Additive Manufacturing: The new revolution in manufacturing

Driven by cutting-edge technology and breakthrough innovations, Additive Manufacturing is reimagining production processes and redefining sustainable manufacturing

When the entire Manufacturing process - from design to delivery - takes 90% lesser time and consumes 80% lesser energy, it's a huge departure from convention. Add to this the advantages of environment-friendly processes and the savings on sustainable operations, and you have a true revolution. Welcome to the world of Additive Manufacturing (AM), which is transforming industrial processes and ushering in a new future for factories.

The forward-looking technologies and innovations involved in Additive Manufacturing are opening up new pathways for economic, technical and logistical advantages in the manufacturing domain. Industry leaders are at the forefront of this revolution, providing hardware & software solutions to OEMs of Additive Manufacturing machines & integrating AM technologies into mainstream manufacturing for themselves at the same time.

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The Additive Manufacturing era

While conventional and subtractive manufacturing produces 3D objects by machining out matter from the foundational raw material, AM or popularly known as 3D-Printing adds layer-upon-layer of the material to build the product - be it a minute machinery component or mega-sized industrial equipment.

Though it's early days yet, AM is projected to touch a market of $20-billion by 2020, and McKinsey predicts that the impact of the AM industry could accelerate to a potential  $250-billion by 2025, you can imagine the growth curve. The Indian 3D-printing market alone is expected to be worth $79 million (approx. Rs 585-crore) by 2021.

While increased domestic production, low manufacturing costs and an increased utilisation across industries and application will power this growth, the partnership of key AM players with the Government's 'Make in India' initiative will further boost its expanding footprint.

On its part, Siemens is committed to driving this growth through our integrated hardware and software solutions using our digital enterprise approach for the Additive Manufacturing value chain. We are already supplying our integrated AM solutions to many of the leading OEMs across the world.

Application of AM

Rapid prototyping helps print parts faster, significantly reducing time-to-market, thus speeding up the overall innovation and production cycles. AM also yields huge benefits in sustainability and resource consumption - cutting gas emissions by about 30%, using 65% fewer resources and creating components with greater durability and lifespan.

AM printers reproduce industrial spare-parts from 3D-datasets, doing away with the need for plants to physically store them for future use thereby enabling faster repairs, improving processes and facilitating easier upgradation to the latest designs.

Today, Additive Manufacturing is making rapid inroads in sectors as diverse as automotive, energy, medicine and aerospace. NASA is known to have successfully printed and tested a rocket injector, while Formula1 race cars are increasingly using 3D printed parts for increased efficiency. AM allows increased customisation and makes highly complex solutions available for power utilities and manufacturing plants.

A wide range of powdered materials can be used to manufacture industrial spare parts with AM. Right from the inception of AM, Siemens has been investing in the technology, emerging as a pioneer in using it for rapid prototyping, advanced repair solutions and manufacturing.

Just recently, Siemens achieved an innovation milestone by manufacturing the first 3D-printed oil sealing rings used in keeping oil separated from steam inside industrial steam turbines. The rings have been installed on SST-300 power generating steam turbines operating at the JSW Steel plant in Salem, Tamil Nadu.

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Adoption of AM in manufacturing

Waking up to the advantages of rapid manufacturing and rapid repairs, a good 34% of manufacturers in the US have already implemented AM technology in their production processes.

As the investments required for the implementation of AM will shrink in the coming years and skilled workforce is developed to work with new technologies, Additive Manufacturing will make rapid strides in its journey to transform modern manufacturing and reshape the future of factories.

Of course, industrial printers and software are not the whole story. Companies have to think carefully about how to integrate Additive Manufacturing into their production processes in the future.

The present global environment is conducive to the continued growth and adoption of AM technologies in production for increased speed, reliability and efficiency. It is imperative for global and domestic players to resolve to prepare, explore and embrace the challenges while making bold moves towards the future of AM technology.

(The author is MD and CEO, Siemens India)

(This is the third column in a three series article on digitisation and manufacturing by the author, stay tuned to this space for more.)

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