The Real Reason Additive Manufacturers Struggle Reducing Production Costs

The Real Reason Additive Manufacturers Struggle Reducing Production Costs

Bright AM

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Additive Manufacturing is no longer just a prototyping tool. The number of manufacturers using AM systems in-house has increased more than four-fold in the past three years.

There are so many benefits to Additive Manufacturing: lower tooling costs, the ability to produce even complex geometries, and cost-effective customization are just a few. Yet some service-level manufacturers struggle reducing production costs with AM. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Why Manufacturers Struggle Reducing Production Costs

The struggle of reducing production costs with Additive Manufacturing most often occurs because of a lack of efficiency. The right equipment and software play the most significant roles in creating efficient processes.

It also takes a management commitment to AM. If the top people in an organization don’t embrace the movement, it’s unlikely to be accepted by reluctant staff who may be fearful of losing their jobs or lack the expertise to get the job done. This fear can be paralyzing and cause “reluctant adoption,” which won’t lead to efficiency, productivity, or cost reductions.

How Additive Manufacturing Can Dramatically Reduce Production Costs

Rather than view AM as a potential threat, some companies that have fully embraced the potential for Additive Manufacturing have seen tangible cost reductions. Progressive Technology was able to design a series of parts to be nested to optimize build volume. They were able to reduce the build of 384 individual parts to a single build envelope. It reduced build time from 444 hours to less than 30 hours. The cost per part dropped from $40 to less than $4.

The aerospace industry was an early adopter of AM technologies. The F-18 Hornet fighter jet has more than 100 AM parts.

Optimized AM parts can be produced that are much lighter in weight without sacrificing strength. Airline manufacturers can often create parts that are 50-80% lighter than the original parts. Lighter parts translate into lower fuel consumption.

HP needed complex geometries for duct parts in printers. An Additive Manufacturing strategy created a nested build that dropped costs by more than 30%, shortened delivery times, and resulted in a 22% improvement in performance.

Manufacturers are migrating rapidly to the use of AM for three types of functional parts to reduce costs:

  1. End-use components or final parts used by customers
  2. Creation of complex tools and molds used in the traditional manufacturing process
  3. Spare parts made on demand

When a spare part from an older build or a special order is requested, it’s built on demand. This lets manufacturers keep lower inventory levels on the shelves and avoid tying up cash in parts that may sit on shelves for years.

With results like these, why don’t more manufacturers embrace Additive Manufacturing? The real reason they struggle reducing production costs is that they lack the software to drive the process efficiently.

How the Right Software Can Streamline the Process and Cut Costs

Manufacturers need an efficient process to create a consistent and flexible process for end-to-end control.

Additive Manufacturing production facilities have additional inventory management requirements, especially with powder usage (i.e., virgin, 1x, 2x, dynamic powder mixing to create new inventory items, etc.), and these requirements are met within the Bluestreak | Bright AM™ MES/QMS system. It was built specifically for the unique requirements of the AM industry.

By focusing on materials management and reduction, inventory controls and assurances, enterprise resource insights, product lifecycle management, and real-time information management, Bluestreak | Bright AM™ optimizes the process for cost-effective scheduling and production. Automating workflow through software streamlines the manufacturing process and provides robust quality monitoring from start to finish.

Visibility

Bluestreak | Bright AM™ provides complete transparency at every step of the process.

  • Have real-time processing visibility
  • Manage all references, specs, and media
  • Access from mobile allows you to view information on the go

Process Control

From the planning stage to the shop floor, you can control every aspect of the process. When things change, everything updates and forecasts adjustments to timelines and conflicts.

  • See real-time changes to part specs and sequencing
  • Freeze process to prevent changes
  • ID negative trends before out-of-tolerance conditions occur
  • Manage order hold, scrap parts, and nonconformances

It handles advanced manufacturing processes, including allowing multiple-part serial numbers on one build plate ID number.

Quality

Reducing production costs is a wonderful thing—unless it comes at the expense of quality. Bluestreak | Bright AM™ drives quality management directly to individual operators on the production floor.

  • Control plans, sampling plans, and part quality control characteristics
  • Qualifications of equipment, personnel, and vendors
  • Scheduled equipment maintenance and calibration
  • Cross-referenced part specifications to avoid conflicts
  • Risk analysis

It also creates a complete audit trail, including CAPAs, PPAPs, and revision history.

Struggle Reducing Production Costs? Better Meet Your Customer Needs

Approximately 43% of manufacturers say that embracing Additive Manufacturing has helped them better meet customer needs. While using AM for prototyping produces benefits, the real breakthroughs occur when companies use AM for functional parts. The right Additive Manufacturing software, such as Bluestreak | Bright AM™, can help manufacturers realize the full benefits of AM.

Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM™ today, and overcome the struggle of reducing production costs.

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