“Our vision for the future is the idea that anyone can make anything,” said Joshua Niman, sales engineering lead at Formlabs. Speaking in the Virtual Engineering Days presentation, “Anywhere Manufacturing: Overcoming Barriers to Product Using Additive Manufacturing,” Niman said that this is where he sees additive manufacturing changing the world and impacting industry. “We feel like we've really elevated desktop 3D printing to the point where it is a serious technology that can be scaled up and brought it to production applications for true end-use parts.
“Everyone's had a supply chain issue in the last year, it seems like,” he added. “And so, a lot of the conversation right now is, how do we bring manufacturing home? It's great to want to improve and change your processes when things are stable. But when there are external factors causing shortages or changes in the way that you do things, especially when certain locations are blocked off to you, 3D printing takes on a whole different significance [and] becomes something that has a different level of importance in your business,” he continued.
Eliminating those barriers will give you control of your supply chain, Niman said. “You've got control of your processes; you have control of the parts and supplies of components that you need to deliver an effective product.”
Niman commented that a company might have a perfect workforce and a factory set up to go, but will run into problems if it can’t ship things there. He said he hears companies saying that they need to stay on schedule, doing things at a regular cadence and sometimes vendors just can’t keep up. “So all of these are reasons I hear from people all the time as to why they want to talk to Formlabs, why they're interested in 3D printing, why they think it's something that's compelling, and especially why they want to bring it in-house,” he explained.
Formlabs printers can take up as little as six or seven feet of floor space and need only a 120-volt outlet, with a dedicated 20-amp circuit. And labor is not a huge concern, he said, because the printer does so much of the work on its own.
Niman said that the advantage of having a Formlabs printer on site is that companies can produce without going through an external supplier or through a machine shop, and so they have the flexibility of just producing parts. “But it also gives them a lot of security that their manufacturing facility is not going to experience any downtime,” he said. “If something breaks, if they need a replacement part, any of that, this goes back to the idea of controlling your supply chain, but also controlling your facility. You retake some of that control by having a really agile manufacturing tool like this.”
He stressed that although there might be a perception that 3D printed parts are weak or of low quality, or being generally unusable for real things, they really do hold up to being final products.
Companies can start off with just one Formlabs printer, then scale up as needs increase, Niman said. “This sort of solution, where you get the power out of a large manufacturing facility in the footprint of something much smaller is something we're really excited to be exploring with more and more users,” Niman concluded. “Anywhere in the globe, making anything anywhere, is really something that's going to propel us forward and our users forward and make them ready to tackle any challenge as we continue going into this sort of this uncertain time for manufacturing.”