The ability to take a CAD drawing and create a physical prototype using 3-D printing was breakthrough technology 20 years ago. Now most design engineers use this capability to speed the new product development process quickly moving from concept models to functional prototypes into production.
While visiting Stratasys, a leader in the 3-D printing industry, I found that the 3-D printing technology has expanded beyond its traditional prototyping application onto the manufacturing floor. Manufacturing companies are using 3-D printers to produce manufacturing tools (jigs, fixtures, patterns) to aid in the manufacturing process. 3-D printing technology allows production teams to quickly design and create manufacturing tools as they ramp up production for new products or streamline their production lines. In addition, if the tools are damaged they can be replaced easily and quickly without having to go outside to have the tool replaced.
1. Production efficiency: If you are a manufacturing company – assess whether or not you can use the technology that resides with your design engineers to gain efficiencies in your manufacturing process. Using 3-D printing technology to produce your jigs and fixtures may speed up your change-over.
2. Growth: Significant growth was achieved by identifying new applications for 3-D printing technology. As you look at the products and services your company offers; does your team use its strategic planning process to identify new applications to generate future growth?
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