Industry 4.0

Additive Manufacturing

What are the next challenges for industrials ?

Published by Maxime Godenne On 01 Nov 2018


Most people don't know it but additive manufacturing first saw the light of day more than thirty years ago. Quickly forgotten in favor of rapid prototyping and pre-production visualization phases, it is only in the last ten years that we have seen renewed expansion in the application of additive manufacturing, and now a hybrid form, a combination of additive and subtractive processes. Additive Manufacturing today is a process mainly used in advanced industries such as aeronautics, automotive, medical (surgical implants, dentistry) and maritime.


What is Additive Manufacturing?


Before highlighting the industrial challenges of additive manufacturing, it is worth providing some definition of the concept. Additive manufacturing covers a wide range of techniques that can be applied to materials that are themselves diverse. It is a manufacturing approach to processing an item from a 3D computer file, by adding material layer by layer, which allows manufacturers to go directly from the virtual item to the manufactured item. In contrast, traditional production processes are said to be subtractive in that they proceed from the subtraction of material to obtain a manufactured part.

Freedom of design

Additive manufacturing allows for a level of geometric complexity in shapes never before achieved and widens the field of possibilities for any industrial designer. This shape optimization makes it possible to improve the functionality of the components (weight, ergonomics), which then can have a positive impact on the life cycle of a product while reducing energy consumption.

For example, American Airlines has observed that by removing just one kilogram of mas from each of the 600 aircraft in the fleet of a commercial airline, it is possible to save about 90,000 liters of fuel, and reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere by 230 tons. [Per aircraft? Per year?]


Simplification of processes

The principle of additive manufacturing is based on monobloc and/or single-material production. In fact, it simplifies the manufacturing process by eliminating the various tools associated with subtractive manufacturing and conventional processes such as machining, forging, or even foundry.


Material savings

Additive manufacturing reduces waste compared to the proportion of raw materials that is scrapped in traditional manufacturing.


Saving time

Additive manufacturing offers a consolidation of assembly times due to the reduction in the number of parts and components. It also generates a reduction in lead time that is limited to the printing process of the manufactured part.



Customization at no additional cost

The creation of highly customized components at no additional cost is one of the main advantages of additive manufacturing. Triggered at will for each part, the variety of parts is no longer constrained by adjustment times or machine costs.


Portability of means of production

Compared to traditional machining equipment, 3D printers offer the advantage of being much more compact, light and movable.  They also offer significant savings in terms of acquisition and maintenance costs. All these features open up new perspectives in the possibility of configuring a localized, innovative and flexible production network.



What are the prospects for the industrial sector?


Additive manufacturing technologies generate profound changes in the way industrial products are designed, in particular by allowing early prototyping of complex components. But the adoption of these new production methods, beyond prototyping and small-scale production, remains slow and not yet widespread among industry players. The reason for this delay is undoubtedly the lack of know-how of design engineers to make the most of these technologies and put them at the service of mass production.


Additive manufacturing has the potential to radically transform the way goods are produced and manufactured, but also every aspect of responding to customer needs: from customization to supply chain reconfiguration and the subsequent innovation of business models that this allows. Today, the choice to use these technologies mainly concerns the production of complex components in low volume and/or the evaluation of the capacity of a good to be produced and customized in an industrial way.


In addition, the emergence of Metal Additive Manufacturing has the potential to automate the manufacturing workshop further. Printers require less human intervention to operate than many other equipment. The technology could replace large plants that produce a limited range of parts in series with smaller plants that offer a wide variety of parts and components.


If its use is still marginal today, new production technologies such as additive manufacturing allow us to consider different ways of organizing the movement of goods around the world. Distributed manufacturing can enable the production of customized goods close to the customer in small factories at lower environmental costs.  Additive manufacturing is therefore a major lever for transforming spatial planning, logistics networks and production processes. Additive manufacturing thus contributes to the emergence of new concepts such as Manufacturing as a Service - MaaS as a new organization of production networks.

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Industry 4.0

Additive Manufacturing

What are the next challenges for industrials ?

Maxime Godenne
01 Nov 2018