How is 3D printing aligned with lean manufacturing principles?
Lean manufacturing focuses on minimizing waste within manufacturing systems and maximizing productivity. As technology develops, it creates more opportunities for industries to streamline the manufacturing process. The manufacturing industries are always looking at new and innovative ways to make their production line more flexible. 3D printing introduces a number of new avenues and tools for engineers to simplify the design, manufacturing, and storage of parts.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is the methodology that focuses on improving efficiency through the reduction of waste. There are many similar process improvement methodologies such as Six Sigma, but they may place a higher focus on improving other areas of the manufacturing process. For example, Six Sigma contains many of the same techniques and methods for identifying areas of improvement, but with the focus of reducing deviations from the product specifications. Improving efficiency through more accurate process output. Lean manufacturing differs in that it focuses on reducing bottlenecks and improving the logistics of manufacturing.
Since the creation of the first manufacturing line, the concept of lean manufacturing has developed and refined as the tools available expand. Key developers of the lean methodology such as Henry Ford and Taiichi Ohno were revolutionary for their time by developing a systematic approach to integrating cutting-edge technology to build efficient and intelligent manufacturing lines. In general, the majority of techniques within lean manufacturing focus on condensing each step of the process into manageable, inspectable and improvable chunks.
Waste Within Manufacturing
Within the Lean school of thought, waste is often separated into several categories; these are unnecessary transportation; excess inventory; unnecessary motion of people, equipment or machinery; waiting, whether it is people waiting or idle equipment; over-production of a product; over-processing or putting more time into a product than a customer needs, such as designs that require high-tech machinery for unnecessary features; and defects, which require effort and cost for corrections. Each instance of waste contributes to bottlenecks and increases the cost of manufacturing a product. As technology advances, it becomes a more accessible option to implement advanced automation and intelligence into our manufacturing lines.
How does 3D printing simplify the process?
Advancements in the 3D printing technology, equipment and materials have resulted in the costs being driven down, making it a more feasible option to general manufacturing use. 3D printing for manufacturing comes with several exciting and unique advantages such as the reduction in the amount of waste a production line creates, and a greater reduction in amounts of material used. From a logistics point of view, 3D printing technology has the potential to eliminate the need for high volume production facilities. It means industries can print on demand which will drastically reduce the amount of time and cost required to get the part from a production line.
Some other key areas that 3D printing plays a role in reducing waste:
1) Little-to-no tooling cost when switching between parts:
There is no need to create new sets of fixtures when creating a new part on a 3D printer. Besides, there is no need to maintain an inventory of those fixtures.
2) Reduction of part complexity:
The 3D manufacturing process can create an endless list of possibilities. Geometries that were once difficult to manufacture can now be produced with this technology. Greater integration into ERP, Quality, and Inventory Management solutions allow parts to be produced more reactively and with greater visibility into defects.
3) Faster prototyping during R&D:
Rapid prototyping using 3D printing allows engineers and designers to execute inexpensive, quick and frequent revisions of their designs and creations.
This is just the start of how companies can use 3D printing in lean manufacturing. Take a look at a number of our case studies to get some ideas about the different ways companies are using Markforged 3D printers to reduce waste.