I interviewed Jim Schlusemann who discussed Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing and Its' Impact on the Supply Chain.
Today we’re meeting with Jim Schlusemann, who’s the founder and president of Prosperia International, and we’re going to discuss some issues around additive manufacturing. Good afternoon, Jim. It’s great speaking with you again today. I’m looking forward to discussing your views on additive manufacturing and its future impact on the supply chain. Can you please provide a little bit of background and share with us who Prosperia International is?
Sure, I’m happy to, Dustin. Good afternoon and thanks for taking the time for our update today; it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. Prosperia International is my private consulting practice where I focus on improving new and existing businesses. I use my consulting practice to offer services to businesses and nonprofits. I use it by leveraging my experiences in manufacturing, engineering, information technology, and global business development. The experience came from my 40-year career with Navistar, a global manufacturer of on-highway trucks and diesel engines. My career there included 16 years as the chief information officer for their engine business.
What is additive manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is any various process used to make a three-dimensional object. A 3D printer is really a type of industrial robot, and in 3D printing, additive processes are used in which successive layers and material are laid down under computer control, effectively building a part. These objects can be almost any shape, size, geometry and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic source of data.
I believe additive manufacturing is going to change how we design what we make, how we make it, and where it’s produced. All of these changes are going to disrupt our current business and create new opportunities for those ready to move ahead. One of the biggest benefits of additive manufacturing is that it can simply build parts that cannot be built in any other way.
What industries and markets are using this technology?
It’s easier to say where additive manufacturing is not being used than where it’s being used these days. The only place additive manufacturing doesn’t make sense at the moment is when you have or need thousands of parts. That can change too, because there are some things with networking and everything that can make it more applicable as the years go on. The list of additive-manufacturing materials gets longer every day, also. There are new machines doing composites using defined ceramics, they do sugar, chocolate, pizza, berry pies, meat. In the U.K. they can print concrete; and in Egypt, they’re using solar power and sand to make glass parts nowadays. There is also bio printing, which will change the quality of life for many in the future.
How is the technology catching on?
The past couple years, it’s become more obvious at how the technology’s going to change the world. At the 2015 IndustryWeek’s Best Plants conference, they featured a keynote from 3D Systems CEO Evan Hughes. He spoke on the amazing future that 3D printing offers for the manufacturing world. He said that after 30 years of development, 3D printing is finally ready to come out of the RD labs, into the real manufacturing world in a big way. He referenced this by saying it was 30 years for the Internet to become mainstream from the time it was initially discovered, and it was approximately 30 years that the semiconductor industry really went horizontal from the time that it was launched.
Three-D printing is in the same moment right now, so after 30 years of development, these machines are faster, cheaper, more reliable, more durable, and use many more materials. Now we’re seeing them start to show up in production, Dustin.
What kind of growth can we see in this industry?
The industry has seen somewhere around 30 percent growth per year. The machines and the processes are improving, and there are more and more companies making machines and supplying all these different types of materials for building parts. The original equipment manufacturers are reengineering their machines for higher throughput, better repeatability, which is going to help quality control and better ergonomic design. The industry, in 2014, was a $5 billion industry, and in 2015 it’s going to be hugging around $8 billion, and I’ve seen some projections as high as $35 billion by 2020.
What are some of the niche markets for additive manufacturing today?
There’s an endless array of applications that exist and can be 3D printed or additively manufactured. As RD efforts advance, we expect to see more applications and uses for additive manufacturing. Some current niche markets are precious metals, jewelry, fashion design, cellular materials, solar cells, ceramics, food is an interesting application of technology, and a real beneficial one is orthopedics and prosthetics.
Can you talk about how additive manufacturing is going to alter and disrupt the current business landscape, including business models that will be created?
Yes. What I see are probably three areas right off the top of my head. One is unique supply chains and how that’s going to change things in the industry. Second one is OEMs disrupting current business models and how they do things. A real exciting one is advanced modeling in the medical field.
In the area of unique supply chains, for example, Amazon has filed patents for mobile 3D-printing delivery trucks. Think about this: If you have a wall switch that goes bad or a plate that you need, you download the part or order on Amazon, they send a truck in front of your house, download and print the part, and bring it to you instantaneously. Huge impact on the supply chain there.
In the area of business models, Boeing has filed a patent application for 3D printing of replacement parts for aircraft. I’ve seen some projections where that could increase fuel economy by making better, smaller parts and increasing fuel economy in the aerospace industry by up to 7 percent, which is huge.
Also, in the medical field, a neat example I read about recently was that there was a complex separation of conjoined twins that was successfully planned using 3D printing. Some real exciting things out in that area.
What do companies need to do to benefit from this change in the business landscape?
It really all starts at the beginning of all other processes in a business, and that’s in market analysis and product analysis. If we think the way we did previously and don’t adapt in new ways that you could do as far as growing parts instead of making them from previous methods, we won’t be able to advance.
It starts with market and product analysis and thinking differently, then you move into engineering and designing parts differently. We used to hear all the time about design for manufacturing. Now, you want to design for additive. It’s a whole different way of thinking there, at the leverage capability of technology.
Then you want to add discussions about whether you want to buy this equipment or outsource. I’ve seen some scenarios where, in the current industry, if you wanted to make a part like this, you might go to a company and send out a purchase order for a thousand of these. With networking, new capabilities, and additive manufacturing in place, I can see a time in a world where, if you want a thousand of these, you put it out in a network to a thousand capable suppliers, and they’ll go ahead and deliver them to where you want to have them made. It’s really a whole new different way of thinking.
Big impacts on the supply chain, and then finally just making sure the companies invest and plan accordingly to take advantage of all these changes coming their way.
Thanks, Jim, for sharing today.
I’m always glad to participate. This is a real exciting dynamic area. There are going to be changes by the month. There are plenty of things to read every day; I like staying on top of it. I’d be happy to talk in the future sometime too, if you want another update on this or on other things, Dustin.
I look forward to it.
About Jim Schlusemann
Business Development and Improvement