The production world pivots on one concept: supply and demand. Demand is about need. How much need is there for a specific product or part? Supply refers to how many of each item a manufacturer can produce. Successful manufacturing companies find a balance between supply and demand by being flexible. That elasticity is the very heart of economics, but it is hard to measure. When the supply falls short of the demand, customers are left wanting. When the supply exceeds the need, companies lose money.
Advancements in 3D technology have opened a door that helps businesses find that sweet spot for supply and demand. This vein of additive manufacturing is called on-demand production. The application of production on-demand is far reaching. It has changed everything from product development to surgical technology. Consider how production on-demand is becoming the next big trend in manufacturing.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
On-demand production utilizes rapid prototyping to fabricate a physical part or a scale model on request. Available since the 1980s, companies are just now realizing the true potential of 3D scanning and additive layer manufacturing.
Rapid prototyping combines 3D CAD modeling with 3D printing to create a physical object at a faster rate. Many of the items made via rapid prototyping are available by other means, but it would take longer. For example, through 3D production, certain automobiles are designed and fully tested in just one year. This is because the prototype parts are made and improved upon using a 3D printer to save time.
Rapid prototyping is the core concept behind on-demand production. Companies do not have to rely on extended time tables to create new products. They can shape their design, test it and revise it in hours as opposed to months. The time between design conception to finished product is minimized using 3D technology and on-demand processing.
What is On-Demand Production?
On-demand production takes the concept of rapid prototyping and combines it with the basic economics of supply and demand. Businesses that deal with rare parts, like automotive restoration or design, no longer have to order one extra piece in case they need it or wait for months to get one made when they do. Machinists can get a replacement part in hours instead of shutting down the line for days when something breaks down.
Who Benefits From On-Demand Production?
Manufacturers benefit from on-demand production. They can provide accurate price quotes and gain control of their inventory. The need for extra storage facilities to contain parts that never sell is gone, too.
Designers make use of this technology to create as they go. They develop their initial layout and start building right away. If one part doesn’t fit quite right, they make an adjustment and see that design evolve almost immediately.
Ultimately, it is the consumer that sees the most benefit from on-demand production. Companies that design and create products lower their overhead with on-demand parts and that savings brings down prices across the market. Farmers save on replacement parts for their equipment and the cost of food goes down. Automotive companies produce better cars for less money and sticker prices drop while vehicle efficiency improves.
Industries that Use On-Demand Production
Almost every sector can benefit in some way from on-demand parts. Aerospace relies on 3D printing and production to create scale models. They might use on-demand production for printed sand molds and cores or to create printed metal components in unique sizes.
Automotive designers and processing plants often integrate on-demand parts manufacturing when creating engines, transmission housings and electrical components. They can develop engines for passenger cars then expand it to work for their next racecar by ordering refitted parts as needed.
On-demand processing has infiltrated the art world, as well. Metal artist and sculptures utilize CAD design and 3D scanners to create molds in all sizes. A piece commissioned for a park can also be sold as a desktop souvenir in the gift shop. On-demand production offers industrial craftsman that same flexibility. They can custom fit plumbing parts, whether renovating a residential bathroom or piping a skyscraper.
3D foodprinting is a tangible on-demand perk. The food industry can create and field test new textures and unique combinations without wasting time and resources. It allows restaurants to personalize their menu options to promote the brand with each new dish. On-demand foodprinting can change the shape, composition, structure, texture and taste to fit a current theme or trend.
On-Demand Production Enhances Medicine
With on-demand processing, doctors are able to custom order surgical tools, prosthetic limbs and models that help them strategize or teach a new procedure. 3D printing is improving the lives of families in third-world countries with limited access to even basic tools like a stethoscope. With the help of on-demand production, field kits are always stocked and ready in case of an emergency.
In Poland, a Biomedical Engineering student used this technology to create a tool to rehabilitate limb paresis. She used CAD software to design a lightweight orthosis device that enabled the patient to both clench his fist and rest his hand. The design required 70 custom-made parts to work.
The dental industry is seeing similar benefits. People have access to custom-fitted dentures, whether they live in Guinea or New York. Dentists without borders have fillings and implants that were obsolete in some areas of the world prior to the evolution of additive layer manufacturing.
On-demand bioprinting is becoming an asset for pharmaceutical companies, too. Recently, a Netherlands research organization began using it to print biocompatible oral dosage forms that are safe for human consumption.
On-demand production using 3D scanners and 3D printers is changing the face of supply and demand. When the available supply becomes infinite, it opens doors for design firms, manufacturers, production companies and retail businesses. The economic flux will influence the way consumers shop whether they are heading to the local grocery store or looking to buy a new custom-built home.