3D Printing

3D Printing and The Future of The MRO Industry

Manufacturing products without a factory would have seemed impossible a few years ago. However, the “impossible” is slowly taking shape thanks to additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. This relatively new technology is ready to deliver a small, “mobile” factory to every OEM, MRO, and repair shop. In fact, a number of businesses are embracing additive manufacturing as a temporary or permanent manufacturing solution, as you read these lines.

3D Printing: The Future Is Just Around the Corner  

Although 3D printing technology can be used by anyone, from regular people to industry giants, sustainable growth is expected to come from industrial applications, especially in the OEM and MRO sectors. That’s simply because only a large company has the financial power to design, craft, and test multiple prototypes to finally develop a product that customers will want to buy. But this is only half of the OEM-MRO equation. The other half relates to the impact additive manufacturing will have on the MRO industry.

Additive manufacturing technologies deliver incredible flexibility. To begin with, a MRO company will be able to develop “instant” spare parts and complete maintenance and repair tasks within hours. Imagine an airline looking for a MRO able to repair an airplane that has broken down unexpectedly. Instead of waiting days or even weeks for parts to arrive, the MRO can manufacture the parts needed outright and fix the airplane within several hours.

3D Printing

Manufacturing parts for scheduled maintenance and repairs or, more importantly, for unplanned events, with virtually no wasted materials, will help MROs reduce downtime and operating costs. Another major motivator for additive manufacturing technology adoption is the ability to produce hard-to-find spare parts or components that aren’t manufactured anymore.

The International Space Station’s 3D Print project is one edifying example of spare parts production using additive manufacturing. The first 3D printer was launched to the space station in September 2014. On November 24, 2014, the first “space” object was successfully manufactured using 3D printing technology. According to NASA officials, additive manufacturing is useful especially when spare parts aren’t available or when inventory is extremely expensive to ship. This technology brings several performance and efficiency advantages, regardless of whether a maintenance company or department is located on Mars or on Earth.

Additive manufacturing may seem too futuristic to become standard. However, the acceptance of this technology as a source of spare parts will change the course of MRO history. A maintenance company will be able not only to manufacture simple or complex parts and difficult-to-achieve geometries, as required; it can also develop prototypes to modify equipment and achieve quicker repair times.

Undoubtedly, the ability to manufacture parts on demand will affect inventory and logistics. MROs will no longer have to order spare parts from manufacturers and keep dozens of “just-in-case” replacement components on hand until the right clients come along. Whenever they need a product, they can just make it. This will probably cause a collapse of the entire supply chain, making part suppliers and even manufacturers vulnerable to extinction.

By eliminating the need for high-volume production, 3D printing shows its worth in terms of reducing production costs. Additionally, it increases part availability at the point of use and decreases shipping-, inventory-, and labor-related expenses. Although this brings bad news for a number of businesses, additive manufacturing will add new efficiencies to the operations of MROs and their clients. In conclusion, what additive manufacturing does is to dissolve the global supply chain, which costs MROs billions of dollars every year, re-assembling it as a local system, at a much lower cost.

In the following years, additive manufacturing will radically change the OEM and MRO environment. Analysts predict that the additive manufacturing market will grow to $16 billion by 2018. More and more companies, especially MROs, are expected to invest in 3D printers to produce parts as needed. But to achieve the forecasted outcomes, digital design software must evolve and more advanced and affordable scanners must be developed. On the other side, manufacturers must find a way to protect themselves against the negative consequences of this technology. For sure, 3D printing will tip the scales in someone’s favor. Who will be the winner? Only time will tell.

Applications for Profitable Projects

Mobile 3D Scanning

Mobile 3D And The Future of ERP Software

Not only mobile technologies have witnessed rapid growth over the past few years, they also have given rise to a new trend, irreversibly transforming the way we live and do business. New mobile apps have already been integrated with various software products and devices, allowing people to control everything, from lights and locks around properties to complex manufacturing processes.

Unfortunately, all these deliver insufficient data to predict the innovations the third industrial revolution, already on the horizon, promise to bring along. Since new apps are continuously changing everything we know about the solutions we use, the future of ERP has become more unpredictable than ever before.

And Here Is the Proof

Smartphones currently replacing common devices, such as cameras and music players, are about to take over more important functions, promising to become indispensable tools in a series of industry sectors, including manufacturing and engineering.

Mobile 3D

One of these functions is mobile 3D scanning. Delivering a brand new technology, mobile 3D scanning apps enable Smartphones to capture objects and scenes, subsequently displaying them as 3D visual representations for further processing, such as measuring, editing and even 3D printing.

Though numerous 3D scanning solutions have been developed over time, the new technology aims to turn 3D scanning into a simple operation — similar to taking pictures with your Smartphone — that no longer requires dedicated hardware. Further, the latest 3D scanning apps are able to connect with phones’ graphics processing units, allowing users to check visual representations and perform calculations instantly. The ability to verify 3D models on the spot gives you the opportunity to identify any missing parts that must be scanned in order to get complete 3D representations of objects.

Applications of 3D Scanning Software

Primarily developed for industrial use, cutting-edge mobile 3D apps not only collect and process data to deliver 3D models, but also output information in a format that can be easily recognized by most software solutions. As a result, 3D technology can be used to:

  • Create customized products for different industry sectors, including machinery, healthcare and even fashion
  • Verify product quality by comparing manufactured products to 3D models
  • Scan buildings and create accurate 3D visual representations for the construction industry
  • Develop CAD models of different parts to update existing products or make new ones

Since the most common uses of 3D scanning include reverse engineering, digital archiving and 3D printing, it’s expected to have a significant impact on the future of ERP.

Is the Future of ERP at Stake?  

Although many ERP users may think that 3D technologies endanger the future of ERP, industry experts explain that new solutions are being constantly developed to extend the capabilities of existing ERP systems.

For instance, a mobile 3D scanning app installed on your Smartphone can be used to obtain a comprehensive 3D visual representation of an older item. Then, you can use your ERP solution not only to access the 3D model saved on your Smartphone, but also to make various changes, such as adding or removing elements and modifying physical dimensions. As soon as you finalize the 3D model, you can connect the same ERP system to a 3D printer and create your first prototype.

The advantage? In comparison to traditional methods of creating prototypes, which use subtractive processes, removing material and producing waste, 3D printers create products by using only the material required to build the items. What does it mean to a manufacturer? Zero waste, lower costs and greater profits.

If the new product is worth the investment, you can use the same ERP system to calculate costs based on different materials, assign specific tasks to employees according to their roles and capabilities, create multiple projects and choose the most advantageous one, and even schedule production.

By combining a reliable ERP system with the right 3D scanning apps and 3D printer, the cost and time of designing and prototyping in manufacturing can be reduced to minimum. Hopefully, 3D scanning and printing will soon help manufacturers produce large amounts of standardized products not just prototypes. This will have a tremendous impact on the future of ERP, encouraging the demand for new ERP solutions, on one side, and further development, on the other.