In recent years, additive manufacturing technologies have progressed significantly on all fronts — not just the machines themselves, but also the 3D printing software and materials. Due to the potential flashed by additive manufacturing in its earlier stages, competing 3D printer companies have accelerated the pace of innovation up to where we are today.
Now, that initial promise has been realized: additive manufacturing is here as a consistent and reliable mode of production with distinct advantages over traditional manufacturing processes. McKinsey & Company writes that today’s professional 3D printers are overcoming the “perceived limitations of their predecessors.” While earlier industrial 3D printers were typically relegated to use as rapid prototyping machinery, today’s composite printers and metal 3D printers make sense as primary modes of production: “Faster machines, better materials, and smarter software are helping to make AM a realistic solution for many real-world production applications.”
Despite the maturation of commercial 3D printing technologies, barriers to scaled adoption into production environments still exist. But the biggest barrier to additive adoption, as cited by industry experts and analysts, isn’t the technology itself. Rather, it’s the often underestimated need for organizations to develop a holistic strategy to maximize the impact of their additive manufacturing investment.
For organizations entertaining their first forays into implementing industrial-scale 3D printing, it can be hard to know where and how to start. This article provides a framework for navigating the path of scaling up use of professional 3D printers — from the early exploratory stages, all the way up to industrial-scale production.
Why Build an Additive Manufacturing Scaling Strategy?
A successful implementation to incorporating scaled, additive manufacturing goes beyond simply purchasing the 3D printers. Having the right approach can both maximize the return on investment (ROI) from a 3D printer purchase, while also subverting unnecessary risk.
For organizations still in the purchasing process, the following considerations should be assessed:
- Where are the pain points in your manufacturing process?
- What are the non-negotiables for an additive manufacturing solution?
- How does this fit into the day to day workflow?
- How do you educate your workforce?
- What happens if something fails/goes wrong/doesn’t work?
- How does additive manufacturing connect to the existing technologies used in house?
- What do you define a successful implementation?
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