Digital Manufacturing and 3D printing

Digital Manufacturing and 3D printing

How digital manufacturing solutions are transforming the way we design and manufacture.

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3D printing is one of the core group of digital manufacturing solutions that include Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Robotics. Its rapidly accelerating growth is a key driver of what’s called the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. 

The 4th industrial revolution is the analog-to-digital shift already transforming the global manufacturing industry that’s fundamentally changing the way we conceive, design, produce, distribute, and consume nearly everything. Ultimately, it will have an enormous impact on jobs, industries, and economies.

Its leaders will be those whose who have harnessed the full power of 3D printing as a truly disruptive technology. Will you be among them?

If so, you’ll be helping to drive manufacturing to become all-digital.

Your designers will have the power to create entirely new kinds of products as the boundaries to making your idea a reality dissolve. You’ll no longer be at the mercy of overseas factories and will move closer to your consumer as you enjoy your newfound ability to custom-produce anything, anytime, anywhere.

These are exciting times.

This article offers an overview of the 4th industrial revolution, a snapshot of the place of 3D printing and digital manufacturing and design in the 4th industrial revolution as well as an overview of its potential benefits for you.

What is the 4th industrial revolution?

A shift towards digitalization in manufacturing began during the third industrial revolution when the computer age dawned. But, at that time, the connection between the digital and physical worlds was limited to a few mechanisms sparsely located.

Today all that’s changed. For example, information in real-time is now delivered by wearables and augmented reality. The Internet of Things provides user data at unprecedented speeds. People can act on an abundance of information quickly and decisively, thanks to artificial intelligence and advanced analytics.

The 4th industrial revolution is founded on direct digital manufacturing and smart production, and is driven by newer technologies such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, advanced robotics, smart devices, and 3D printing. It’s democratizing the power to connect the digital and physical at the level of individual creators and consumers, resulting in unprecedented digital lean manufacturing.

Where the 3D printing industry fits

Quite simply, the 3D printing industry is spearheading the way forward.

The 3D printing industry is the point where many of the technologies fueling the 4th industrial revolution intersect. First, sensors digitized the physical world. Now, 3D printing is enabling physical output from entirely digital information, resulting in levels of rapid prototyping and rapid tooling never seen before.

At the same time, 3D printing has moved away from just being a tool for prototyping and design, which was how it began. The arrival of powerful industrial 3D printers that deliver quality, functional final parts, and new levels of productivity has changed the game.

3D printing is also placing power in the hands of smaller and individual creators – the consumers themselves! Put it this way, what the personal computer was to information, 3D printing is to goods.

This revolution is manifesting in more and more, easily accessible, manufacturing centers where you can design and create your own unique products and solutions. Today, 3D printing has arrived at a point where it can open the door to digitally reinventing the manufacturing sector worldwide.

It has the power to revitalize, maintain or even create a manufacturing economy, although to do so will require strong, dynamic public/private partnerships.

But offering incentives to adopt 3D printing, particularly at the state and city level, will drive the development of a complete 3D ecosystem. This will, in turn, attract manufacturing, create strong new markets, and create prosperity and a place at the forefront of the 4th industrial revolution.

You could be one of the people leading the way.

How 3D printing works

With 3D printing, you can generate an almost finished part from a design file and raw materials in a matter of hours.

Unlike traditional processes such as injection molding, design is digitally connected to production: a raw 3D file containing information about dimensions is fed directly to the 3D printer.

3D printed part designs aren’t constrained by the same barriers that exist in traditional manufacturing. 

For example, injection molding designs typically require a draft angle and seam so that the part can be ejected from the mold. 3D printing processes do not. 

The benefits of 3D printing

The many benefits of 3D printing are opening up a whole new world for designers, manufacturers, and service providers.

They include:

  • Increased production flexibility
  • Fewer design constraints
  • Faster design iteration and go-to-market timing
  • The potential for local manufacturing, enabling distributed production
  • Enabling fully customized products at a reasonable cost
  • Print on demand with less need to carry inventory

We’re also seeing dramatic advancements in 3D printing speed, productivity, and predictability — all critical factors for manufacturing.

And it’s not just about speed. The strength and performance of 3D printed parts now rivals that of traditionally manufactured parts.

You also have a considerably increased level of power over production with 3D printing technologies like HP Multi Jet Fusion (MJF). Material and part properties can be rigorously controlled down to voxel level – the 3D equivalent of a pixel.

Read our article “What can you make with a 3D printer?” to find out more about what you can do with HP MJF 3D printing technology.

3D printing service providers - the HP Digital Manufacturing Network

During a revolution, we transform at different speeds, and the 4th industrial revolution is no different.

The HP Digital Manufacturing Network is made up of trusted, rigorously evaluated digital manufacturing service providers who bring the benefits of 3D printing closer to designers and manufacturers.

By, for example, designing or producing 3D printed parts for you, a member of the Digital Manufacturing Network can enable access to rapid innovation, faster time-to-market, and distributed manufacturing. This can help optimize your supply chain and accelerate your business' digital transformation.

Accessing the Digital Manufacturing Network also places you in the vanguard of the 4th industrial revolution.

Find out more about HP’s Digital Manufacturing Network and search for an HP endorsed 3D printing supplier here.

The future of 3D printing 

3D printing is already changing so many of today’s complex supply chains by bringing manufacturing closer to consumption. This will only increase.

As manufacturers move ever closer to consumers, in terms of mindset and literally, this relationship will enable cost-effective customization to meet their needs more precisely than ever before. For example, 3D printed products made by the same company for the US market could, in the future, be entirely different from those made for an Indian consumer.

3D printing is also paving the way to a product lifecycle that has the environment in mind - from design to manufacturing to post-sales.

With 3D printing and digital manufacturing, digital files are sent around the world rather than physical goods. Instead of physical warehouses, manufacturers using 3D printing need only virtual warehouses and inventories that enable products to be produced locally and on demand.

This can mean fewer physical goods, less need for transportation and fuel consumption, and a smaller warehousing space requirement.

3D printing allows you to design and make efficient, lower carbon footprint parts1  that are more complex than those produced using traditional methods. These parts are lightweight, use less material, and are designed for best-in-class performance. This ultimately could help optimize the amount of energy being used in machinery or electric vehicles, for example.

3D printing technologies such as HP MJF use HP 3D Printing materials that offer industry-leading reusability and less material waste. As a result, quality parts can be 3D printed using surplus powder not used in parts from previous batches, while delivering consistent performance.2

3D printing is also helping to facilitate the Circular Economy. One-off spare parts are easy to produce on demand without the need for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to maintain space-consuming large spare parts inventories for old or obsolete products.

The future of 3D printing looks bright then.

But, as we’ve said, truly capitalizing on the enormous potential of 3D printing worldwide will depend on factors that include ecosystem development, economic environment, ongoing consumer trends, and, most importantly, which countries act quickly to lead in 3D print manufacturing.

It also requires visionary individuals who grasp the benefits of 3D printing and are excited by the opportunity to help lead the 4th industrial revolution.

If you want to learn more about how HP can help accelerate your digital manufacturing journey, reach out to us here.

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Footnotes and disclaimers

  1. Low carbon footprint per printed HP Multi Jet Fusion part for runs of 1500 or less when compared to injection molded parts. Data comes from an ISO 14040/44 compliant and peer reviewed LCA study, January 2018.
  2. Industry-leading surplus powder reusability based on using HP 3D High Reusability PA 11 and PA 12 at recommended packing densities and compared to selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, offers excellent reusability without sacrificing mechanical performance. Tested according to ASTM D638, ASTM D256, ASTM D790, and ASTM D648 and using a 3D scanner. Testing monitored using statistical process controls.