Second, mass manufacturing lines typically produce the same part continually without interruption. Once the line is certified, you can’t change anything (and typically don’t need to). And, if the line is changed over to a different part, it is re-certified when returning to the specific part. None of this is true for AM, where the

machine settings can and do change from one bed to the next. In addition, it’s often the case that parts being produced will constantly change. It does not make sense to go through a certification process for each bed, nor does it make sense (except in mass manufacturing such as teeth aligner moulds) to limit a machine to one part – this robs AM of a big advantage (no switching cost and minimal batch size of one) and increases the cost of said part manifold times. Also, changing the machine settings,

and even the pre-processing of the item, can change the material characteristics of the actual part produced. This means that certification for AM needs to be re- thought with the specific characteristics of the technology in mind. Fortunately, you can certify an AM

protocol for a particular part, and with the right kind of SaaS solution you can enforce this protocol throughout the workflow every time the part is produced. This will give you tracking (essentially an audit trail) that will allow you to demonstrate that the part was produced according to the certified protocol with the certified raw material to yield a certified part. Indeed, for those companies producing

more than one kind of part using AM technologies, investigating such software solutions is a necessity in order to track complex production easily and make sure certification is adhered to.

AUTOMOTIVE IN THE ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING LANE In terms of its integration of AM technology, the automotive industry is widely considered to be a pioneer. In 2018, BMW was already producing over 200,000 3D printed car parts a year (a leap of 40% compared to the previous year). In tooling, AM is even more prevalent. For example, Michelin 3D prints (in metal) over one million siping tools a year for use in its tyre manufacturing line. The industry’s adoption of AM is

not surprising, as the technology provides the solution to OEMs’ biggest challenges: keeping a lid on production line downtime, increasing customisation possibilities, reducing waste and carbon footprint, and, of course, cutting costs both in the production line and in the supply chain. The automotive 3D printing market

is currently estimated at $1.4Bn and is forecasted to grow to $9Bn by 2025. A significant part of this market is attributable to tooling – the jigs, gauges and fixtures that are so critical to keeping today’s increasingly complex manufacturing and assembly lines moving. The cost of tooling to OEMs alone

(i.e. not including tooling used by their suppliers) is estimated to be $550 per car. Some of these tools are already additively manufactured but there is much more to come. The ability to 3D print jigs and fixtures onsite (or locally) and on-demand can reduce tooling costs considerably as well as cut lead times, often from days or even weeks to hours. In addition to minimising production

line downtime this way, AM also allows manufacturers to respond quickly to part failures by either redesigning or re-printing the part, as required. This offers the flexibility to accept and respond quickly to any changes needed to the production or assembly line. For example, Ford’s partnership with

Trinckle is reported to have cut the time it takes to design a new jig from 4-6 hours to just 10 minutes. This, together with onsite 3D printing, means that in any failure or redesign event, Ford can get its production lines up and running in a matter of minutes, instead of hours or even days.

In the automotive industry, adoption of AM is not surprising, as the technology provides the solution to OEMs’ biggest challenges: keeping a lid on production line downtime, increasing customisation

possibilities, reducing waste and carbon footprint, and cutting costs both in the production line and in the supply chain

REPEATABILITY AND PROTECTING DIGITAL ASSETS Repeatability is a hallmark of manufacturing and assembly lines, especially in the automotive industry. Aside from highly-customised super cars like the Bugatti Chiron, most cars are mass produced. This means that every car of a particular make and model must be identical, and so too must be the tooling that enables their production. Therefore, it is essential they are made in a way that is both consistent and repeatable. However, repeatability is a challenge

for AM, where parts are produced in small batches (or even batches of one), potentially in different factories or even in different countries. This makes it difficult to ensure that parts are always produced to the same specifications. Any variance in the 3D printer settings or other parts of the workflow can result in a faulty part or weak tooling that breaks and stops the assembly line. With a digital inventory of AM-produced parts, jigs, or fixtures, repeatability is therefore key – whether a file is printed once or a thousand times, in one location or dozens. This relies on securing AM blueprints and ensuring that parts or tooling are produced in exactly the same way with exactly the same settings regardless of where or when the digital turns into physical. There is no doubt that the flexibility

and efficiency-enhancing aspect of additive manufacturing will continue to be attractive to manufacturers. Providing the right steps are taken and relevant software solutions are in place to support the integration of this exciting technology, I think it is safe to say it will continue to enhance traditional manufacturing.

Leo Lane


GSD Global works with various bicycle OEMs, with the majority of their design work focusing on e-bikes. Titanium parts, such as the motor node that holds the electric motor onto the bike frame, are very difficult to machine using traditional CNC processes. So, the company turned to Sandvik to investigate the possibility of 3D printing their titanium components. Using powder bed fusion laser technology, Sandvik 3D

printed the motor nodes using its Osprey Ti6AI4V powder. Typically, these grades are used in the medical, aerospace, automotive and engineering industries for applications that require significant weight saving while maintaining high strength and performance. The motor nodes then underwent heat treatment and sandblasting during post processing. The company discovered that by developing the design of the motor nodes and adapting them to be additively manufactured, they could reduce their costs by more than 50%. By providing their OEMs with Sandvik’s 3D printed titanium motor nodes, GSD Global explains that it

can help them to create the ideal e-bikes that will not only cost less but can also last longer and with increased energy efficiency.


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