Business Applications Gain Traction in 3D Printing
According to Forbes, manufacturers across a broad spectrum of industries including automotive, aerospace, dental, discrete, high tech, and medical products are all actively piloting and using 3D printing technologies today. Prototyping continues to dominate the reasons why enterprises pursue 3D printing, with the opportunity of improving new product development and time-to-market being long-term goals.
The market for 3D printing, more technically called additive manufacturing (AM), grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.2 percent to $4.1 billion in 2014, according to Wohlers Report 2015. The industry expanded by more than $1 billion in 2014 alone, with 49 manufacturers producing and selling industrial-grade AM machines. The CAGR over the past three years (2012–2014) was 33.8 percent. This disruptive technology is proving to having many useful applications in product support services, especially when parts are scarce.
A large OEM client had a dilemma related to a product we repair for them. The particular model was no longer being manufactured and had a specific component failing at a much higher rate than anticipated when the product was being manufactured. This resulted in the spare parts supply exhausting prematurely.
In certain instances, iQor is capable to have a replacement part manufactured using traditional methods, but the cost for tooling, injection molds, lead time to have the parts made, and the minimum order quantities are better suited for products where there is greater visibility for future demand. In this case, uncertain demand and appetite to invest in spare parts for a retired product did not align.
Without a viable solution in sight, it looked as though the product was headed for the scrap heap, leaving customers scrambling for a costly replacement. The client voiced genuine concern for their customers and asked iQor to find a cost effective solution.
An Innovative Solution
Our team of technicians and engineers love a challenge. During a strategy session, the team narrowed solutions down and eventually landed on the concept of deploying 3D printing to solve the issue. So our team sat down and designed a solution that would be both inexpensive and practical. The vision for 3D printers is their ability to manufacture things, in this case, the obsolete and unavailable parts on your desktop. No tooling, no long lead times, no minimum orders - just parts made while you wait. Our team was able to design a suitable replacement part for the product in question using a 3D printer to create the much needed part. We proposed the solution to our client, performed some validation testing and provided proof of concept.
Through our innovative use of 3D printing, we were able to offer the client a much more cost effective solution to the end of life product support issue they were experiencing, along with a 50% lower failure rate. This enabled the client to continue to support a very large installed base of customers using the product they loved. A win for Customer Experience and a new tool in the hands of our Product Support Services teams.
Written By: Chris O'Connell, iQor Strategic Accounts Team