Leveraging additive manufacturing is giving companies a competitive advantage, today

As additive manufacturing (3D printing) has matured, the benefits for commercial and industrial applications are becoming more recognizable. Forward thinking companies are leveraging the technology to gain a competitive edge.

Direct digital manufacturing (DDM) is a process that employs additive technology to produce end-use items. Directly from CAD data, components are manufactured without molding, casting or machining. By utilizing automation, DDM is taking additive manufacturing to the next level.

The impact is far-reaching, and the opportunities and advantages are extensive. The promise of DDM is  the efficient production of parts, in large volumes, at prices competitive with traditional manufacturing methods. Many are calling DMM the next industrial revolution.

CloudDDM, LLC, a company focused on delivering DDM services, recently announced the launch of an advanced additive manufacturing facility located on the UPS Supply Chain Solutions Campus at UPS Worldport®, the world’s largest packaging handing facility.

Leveraging a combination of additive technology, automation and location on the UPS Supply Chain Solutions Campus, the goal is to bring additive manufacturing services to the growing number of designers, engineers and companies who want to leverage the benefits of the technology to reduce upfront production costs, manage stock and inventory and accelerate product development.

CloudDMM co-founder Rick Smith spoke on this topic in March at TED 2015 at in Vancouver. He asserts the true promise of 3D printing is not found in home workshops but in large industrial production.

During the talk, he shared how GE was able to reduce the weight of a single engine bracket by 85% with additive manufacturing. Same strength, same overall dimensions, same results – but 85% lighter.

By leveraging additive in the manufacture of their new jet engine, GE was able to achieve a cost savings of more than $1,000,000 per year in fuel, for every airplane outfitted with the new part. That’s for a single part.

GE also redesigned the fuel injection system for the same engine. They were able to take an assembly that was previously 21 parts and print the entire component, via additive, as one complete part. Not only did this eliminate the need to source the individual parts from numerous suppliers, they were able to speed manufacture, improve the performance (by eliminating gaps between parts introduced by the welds by 5X) and create structures inside the component itself that would have been impossible without additive.

After his TED presentation, people were lined up to talk with him – people who wanted to do for their businesses what GE had done for theirs.

No doubt, the use of additive manufacturing is growing. One aspect of DDM that differentiates it is its high level of automation. The systems are almost entirely automated, from the time a user uploads a digital model, through production and on to packaging and shipment.

The MHI 2015 Annual Industry Report identifies additive manufacturing as one of the eight technologies driving next-generation supply chains. Learn more about this emerging technology by downloading the complete report.