Supply chains are a necessary evil. You can’t get a product to the consumer if you don’t have the right materials, suppliers, producers, distributors and assembly mechanisms. But each of those facets require two things: time and money. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the amount of downtime and expense it takes to bring a product through the supply chain? Enter additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, doesn’t necessarily replace traditional manufacturing. Instead it solves challenges that can add expenses, slow down, or even disrupt the traditional manufacturing supply chain. In order to show you the impact that additive could have, we put together an infographic that walks through traditional manufacturing and shows how adapting additive can change some of those bottlenecks.
Now, let’s dig into that infographic together. Let’s take a look at how 3D printing solves problems at every step of the supply chain.
Materials and Suppliers
Once a product is designed, the questions begin. What materials will I use to create the product? Which suppliers can provide the best materials quickly and/or at a low cost? For each of these decisions, a manufacturer will likely seek out bids from multiple suppliers, a time-consuming process you will have to build into your production cycle for every single component within your design. But what if you can bypass the supply chain for some of your needed parts? With materials as strong as Markforged’s Onyx and Metal at your disposal, 3D printing even just a few of those parts in-house will reduce lead time and costs, helping you get your product to market faster.
With traditional manufacturing, the supply chain often feels more like a supply wall that you must slowly climb over as you wait for your parts to be made. 3D printers optimize your production in multiple ways. If a tooling component in your machine breaks, don’t stop production to wait for a new one to arrive. 3D print the part and get back up and running within hours, not weeks. 3D printed materials are also typically lighter than traditionally made ones. Parts that are lighter move faster, decreasing your production time and increasing your output. Imagine the cost benefits of improving your efficiency by even a few percentage points! Additive manufacturing can make that happen.
Automated assembly loves a little help from additive. Need to change out the end product that your equipment is creating? Eliminate the downtime from product line turn over by 3D printing the new components in-house. Manual assembly also levels-up its quality control, speed, and safety with a 3D printer on hand. Custom design and 3D print assembly jigs and stationary fixtures to make sure the part is put together correctly, quickly and safely every time. Consistency in manual part production also allows you to reduce the ratio of parts that must be checked for quality control. The savings just keep coming when a 3D printer from Markforged or HP is on your shop floor.
A lot can happen to materials, components, and products as they make their way from the suppliers to your front door. The delivery truck could break down. A tsunami could hit. A global pandemic could bring the economy to its knees (that last one could never happen, right?). Distribution challenges disappear when your parts and materials are already in-house. 3D print the parts and end products you need and say goodbye to expensive and slow distributors or broken, lost, and delayed deliveries.
The best way to sell a product is to let your customers not just see it – but feel, touch and use it as well. Don’t just show them a 2D picture of your product. Send your sales reps out with 3D printed samples and your customers will know exactly what they are buying. If customization is key, 3D print a prototype to make sure the customer gets exactly what they want before you spend weeks (and dollars) making the final product on your traditional equipment. Strong 3D printing materials like Copper, Kevlar and Steel are end-use capable, which means customers can test-drive parts within their own machinery. It won’t cost much to make endless changes with a 3D printer. But the perceived added value of providing your customers with quick and easy options will be well worth the investment.
Take control of your supply chain and take control of your business. Manage them effectively and efficiently by bringing additive onto your shop floor. Your traditional equipment will thank you, and so will your bottom line.