As we hurtle toward a new year, everyone talks about New Year’s resolutions. For global electronics original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), the best place to start would be a decision to get in step with the manufacturing developments that have to potential to disrupt the industry in the coming year.
3D printing: The hype is over, let the benefits begin
No matter how big the ‘wow’ factor is when we first see it, apart from smaller-scale manufacturing production like hearing aids and jewelry, 3D printing has so far failed to live up to its full potential. But, just like IoT, 3D printing will enter a new, more mature phase in 2018.
We are already seeing developments that point in that direction. A new generation of 3D printing companies is moving into manufacturing with new, faster, better connected automated systems that reduce some of the time-consuming pre- and post-processing that has been such an obstacle to wide-scale uptake.
Stratasys has collaborated on a new printer, the Demonstrator, that combines three printers into a stack system, with each one able to communicate to its neighbors in real-time. The new printer is highly scalable, meaning it can significantly increase production capacity, printing up to 2,000 components a day. This means that businesses can achieve an economy of scale to bring costs down, which will be an important catalyst for the success of the 3D printing technology.
Image courtesy: Stratasys
The aviation industry is currently leading the way when it comes to using 3D printing to create product differentiation. The new GE turboprop ATP Engine used 3D printing techniques to combine 855 engine components into just a dozen parts, helping deliver a 20% lower fuel burn and 10% higher cruise power compared with competitor’s offerings.
The expanded capacity and reduction in pre- and post-processing that new, highly innovative 3D printing companies are bringing to the field mean that, in 2018, I think we will see manufacturing companies joining in with A&D, and fly high with new 3D printing capabilities.
Servitization as a main source of revenue
With the manufacturing industry becoming more and more commoditized, the need to differentiate yourself is key to survival and profitability. Many manufacturers are now shifting to a more service-centric business model, or ‘servitization’ as a way to add capabilities to enhance their overall offering in addition to the product itself. Apple did this when it had gained the majority of market share with the iPod, introducing iTunes and Apple Music to increase loyalty, differentiate itself, and generate more revenue.