Editorial


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Digital Factories Coming Soon

By: Vyomesh Joshi

Vyomesh Joshi is CEO and president of 3D Systems, Rock Hill, SC, www.3dsystems.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
 

Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook have accomplished this. So, too, will manufacturers, as the shift toward digital workflow designs and additive manufacturing (AM) processes gains momentum. The accomplishment? The creation of platforms to transform customer experiences. We’re talking everything from market analysis to design; product development to manufacturing; and supply-chain relationships to final production. In short, manufacturers need to break free from the traditional factory floor, with its long lead times and generations-old processes, and become digital operations.

Going Digital

“Establishment of digital workflows enables manufacturers to create more shapes in more ways, for applications such as medical devices and complex aerospace structures.”
So how do you get there? Your factory becomes a digital operation when your product intellectual property is digital. With digital workflow intellectual property, your manufacturing methods and your supply-chain relationships become digital. Digital factories augment, rather than replace, traditional manufacturing.

We see this in digital part designs that create strong value propositions, reducing the overall time-to-market with the right material combinations and 3D printers. Establishment of digital workflows enables manufacturers to create more shapes in more ways, for applications such as medical devices and complex aerospace structures.

Getting started need not be difficult: Design a part, print it and ensure that the form and functionality provide the expected outcome. AM becomes powerful because you speed time-to-part versus traditional manufacturing processes. Once completed, the engineer looks to scale the design, eventually leading to a digital factory.

Perfect for Today’s Economy

Today’s service-oriented global economy, calling for new business models based on rapid response to consumer demand and rapid design iteration, demands digital factories that enable manufacturers to increase their speed and agility.

Designing for AM offers innovative ways to create complex parts and simplify or eliminate assembly, with 3D-printing ecosystems able to perform the initial run or build the entire run to thousands of parts. New 3D printing platforms bring repeatability, durability, productivity and lower total cost of operation to the factory floor, while design technologies and new materials enable a variety of products, parts, components and tools previously thought impossible.

As for the plants, digital factories must be modular, scalable solutions, complemented by new materials and design methods for uniform results and repeatable quality. New metal alloys and precious materials such as stainless steel and titanium now are available. Material innovation will continue driving the AM industry, accelerating development of digital factories.

Manufacturers that revamp their engineering processes and business models to become digital factories will gain a clear competitive advantage, with key imperatives such as customer innovation centers, new materials and application engineering becoming necessary components of the digital-factory ecosystem. Such factories will be known for their agility, ability to win new work and attract new talent, and for being on the delivery end of disruptive manufacturing processes.

Manufacturing does not exist to create great molds and tooling, but to create great products. Digital factories align goals, processes and systems in a digital workflow. The results: shorter time-to-market, increased quality and lower total cost of operation. Furthermore, the reworking of goals, processes and systems into a digital workflow offers a new industrial paradigm: an all-digital synergistic workflow for competitive disruption and increased profitability. 3DMP

 

See also: 3D Systems


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