Given how nascent this manufacturing technique is, however, it’s understandable that questions—and adoption challenges—still abound. Here, we help you gain access to the information you need, through the insights of Burloak Technologies’ leading experts, so you can navigate this new terrain with confidence.
In this installment, we chat with Samuel’s President and CEO, Colin Osborne, about AM’s role in manufacturing’s digital transformation.
Over the last several years, the manufacturing industry has started to embrace digital tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), automation and cloud-based computing. We’ve also seen a surge in 3D printing—or AM. Why is this trend so significant for manufacturers, and how does AM fit in?
What we’re seeing right now is the emergence of Industry 4.0, a new era of manufacturing that’s being driven by heightened demand for enhanced manufacturing speed and efficiency. Today, manufacturers are being asked to produce things faster—but also smarter. There’s also increasing pressure to reduce costs and to reduce the environmental impact.
AM offers tremendous opportunities to overcome common manufacturing challenges and create value. For instance, with AM, you start with a digital file that you can send anywhere in the world, allowing you to get the part manufactured at the point of use. This offers the potential to substantially accelerate product development cycles and shorten a product’s time-to-market. It also offers a quicker and more efficient way to build new design concepts and test for fit and function before taking the plunge to large-scale manufacturing. And of course, by manufacturing closer to where the product is needed, and doing it with minimal yield loss you greatly reduce the carbon footprint.
There’s still a lot of skeptics who don’t believe AM is deserving of its hype. What are your thoughts on its current state and its potential?
Part of this is likely because AM is so nascent and, as a result, misconceptions abound. Because it’s so new, many people probably aren’t fully aware of the technology’s potential—they see it as a cost-effective means of prototyping, for instance, but aren’t familiar with the benefits of using it at scale. Similarly, it likely wasn’t around when today’s engineers and designers were in school so there’s a shortage of professionals out there who can comfortably leverage its capabilities.
At the same time, the AM industry is evolving at a phenomenal rate. It hasn’t yet reached its full potential, which is probably reason for some of the skeptism too. Every day, exciting developments are happening all over the world—and today’s pioneers are rapidly introducing new processes, and realizing a wide range of new AM capabilities, that are already propelling industries such as aerospace and automotive forward. So I think it’s just a matter of time before these benefits reach the mainstream, and other industries become more comfortable in leveraging the power of AM.
How is Burloak Technologies supporting the evolution of AM?
Perhaps one of Burloak’s greatest advantages is that it’s part of Samuel, Son & Co.—a 165-year-old company that specializes in metal processing, distribution and parts manufacturing. This affiliation offers Burloak access to an unparalleled depth of knowledge and expertise related to traditional part design and manufacturing at scale.
It also allows us to be technologically agnostic, which means we recognize there’s a time and a place for traditional manufacturing methods, and a time and a place for AM. We only recommend AM when it’s the absolute best option for our customers.
When it is, our decades of global experience allow us to meet many demanding, industrial end uses. We can manufacture at scale, meet the strict requirements of globally-recognized manufacturers and deliver really complex AM projects.
The result is that our customers always walk away with a truly positive AM experience and, through that process, we’re shaping the industry for the better and advancing its global commercialization efforts.
To learn more about whether AM can enhance your manufacturing operations, contact us.