How to Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency in Additive Manufacturing

How to Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency in Additive Manufacturing

Bright AM

Reading Time: 4 minutes

More than 12 million people work in manufacturing in the US, which accounts for $2 trillion of GDP every quarter. As an industry, it’s a staggering amount of work and productivity.

As labor and material costs continue to rise, it can slice profit margins. Manufacturers must maintain quality, reduce costs, and increase efficiency to remain competitive, especially in Additive Manufacturing (AM).

Cost Factors in Additive Manufacturing

When you are planning a project or bidding on a job, it’s crucial to factor in your costs, especially if it means adding to current workforce, materials, or equipment costs.

Labor

Labor is one of the biggest cost drivers for any manufacturer and can be one of the most significant variables. To reduce costs and increase efficiency in AM, you must have the right equipment and a skilled workforce.

Materials

While raw materials are a commodity-based purchase, the quality of the materials can also be a variable. AM needs high-quality materials to create quality items.

Part Complexity

Part complexity plays a significant role in costs. How sophisticated a part is, the number of production steps and processes it takes to produce the final design, and post-processing all add time and expense to any AM job.

Tooling

Some projects may require fixed tools and dies by machine before multiple cast parts can be made, such as for pressure die casting, urethane vacuum casting, and injection molding.

Volume

The volume also determines pricing. In AM, you may not realize as great of savings as you would in traditional manufacturing with volume, but it will play into your overall cost and timing. The key to reduce cost and increase efficiency in AM is repeatability.

Quality

The cost of human error, scrap, and rework can crush margins. In AM, it is especially important to control quality from start to finish.

Streamlining Your Production Process

The increased emphasis on speed and flexibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes AM more essential than ever. It allows manufacturers to quickly change production lines to new designs or essential items. Automakers used AM to switch from producing car parts to ventilators. Clothing companies started creating PPEs rather than suits or purses. Only AM can handle the rapid prototyping needed to change on a dime.

While COVID-19 may not have impacted your manufacturing facility, the lessons still apply. To reduce cost and increase efficiency in AM, you need an end-to-end management system to control the entire process and drive quality while managing costs.

Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency in Additive Manufacturing

An end-to-end management system can control the entire process in terms of:

  • Visibility
  • Control
  • Quality

A manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS), such as Bluestreak | Bright AM™, is the only way to maintain the control you need over the process. This allows a paperless workflow that makes sure everyone knows exactly what to do at every step of the way, from the office to the shop floor and outside vendors if necessary.

A QMS will:

  • Minimize waste
  • Improve communication
  • Reduce errors, delays, and rework
  • Analyze workflow
  • Reduce lead time

Bluestreak | Bright AM™ has built-in traceability and trackability to identify any conflicts in the process, quickly recognize quality issues, and help define any necessary corrective and preventive action associated with a load or operational step.

Every one of these will help reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Managing the Production Pathway

Managing the production pathway throughout your facility with real-time and historical data associated with every work center allows for adjustments to be made in processing with live data. It also enables manufacturers to track both direct costs (such as machine time and labor), along with indirect costs (such as machine maintenance and labor, or calibration checks).

When you know where every piece and part is throughout the entire production pathway, it makes things run more smoothly for everyone.

Managing the Quality

Bluestreak | Bright AM™ automatically creates a fully documented and secure audit trail to improve fragmented or error-prone processes. Advanced Specification Manager supports the management of industry specifications, such as AIAG, API, AMS, AS, ASME, ASTM, ISO, NADCA, NADCAP, SAE, TS, and any internal specs. This helps keep the AM process in conformance from start to finish. It cross-references specifications to ensure that everything it impacts—personnel, equipment, processing, and vendors—has access to real-time information.

Advanced Control Plans/Sampling Plans enables you to have a work order (job traveler) with part-specific control plans attached to it. This can also reduce costs and increase efficiency by reducing the amount of scrap generated. It helps identify the source of any variation and establish controls for monitoring, including containing any non-conforming production before shipping.

It also provides complete management and revision control of all documentation, which is required for many standards, such as ISO 9001 and AS 9100.

Bluestreak | Bright AM™ Statistical Process Control provides real-time test results. With extensible support for statistical rules, it helps you spot trends before the process gets out of control. It can also save time and money on producing parts that will be out of conformance with specifications. This allows for a lean manufacturing strategy. Furthermore, it provides operators instant feedback, so any out-of-tolerance conditions can be dealt with immediately before a new process begins.

Another important way that Bluestreak | Bright AM™ helps reduce costs and increase efficiency is through Risk Analysis. Risk formulas allow you to eliminate human error and reduce liability. Automated risk reports are easy to view in real time. You can set risk thresholds before an AM part is quoted and assess risk throughout the design and build phases. This is important in compliance and for controlling costs.

Conclusion

Additive Manufacturing is allowing manufacturers to create truly amazing things. Using complex geometries and consolidation of parts and processes, AM is streamlining production and ushering in a new way of approaching the manufacturing process. To be effective at reducing costs and increasing efficiency, it takes a robust software system to drive end-to-end management and keep tight control over the process.

Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM™ to see how we connect quality management initiatives directly to the production floor to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!