Metal additive manufacturing (AM) technologies present great opportunities for current and future manufacturing. Their impact on new product development, product quality and manufacturing costs can be signiﬁcant for the right applications. Their digital and layer-wise attributes also have the potential to significantly improve supply chain dynamics and shorten delivery lead times. Using AM technology, manufacturers can produce parts on demand in locations that can be chosen to minimise transport or feedstock costs .
How AM lends itself to Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing
With its digital-only input, AM is geographically-independent. Production is not restrained to the location and availability of a manufacturing chain. Instead, the location can be chosen to minimise the transport costs of the end parts or based on the availability of a locally sourced suitable feedstock. The digital file can sent digitally and built anywhere.
AM is a 1-step production technique. Although some form of post-processing is usually required, industrial machines do not rely on tooling to produce parts. Compared to more conventional manufacturing, the benefits for AM is a shorter delivery time, reduced setup as well as significantly cut down changeover times and costs.
A key incentive to use AM is its design freedom. Components built using AM technologies can be specifically designed to minimise assembly and improve parts functionalities. This greatly reduce operational costs, manufacturing steps and delivery schedules.
The result is that one-off parts, such as decommissioned parts, slow moving parts of high value equipment (planes, ships…) can still be produced at comparatively low costs. AM allows the manufacture of parts in cases where production methods/chains have disappeared, eliminating the need and costs to store them.
With its layer-wise deposition, AM produce net-shape or near-net-shape components and uses selective material deposition for an efficient material usage. As long as the AM machine is setup with the suitable powder, building ad hoc components doesn’t require sourcing additional feedstock, or planning of additional tooling.
The digital input files for AM can be made available anywhere in the world an dproduction location chosen to reduce internal or external logistic costs.
AM can lead to standardisation of production chains that are traditionally regarded as more manual and craft-based. Regardless of world locations or number of batches required, the AM standardize logistic operations, in which the raw material, equipment and production requirements are the same at all production locations, leading to greater control over product quality.
Adopting AM allows the production of customized parts in batches: think of it as multiple variant of one product built simultaneously. This saves handling and manual customising tasks while multiplying outputs.
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