Home' MHD Supply Chain Solutions : MHD Mar-Apl 2017 Contents best to if they were 3D printed? Once known,
we move further into the supply chain to select
products that are candidates for 3D printing —
those which best meet the impact point targets
and further still to evaluate the cost impact
within the supply chain itself.
On the other hand, if the target is to reduce
the cost across the supply chain, the starting
point is internal. This begins with the costliest
manufacturing processes, which are then linked
to the product range — the products with the
greatest manufacturing cost.
In both cases, we arrive at the same
juncture: which products should we print?
This is ultimately the key decision point of any
3D printing strategy within the supply chain.
Identifying the target impact points within the
business provides us a with a means and
direction to approach this question.
Similar products, similar
Even with an impact point targeted, the sheer
number of products presents a challenging
hurdle. Performing a cost-benefit analysis across
hundreds or thousands of different items is a
Rather than evaluating many individual
products, the task can be reduced to
evaluating a handful of characteristically
similar products. Components can be
categorised by the 3D-printer tolerance and
performance capabilities required to print
them. Tolerance describes the allowable
deviation of the printed product from its
intended design, described as ‘standard’ or
‘precise’: small tolerances require accurate
and precise 3D printing capabilities.
Performance refers to the physical capabilities
of the printed material, such as strength and
durability, described as ‘heavy’ or ‘light’.
Typically, ‘heavy-precise’ printers require
significantly more complex machinery and
processes (including post-processing), as well
as controlled operating environments and
advanced operator training. Conversely, ‘light-
standard’ printers are smaller, less costly and
relatively easy to operate.
Segmenting the product range in this
way enables alignment with the 3D printing
strategy and provides direction for determining
capability requirements and overall 3D printing
lifecycle costs. The product segmentation grid
(Figure 3.) allows costs (outlined in A road-map
to 3D printing today) to be characterised for
each of the tolerance-performance quadrants
in the grid. Though solution design requires
detailed analysis of the costs associated with
the proposed solution, segmentation provides
an efficient approach to identify a smaller set of
Insource or outsource
Once the product segmentation grid has been
populated and an initial cost assessment
performed, the suitable product quadrant(s)
can be selected based on budget and business
impact point target. Following determination
of the ‘make-to-stock’ versus ‘make-to-order’
decision, as outlined in our previous article, a
key question at this stage of the roadmap will
be whether or not to insource or outsource the
3D printing capabilities.
There is now a variety of options for
outsourcing 3D printing. Organisations such as
Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise operate
3D printing services in which the customer
uploads their design to the organisations’
website for printing. With Sculpteo, the price is
automatically calculated and processing time
for the manufacturing is between two days and
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MHD SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS — MARCH / APRIL 2017
SUPPLY CHAIN 47
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