3D Printing: The Risks and Rewards

3D printing is an amazing new technology that inherently defines both the smart and lean manufacturing spaces. Many believe that it is the manufacturing process of the future. With so much hype surrounding 3D printing, the article “5 Ways 3D Printing Is Changing The Manufacturing Industry” (http://www.apriso.com/blog/2016/03/5-ways-3d-printing-is-changing-the-manufacturing-industry/) does an excellent portrayal of some of the benefits, as well as one of the biggest concerns, regarding 3D printing.

So what are some of the main benefits? The article goes into depth about four of the most useful possibilities:

  1. More Custom-Built Products
  2. New Design Possibilities
  3. Easy Replacement Parts
  4. More Recycled Materials

While all four of these are pretty self-explanatory, a brief explanation of each will be given for a general understanding of the concepts. Because 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology, many complex designs that wouldn’t normally be a possibility are now a reality. 3D printing allows for structures to be created in one piece, and any necessary additional or replacement parts can be designed and printed easily. Additionally, because many 3D printers use plastic as the main printing material, recycled plastic can be utilized and integrated back into the community.

What is the main concern? Because the designs for any 3D printing production are made and stored digitally, there is a high risk of piracy. In fact, this trend has already begun. Companies utilizing or designing 3D blueprints will have to take caution in not only how they are copyrighted, but how they are stored and secured. Despite this risk, it appears that in the eyes of many companies the rewards outweigh the risks.

3D Printing: The Future

When thinking about smart, lean ecosystems, 3D printing is inherently at the forefront of any discussion. 3D printing is at the peak of smart manufacturing, allowing anyone around the world to print any design. Likewise, in a space such as manufacturing which is known for its “subtractive manufacturing” methods, 3D printing involves “additive” technologies which reduce waste and time. With so much up-side, why haven’t more companies adopted 3D technologies? This is a difficult question to answer as each company has a unique response. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to include the article “30 Most Innovative 3D Printing Companies 2016” (https://all3dp.com/best-3d-printing-companies-startups-to-watch/) to show not only which companies are actively utilizing this technology, but how they are doing it. These companies, and many others which did not make the list, come from countries all over the world, each with a different use for 3D technology. This exemplifies not only the flexibility this technology possesses, but the potential it empowers across virtually all future markets.

3D Printing: Smart and Lean

The article “How 3-D Printing is Revolutionizing Lean Manufacturing” explores 3D printing and its connection with both smart and lean manufacturing. What are smart and lean manufacturing? Smart manufacturing is utilizing concepts such as the Internet of Things to improve efficiency and quality. Lean manufacturing is the idea of eliminating waste to achieve the same goals as smart manufacturing. Inherently these two practices work in unison to create a low waste, inter-connected manufacturing environment.

To take it a step further, the article outlines eight reasons why 3-D printing and lean manufacturing go hand in hand. These reasons are:

  1. Easier prototyping
  2. More easily customize products
  3. More creativity and efficiency
  4. More consistency
  5. Shorter lead times
  6. Local manufacturing
  7. Lower prices
  8. New consumer demand

As stated in the article: “The leaner you are, the more you save and the more you create. The catalyst is 3-D printing.” As 3-D printing technology continues to increase in adoption and viability, the article estimates that we will likewise see an increase in lean workflows.

How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Competition

By Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann

In this extensive article, Michael and James offer a deep analysis on the Internet of things industry. They go over topics such as explaining what smart, connected products are and what can they do. They also suggest a five forces analysis where cracks in the current business model can be noted, especially in the threat of new entrants and the bargaining power of buyers’ areas which are the focus of this review. Titled as “Mistakes to Avoid” the pair break down a series of common misconceptions including functionalities that customers don’t want to pay for, the risk of security and privacy violation, timing, and overestimation. As companies such as Boeing and Caterpillar move profounder into this technology, it is critical for them to keep this ABC in mind that perhaps can save a several millions of dollars. Currently, both companies have increased their Machine-to-machine (M2M) capability by more than 50% in the past year only according to Core2 Groups analysts.

Original article: https://hbr.org/2014/11/how-smart-connected-products-are-transforming-competition/ar/1

As Boeing booms, robots rise and job growth lags

An article published on Monday November 16th, 2015 in Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/16/us-boeing-production-robots-insight-idUSKCN0T50E420151116#b6etFO8RpHo75xX8.97, states that Boeing’s longstanding cycle of employment soaring when they needed to turn out more planes and then having to lay off employees when the rate fell is no longer. The world’s largest plane maker is in the midst of their biggest peacetime boom, producing 20% more planes than when the last big peak in the 1990’s. But, Boeing is doing so with 1/3 fewer workers, in their place Boeing is turning to robots and to outsourcing. Over the past year, they have installed four banks of 2 story riveting machines at their 737 factory in Renton, WA. These 60 ton robots work twice as fast as people and have two-thirds fewer defects. At their 777 plant in Everett, WA, they have installed robotic arms to drill and rivet fuselages together. According to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg the machines are “taking what is in the neighborhood of 50,000 to 70,000 fasteners in the 777 fuselage that are today applied by hand and automating them,” and that it is a “huge transformation in how we build airplanes.” Boeing believes that automation is essential to improve quality and worker safety, while also lowering costs and helping them keep up with their rival Airbus.

Will any other domestic airplane manufacturers switch to using robots? Should the workers at Boeing be frightened of losing their jobs to robots?

Toyota Research Institute to further AI and robotics research

A recent article published on November 9th, 2015 in Gizmag, http://www.gizmag.com/toyota-research-institute-robotics-ai/40284/, states that Toyota Motor Corporation has announced that it will commit $1 billion over the next 5 years to establish the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). TRI will be a research and development center that will initially focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and on robotics. Toyota is tasked with developing technologies to increase driving safety and to improve mobility and quality of life, particularly for the elderly. The initial focus of TRI will be to focus on technologies intended to improve the accessibility and safety of vehicles through looking at the way machines and people work together. Rather than focusing on the development of fully autonomous vehicles, TRI will focus on accident avoidance and expanding driver opportunities to everyone regardless of their abilities. Toyota also has aspirations to use big data and robotics research to help improve the quality of life for everyone, not just drivers. TRI will begin operations in January of 2016, and will be headquartered near both Stanford University and MIT.

How can AI and robotics increase driving safety and improve mobility and quality of life for people? Will other large companies invest into this technology as much as Toyota?

Robots are helping run the first ‘fully digital’ hospital in North America

According to an article published on October 25th, 2015 in the Tech Insider, http://www.techinsider.io/robots-are-helping-run-the-first-fully-digital-hospital-in-north-america-2015-10, patients entering the Humber River Hospital in Toronto, CA will not only interact with healthcare professionals, but also with automated robots that have been programmed to complete a variety of tasks in the hospital. Humber River Hospital is touting itself as the first fully digital hospital. They opened their doors to the public this week and are using automated robots for everything from delivering food and medical supplies to patients, to preparing and administering chemotherapy drugs. The robots that are used to move medical supplies are designed to pick up carts, call an elevator, and deliver them to the appropriate place. The robots that assist with the delivery of chemotherapy medication receive orders of the drugs that need to be mixed from the physician, then check the dose and the patient’s previous medical doses, mix the drugs, and then finally deliver the drugs. There are also robots in the radiology rooms that move around the patient to take scans, rather than the patient contorting their body into difficult positions to take the scans. In addition, all rooms in the hospital have a touch-pad system where patients can access their electronic health record, Skype, order food, and read books. This is a great example of how robotics is changing the healthcare and medical industry.

What other tasks could robots perform in a hospital? Would you go a hospital that treated you and mixed your medicine with robots?