Direct Manufacturing: Additive Manufacturing Supports Agility

| The Essentium Team

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Additive Manufacturing Supports Agility

Agility allows companies to capitalize on the latest trends, fads, or emerging technologies and to overcome unexpected interruptions in the supply chain. One of the ways companies can increase agility is by turning to additive manufacturing (AM) and Essentium’s High Speed Extrusion (HSE) technology. This approach allows customer to operate with the agility needed to succeed in today’s volatile manufacturing environment.

In the manufacturing world, agility means the ability to quickly pivot to meet demand. Agility allows companies to capitalize on the latest trends, fads, or emerging technologies and to overcome unexpected interruptions in the supply chain. One of the ways companies can increase agility is by turning to additive manufacturing (AM) and Essentium’s High Speed Extrusion (HSE) technology. This approach allows customer to operate with the agility needed to succeed in today’s volatile manufacturing environment.

For companies that employ traditional manufacturing methods agility can be hard to maintain. When these companies face supply chain disruptions or changing consumer demand, pivoting can take time. Time to design, create, and deliver new molds, to retool production lines, and to find new suppliers. When a new model requires even just a slight change; perhaps to accommodate a different control panel shape or screen size, a new button, or a better grip, the inability to quickly modify production and assembly lines results in missed opportunities. When supply chains are disrupted, production lines that are ready to go sit idle, resulting in more missed opportunities. Manufacturers need technologies that can support faster change and insulate them from supply chain issues.

AM Positions Manufacturers to Respond

See a need for a new product? Design a prototype in hours, iterate and refine the object, and begin 3D printing at scale immediately.

Experiencing a supply chain interruption? Fill inventory gaps with 3D printed parts to keep production lines moving.

Are suppliers price gouging during a raw material shortage? 3D print your own parts and tools in-house for only the cost of filament.

Direct Manufacturing

AM positions manufacturers to respond. With access to industrial-grade 3D printing technology and materials, there is no need or cost to retool production lines. There is no idle time waiting for molds or raw materials to arrive, no inflated prices. Manufacturers simply select the file of the object to be printed, load a spool of filament with the desired properties, and 3D print as much of whatever they need on-demand, with complete control over quality, timing, and cost.

Essentium HSE 3D Printing Platform Responds to Pandemic

A recent example of how AM supports agility is Essentium’s response to the personal protection equipment (PPE) shortage during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During that time, healthcare systems and first responders created an instant PPE demand spike for which traditional manufacturers were unprepared, making the cost for masks multiply tenfold.

When the demand increases, the supply chain couldn’t respond that it normally does. Lockdowns forced manufacturers, toolmakers, and ports around the world to shutter, and the factories that remained open were short-staffed. This made it difficult if not impossible to get the jigs and fixtures, tools, and equipment required to mass-produce PPE. But the need was greater than ever and growing daily.

At the request of the National Guard and the Texas governor’s office, Essentium pivoted to mask production on a moment’s notice, leveraging its AM expertise to 3D print reusable mask frames for use with disposable filtration media. The objective was to bridge the gap until traditional manufacturers could reopen and retool for PPE production.

In a compressed design phase, Essentium engineers were able to create the first prototype in eight hours, iterate through 25 design modifications with instant feedback as soon as each frame was printed, and arrive at a final design in just 36 hours. Which is impossible with traditional manufacturing methods.

Agility extends to materials as well. Midway through development using one filament, Essentium engineers found an alternate polymer was more pliable, printed faster, and required less post-processing – and switched materials without changing frame design or losing a minute of production time.

Where other factories went idle, the Essentium factory floor was operating at full tilt, using a fleet of 10 Essentium HSE 180•ST 3D Printers to produce more than 25,000 mask frames in 90 days.

Agility is just one reason why organizations are embracing direct manufacturing and turning to AM to meet ever-changing customer demands and market conditions. Get the whole story on Essentium’s mask initiative in our white paper, Bridging the Hybrid Era of Additive Manufacturing, and contact us to learn how the Essentium HSE 3D Printing Platform can make your factory floor more agile.

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