Manufacturers Count on 3D Printing to Speed Time-to-Market

Create: 07/14/2017 - 08:11
3D printing Jabil

Photo: SAP Silicon Valley on Twitter @SAPsv

 

In the last year, manufacturing companies have been digitizing operations, embracing all types of IoT technologies to improve assembly line performance and business efficiency. One standout technology on the rise and poised for a big growth spurt in industrial applications is 3D printing.

With seemingly endless imagination and diverse applications, the 3D printer market is estimated to garner $8.6 billion by 2020, according to forecasts from Allied Market Research. This year, 3D printers are moving rapidly into industrial usage and already showing value by providing design cost savings, product customization and reduced time-to-market for manufacturing companies.

One such company, global manufacturing and design firm Jabil, has been adopting technologies such as 3D printing to help its clients stay ahead of the game and operate with new business models. Founded in Michigan 50 years ago as a small company with a focus on automotive parts manufacturing, Jabil is now based in St. Petersburg, FL, and has 90 facilities in 23 countries, employing 175,000 employees worldwide.

The company prides itself on providing innovative industrial design services, and its customers span industries from healthcare to life sciences to networking and aerospace. It designs consumer products that range from head to toe, including Disney MagicBands and custom insoles from Superfeet. For the insole company, Jabil took advantage of digital prototyping capabilities with its 3D printers to produce 40 product prototypes in just four months.

3D printing Jabil

Photo: Jabil/Superfeet

Design Engineering with 3D Printers

Jabil operates a Blue Sky Innovation Center in San Jose that showcases the company’s latest digitally manufactured products and the tools used to build them. The lobby has evidence of the company’s digital transformation, and it has on display everything from smart watch bands to electric toothbrushes in personalized colors. The Center also has a room full of robots along with multiple 3D printers, ranging in size from small desktop models the size of a microwave to HP 3D printers that occupy an entire room.

In a recent interview reported in the SAP newsroom, John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing for Jabil, talked about the importance of IoT technologies, including 3D printers. “The digital transformation in manufacturing is going to be enormously impactful for companies like Jabil,” said Dulchinos. “3D printing is one of those really amazing technologies. As we look at where 3D printing will take us in the future, we think it’s going to impact the entire product lifecycle from very early innovation and ideation, through manufacturing and product introduction.”

He notes that with 3D printing, Jabil can now provide support for spare parts and other needs later in the product lifecycle. The technology gives the company the ability to free up designers to create the “most optimized, intricate designs. We now have a way to bring manufacturing options closer to where customers are, and deliver goods that are more targeted and responsive to their immediate needs.”

Jabil’s goals are to optimize its supply chain and allow its customers to offer personalized products, no matter what they make. A big component of its move to IoT and digital operations management is its data and analytics platform. The company uses SAP Distributed Manufacturing and SAP Leonardo, which is a digital system that brings together IoT, machine learning, blockchain and analytics on a cloud-based platform.

Jabil intends to integrate 3D printing into nearly all of its systems, including procurement, sales, inventory and logistics. The silver bullet is the speed that 3D printing solutions provide. Jabil says that the code for a 3D printed-appliance can be transmitted in seconds to a printer around the world, and manufacturing can begin in minutes, vs. months.

“3D printing technology allows us to be able to design products for customers that are delivered much quicker and that are personalized—which means a better solution for them.” Jabil is working toward transforming its entire manufacturing process—from inception to delivery of the final products—to a 100 percent digitally native process.

Time-to-Market Savings

In addition to the Blue Sky Center in San Jose, Jabil opened a second facility focused on digital innovation in Tortosa, Spain in June. That center includes a test zone for prototype development, as well as digital prototype and 3D printing capabilities that Jabil says can cut the time-to-market for new product introductions in half. Learn more:

About Author

Melanie McMullen
Melanie is an expert technology writer who specializes in covering the IoT, cloud, mobile computing, and emerging technology markets. Melanie has held top editorial and content development positions at Allbusiness.com, Internet Business magazine, and LAN Magazine. She has written hundreds of global business technology articles and blogs and co-authored The Standard for Internet Commerce.

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