This video explores the second of two topics related to the first quadrant of the additive manufacturing framework: tooling. It defines tooling and then provides an overview of five areas in which additive manufacturing is seen to provide benefits. Then examine several AM applications in tooling and conclude with a summary of application attributes that make AM a particularly good avenue for value delivery.
- Hi there, in this segment, we're going to continue our exploration of additive manufacturing framework, remaining in quadrant one, stasis, and exploring that path; in this case, looking at tooling, the second of the two major application areas that we're exploring for the stasis quadrant. Now, before we begin, I want to remind us of what path one is about, and then we'll delve into tooling, look at some applications, then look at some examples. So, let's remember, along path one, companies will not seek radical alterations in either supply chains or in products, but they may retain interest in exploring additive manufacturing technologies to improve value delivery for current products within existing supply chains.
The idea here is that even if we're not undergoing radical alterations to either supply chain or product, we could still find value. Now, before we begin, let's define tooling itself because some people aren't really familiar with that we're talking about when we use those words. So, for our purposes, we're going to define tooling as physical components used to enable the manufacture of end-use products or prototypes. So, think about the cost curve figure that we looked at in an earlier segment. We looked at the traditional and the additive manufacturing cost curves, and if you remember, what I talked about was the high initial fixed cost of some traditional manufacturing processes.
That has to do with the tooling. Those are the molds, the guides, the fixtures that I need in order to produce that first unit. So, even if I only produce one, I've still got to invest all that money. And if we think about additive manufacturing, one of the big benefits was that flat initial cost curve, in some cases, because I could eliminate tooling. So, as we think about tooling, it's what's enabling those first units of production, or in fact, all the units of production. There's three ways we want to look at it: Molds, which are hollowed-out forms that give shape to an object, think about molding plastic or molding metal, where I'm pouring a molten material into an enclosed space and waiting for it to cool; I've got fixtures, which are devices that hold objects in place during assembly operation; and I've got gauges, which are devices that are used to measure the dimensionality of other objects.
Now, tooling and additive manufacturing are used in each of these cases in big ways, right? In fact, tooling is one of the major application areas for additive manufacturing, as we mentioned previously. Some estimates put investments in tooling for additive manufacturing at over a billion dollars in 2013. Tooling design and production is expensive and can be time consuming; and therefore, people may not want to invest in it over and over again to make small adjustments. Perhaps additive manufacturing can help there, as well. So, when we think about the benefits of additive manufacturing for tooling, there are five big benefits that we want to think about.
Number one, elimination. I'm going to pause here and explain this before we talk about anything else. Let's go back to thinking about that figure that we looked at with the cost curves. Remember how flat that additive manufacturing cost curve is? That's because, in many cases, not only does additive manufacturing help with tooling, it eliminates tooling. Think of technologies, like SLS, selective laser sintering, or material binding, where we actually have a powder bed process in which the part is supported by unsintered or unbound powders; and therefore, we don't need things like molds or supports in place because the process itself takes care of it, thereby eliminating tooling entirely and saving us all that costs.
Now, other main areas in which we can add value using additive manufacturing and tooling, well, there's four ways: time, cost, reproducibility, and flexibility. And I'd like to take a look at each of those. Let's take cost and time first. We could have a situation in which we're required to outsource the production of the tooling itself using traditional methods, say, because we don't have that technology in-house. But with additive manufacturing, maybe we can bring it in-house and produce on demand when we need to. The ability to direct print the fully assembled piece of tooling means that I could potentially reduce labor and potentially material costs.
The fact that I can reduce the amount of machining involved also means that I can reduce labor and potentially accelerate lead times; that is, get the product here quicker. In fact, Stratasys, one of the major providers of additive manufacturing equipment has estimated that using AM, you can reduce tooling costs in some applications by between 50% and 95% and accelerate lead times by between 30% and 80%. So, there's some substantial opportunities out there if we only take the time to explore how to achieve them.
Beyond time and cost, we have some other opportunities with respect to rapid reproduction and flexibility. So, if we think about the ability to print on demand, that gives us the opportunity to reduce the amount of tooling that we hold in inventory and that we scatter about the countryside at our various locations because, again, when we need something, we can just produce it when we need it. Now, if we think about the reduction of the time and cost involved, that means that it's easier to produce a new version of the tooling; and, therefore, we might be more willing to produce a new version, say, in response to the perceived need to change a product or to tweak a product.
And as a matter of record, we have the opportunity to then make smaller changes and iterate them more rapidly as our product evolves, as opposed to waiting for major new releases. Auto manufacturers are already engaging in this kind of behavior, reducing their tooling inventories and accelerating it and evolving it more quickly. The last area to explore has to do with the functionality of the tooling itself. Two ways we can think about this: One is the performance of the tooling as a result of the design of the tooling. So, here's an example.
This isn't actually a piece of tooling, but I have this handy, and I can illustrate the principle pretty clearly. This is a heat sink, it's designed to take a fluid, which enters on this end and exits on this end, and remove heat through it by expressing it through this lattice structure that we have here. Now, here's a cutaway. This is what the internal architecture of this piece looks like. We see the internal complexity of where the fluid enters and then goes through this curved channel and then exits on this other end. That curvature allows us to expand the surface area that is exposed to the cooling lattice structure that functions so well for this piece.
Now, I ask you to think about, in a traditional machining process, where I can only drill in a straight line, how can I actually achieve the curve and the increase in the cooling area to which the fluid is exposed? That answer is you can't. But with additive manufacturing, you can. Now, think about this with respect to a cavity in a tooling process, where maybe you've got those same curves and the ability to curve the cooling channels, where we're running fluid to wick heat away from the molten material and cool it faster, is dependent on your ability to machine in straight lines or in curved lines using additive manufacturing processes.
So, you have the opportunity to improve the performance of the tooling itself. The other opportunity that you have is ad hoc production where you need a tool, because, again, you can print on demand; so, as a result, maybe you're in a position where you can scrap material left. Here's a great example of this. This is a rotor blade from an Apache helicopter. We got this from our friends at America Makes in Youngstown, Ohio. This unit it not additively manufactured. It costs about $17,000, and they had an issue with it.
The issue is that there's a bushing in here, right, and this bushing occasionally fails. And without the ability to repair it in the field, the whole piece, all $17,000, has to be tossed in the trash heap. As a result of the ability to use additive manufacturing in the field, instead, they were able to create this tool, this is a part of a tool, that is actually used to extract that bushing, so that they can replace it; thus saving the $17,000 piece at a cost of a few dollars for a piece of tooling that they can print on demand.
So, again, a great example and application of a tooling process. So, in summary, we locate tooling in quadrant one, on path one, stasis, of our additive manufacturing framework. Doesn't have to be there, but that seems like the best place to deliver that kind of value proposition, where we don't necessarily have to think that we're going to change our supply chain or our products in order to extract strong value. The first major benefit: Maybe we can eliminate tooling altogether, something to be considered if we're going to go to final production or prototype production for the object that we're interested in creating.
But even if we don't do that, we have the opportunity to reduce cost and time, speed to market, as well as to better adapt and improve performance on that tooling. The key is to look for the opportunity for additive manufacturing to leverage the power of creating complex geometries as well as to reduce material loss during the tooling production process.
- What is additive manufacturing?
- Working with light-activated polymers
- Resin printing
- Modeling and extruding materials
- Fusing, melting, and sintering
- Binder jetting
- Laminating sheets
- Developing a product
- Shaping the direction of tooling
- Evolving a supply chain
- Evolving a product
- Evolving a business model