In recent months, manufacturing companies have been forced to transform at an unprecedented pace. Their goal was not only to find ways to innovate, but above all to optimize energy-intensive processes. The concept of Lean Manufacturing, often associated with 3D printing technology, has gained in popularity.
An efficient supply chain is an integral part of every company’s success – proper management speeds up the delivery of products, reduces costs and prevents delays, which can be costly both for the company’s financial performance and its reputation. How can 3D printing technology and the lean manufacturing concept become a permanent part of production management?
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean Manufacturing is a production management system that comes from Japan, more specifically the Toyota factory. Lean Manufacturing is a production management model that aims to reduce waste, eliminate unnecessary operations and procedures in the production process. What is important, the priority remains products and services of the highest quality while maintaining low production costs and using relatively low amount of raw materials.
The combination of 3D printing technology and Lean Manufacturing
Even before COVID-19, many companies used 3D printing technology to produce spare parts. These include mainly manufacturing companies in the automotive, aerospace, railroad, medical, food, and architectural industries… but not only – the production of prototypes and final components eliminates the need for costly tooling, allows to generate up to 90% time savings and 80% cost reduction compared to traditional methods such as injection or milling.
Examples of application of 3D printing and Lean Manufacturing in practice
Now that we know the benefits of 3D printing and know the concept of Lean, let’s take a look at concrete examples…
- Toyota – in the war-ravaged economy of Japan, there was a lack of money for large machines, which guaranteed a reduction in production costs by means of scale. Toyota’s production solution was to use small general-purpose machines that could produce low-volume parts, but the only prerequisite was the ability to quickly reconfigure to produce the right parts. Thanks to low-volume production, the Japanese brand was able to catch errors much faster and, as a result, significantly reduce production costs. What is important is that not only the quality of manufactured products but also their variety grew. Toyota did not have a 3D printer at that time, but we can only imagine what their production would look like with the possibility of quick prototyping.
- Metris 3D – the company on behalf of a customer from the railroad industry had to make a functional prototype of the armchair in 1:1 scale. The best solution was to print 3D and print the most sensitive parts of the armchair in the first place, in order to catch design errors as quickly as possible and not to expose the company to additional costs. Thanks to the use of 3D printing technology our client saved 370 000 EUR and more than 13 weeks of the model preparation process for production.
To sum up, thanks to the use of 3D printing we managed to: shorten the time of realization, use less materials and money, prevent overproduction, fully focus on the customer’s needs.
- A French manufacturing company effectively uses our 3D Factory 2.0 printer to speed up the production process – the production of devices that consist of many elements and have to be transported between production halls exposed sensitive electronic components to damage, and the whole process is time-consuming. To optimize this process, a blister was designed and had to be:
- perfectly matched to the components and the company’s infrastructure to ensure safety during transport,
- it had to be designed in such a way as to allow for overlapping in order to make maximum use of the storage space.
In this case, the company, thanks to the use of 3D printing, significantly accelerated the transport of components inside the factory and, thanks to appropriate protection, reduced the loss of inventory, saving additional storage space.
As you can see from the above examples, 3D printing is a very versatile technology that can be used in many industries and in many ways. First of all, it will work well in production companies, but also in design offices. Thanks to it you can improve the quality of company management, so any manager who wants to introduce lean manufacturing values in the company should consider implementing this technology.
3D printing also reduces the market entry barrier for small companies. Thanks to this technology you can reduce the cost of creating the first iterations of a new product to several hundred zlotys. That is why 3D printing on demand is advisable for all technology companies, especially startups, for which the cost of creating several prototypes with classic methods may be too high.