Matthew Waterhouse, CEO of 3D Matters, warns that 3D printing faces a number of challenges before it can become a mainstream technology. “Designs require IP and IT security,” he says. There is also the need to develop international printing standards as well as standards in supplier management.
“The current materials used in 3D printing have short-term performance and hence, more research is required to make them as durable as materials used in traditional mould-and-die manufacturing,” he says. “We also have to deal with speed limitations, printing size limitations and high material costs.”
Matthew was speaking at the ManuTech XChange event within the Manufacturing Solutions Expo MSE 2016 held recently.
However, he is optimistic that current limits on 3D printing can be overcome. “Some are already happening, while some will take time to develop. Material R&D to improve past performance with longer durability is one example that’s already taking place,” he adds.
Beyond those limitations, Matthew believes that reverse engineering and 3D printing of obsolete parts – those that OEMs no longer manufacture – can save companies thousands of dollars.
“This is part of six innovations in 3D printing that can help manufacturers remain profitable and competitive.”
On-Demand Printing to Save Time and Money
All the 3D printing innovations result in savings of time and money, Matthew maintains. On-demand printing can reduce inventory and storage costs and streamline delivery of parts and equipment. “This can save 3-5% of the company’s parts budget,” he says.
Local printing reduces logistic delays since parts are only printed where they are needed instead of being stored in a different place. This can save up to $5,000 in transport costs for each part printed.
In terms of time, 3D printing can improve uptime with faster spares production. This technology prints prototypes and working parts such as moulds to accelerate production. Print times are measured in days rather than in months and manufacturers can save from four to six weeks per part, Matthew maintains.
No MOQs, Up to 30% Savings
There is no MOQ (minimum order quantity) with 3D printing. A full range of metals from stainless steel to copper, brass, gold and titanium can be printed with 3D printing technology. With significant advantages for printing more complex parts, savings of 10-20% can be achieved.
Combining 3D printing with design optimisation can improve part performance, reduce materials used and extend durability. The newest 3D printing technologies are constantly improving and material savings can range between 15-30%.
Vast Potential in 3D Printing
Matthew’s story began at Keppel Engineering, where, as COO in charge of water treatment projects, he encountered the frequent need to replace obsolete parts in mechanical equipment.
His research revealed the vast potential offered by 3D printing and he continued to pursue it after joining 3D Matters, an Outsource Service Bureau.
He says: “The market size is considerable and the total expected value of produced goods and services is even more significant.”
In developing the company’s services 3D Matters worked with ECS Singapore, using technologies supplied by the latter since 2012.
“ECS was one of our earliest hardware providers when we were expanding our business in Singapore a few years ago,” says Matthew. “They were reliable in their follow-up and took on a consultative approach to understand our needs.”
With such good collaboration, Matthew is confident that 3D Matters can offer excellent solutions to prolong machinery lifespans.