and “half properties and power is probably not the identical.” “Your elements may very well be ok for the appliance,” however he cautions clients towards getting into into manufacturing “with out qualification…as a result of then you definitely’re carrying a variety of danger.” There may also be “price variations…and sometimes elevated prices imply that with out mass customization additive could not at all times make sense.”
He likes to take clients by means of “a easy calculation…that always reveals that pricing represents “multiples of an injection-molded half—not 20% or 30% greater—multiples” and, in that case, if “you’re going to do a substitute of a traditional half,” the enterprise case falters. In that case, “you’d solely do it as a result of you haven’t any selection.”
Nonetheless, if you happen to “be taught to design for the know-how…and use it to mix elements…drop extra pounds…deliver worth,” it adjustments the equation. “Why would you need that is half to be 3D printed…and what does that imply for your online business?” He maintains that “3D printing is…not a substitute for CNC or injection molding…it’s simply one other device” and “you should use it properly.” 3D printing may also help you “guard towards the long run…and discover your future extra rapidly,” however it’s no panacea.
There are sometimes neglected options, made attainable by 3D printing, that permit for extra scale and decrease prices. This consists of “3D printing optimistic funding casting print patterns,” “utilizing Actual Wax for misplaced wax casting,” or “straight 3D printing low-pressure injection molds.”
“By casting urethane..or by means of thermoforming inserts” comparatively low-cost elements will be made within the tens of millions, as Invisalign already does with the latter know-how. In “thermoforming, some clients are making over 400,000 elements a day,” by means of the usage of 3D printing as an intermediate. Sure, in an emergency, he understands that individuals are printing face shields. However, if we step again, then we will contemplate making the headscarf by means of thermoforming or urethane casting and utilizing an acetate display to sterilize the elements extra simply. Phil frequently seeks to make use of additive for the proper functions, the proper elements. “We’re geometry agnostic, require no tooling, and we’re quick to the primary half, however should pay attention to the tradeoffs in supplies and extra expense.”
He’s excited “by making spare elements out of polyamide…by means of sintering…particularly of stuffed supplies” and, additionally, “new prospects in TPU.” Increased temperature resins for SLA are additionally pushing the envelope of what’s attainable there. Now, “we’re getting resins with good flexural power, elongation…that make elements that may bend nicely whereas being much less brittle.”
When he does introduce 3D printing for manufacturing at a agency, he likes to “begin with the functions folks..and stroll the (manufacturing) traces…to see how we may also help… We will consider our providers…your elements…and see what sense it makes to outsource or do in-house.” Ideally, he’d prefer to “get into the design part…and assist firms with qualification..or share with them tips on how to qualify merchandise for additive.” Surprisingly, one of many sectors that he’s most enthusiastic about is EMS and contract manufacturing corporations.
“They’ve tonnes of injection molded elements…many oblique elements…and might typically use additive within the brief time period…however haven’t thought of it for extra.” With these companies, “nearly each fixture and power will be improved, adjusted or is now extra rapidly consumed,” making it extra appropriate for additive. “An iPhone manufacturing line could have 600 folks on it and as many steps. Think about a 5 % enchancment.”
He likes asking manufacturing corporations, “what do you want?” after which “having complicated conversations about matching materials properties to wants…avoiding tooling…and the extent of proof required for them to proceed.” He’s now more and more seeing “ducts, knobs, connections, useful elements in gear trains…and on the entire, issues which are extra useful in assemblies” being made with additive. Just a few years in the past, he solely used to “speak to R&D, and now we speak with [operations]…about issues that I care about, reminiscent of cycle time.”
3D printing “is rising as a backup plan….however you must design for it… 3D printing providers might, by means of their lots of of machines…clear up buyer issues,” however corporations might even have 3D print capability in-house for essentially the most related supplies to them. Both approach, certified elements will be manufactured at scale, however not all elements will be made cost-effectively by means of 3D printing.
It’s clear from Phil’s latest expertise that additive is maturing and new functions are being found on a regular basis. New realism is unlocking precise manufacturing and, in due time, we might present true provide chain reassurance by means of 3D printing. Finally, “I wish to go in entrance of each industrial engineer on this planet and present them how their creativity will be unleashed with 3D printing.”
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