Dr. Mark J. Cotteleer, Director of Deloitte, stood in front of the May 20th Smart Manufacturing Summit audience with two objects in his hands. “This globe I’m holding in my left hand,” he said, “was made using additive manufacturing.” Attendees watched as he spun the metal globe with his fingers. “There was no assembly. It’s all one piece.”
In his right hand, he held a 1987 pump for a Chevy Camaro. “This is heavy and has lots of parts, and it was not made by additive manufacturing. What I like to ruminate on, however, is … if I can achieve that with that piece,” he said, pointing to the globe, “what can I do with this? How can I redesign this part using additive manufacturing technologies, and if I did, what implications would that have for my supply chain?”
If this is the kind of conversation you are having with your leadership team, then there is a good chance you are prepared for the coming additive manufacturing revolution. If your competitors start adopting additive manufacturing before you do and pass their cost and delivery efficiencies on to their customers, that could greatly affect your ability to remain competitive.
In 2013, systems and services revenue for additive manufacturing reached $3 billion, according to Cotteleer. That’s after growing 35% last year. “And there’s no reason to expect that it won’t grow as rapidly this year,” he said. Currently, additive manufacturing is being implemented in aerospace, automotive, medical and consumer products.
He attributes the reason for this explosive growth to the expiration of patents. In 2009, all Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) patents expired, and the use of FDM increased, he said. Then last year, patents expired for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). “If we see the kind of growth in SLS that we have seen in FDM over the last five years, we’re going to have an explosion in the market,” he said.
He cautions, however, that additive manufacturing is not a panacea. “It’s not going to change everything, but it is going to change some things in very important ways, so as manufacturers, we need to think about how it affects us.” Specifically, “it’s not about how do I throw out the old and bring in the new, but how do I bring in the new in a way that fits with my operation and allows me to be competitive?”
The business case exists today for small plastic parts but that is going to broaden over time. Our job as leaders, he said, is to think about where we sit in the supply chain, and how the changes in technology affect the way we go to market and service our customers, and how additive manufacturing can help improve those processes.