Companies often deal opportunistically with 3D printing. However, companies can avoid productivity disadvantages compared to competitors and achieve advantages if they align their 3D printing activities and organization by a Rapid Manufacturing roadmap.

Today, companies usually eliminate tool costs by 3D printing. In aerospace, medical technology, and engineering industries we see 3D printing as Rapid Manufacturing for individual manufacturing and for customer-specific middle series production. In the automotive industry there is a long history of Rapid Prototyping of A-samples and B-samples, followed now by Rapid Manufacturing of production equipment.

Up to 95% drop in production costs and much shorter process are reported. When a company reports its success, the competitors are in a tight spot. They follow quickly. Therefore, conventional technologies are quickly substituted industry wide, as was the case for the hearing aid industry. The tipping point is reached.

The tipping point is critical to those competitors, or even threatens their existence, who have just invested in conventional technologies only. They need to make special depreciation as depreciation on conventional technologies can no longer be covered. In addition, they need to invest in 3D printing.

For industries with high capital intensity the tipping point is particularly critical. For example, it will be the case for the automotive industry with its large series production. So far, the large series productions are untouched by Rapid Manufacturing, as the 3D printers of the established machine builders are too slow and too expensive.

But startups change the big picture. For plastic material Carbon 3D provides the Continuous Liquid Interface Production CLIP. It is 30 times faster than Polyjet or selective laser sintering SLS, 100 times faster than stereolithography SLA. Ford and Johnson & Johnson use it. Gizmo follows with faster SLA technology. The Fraunhofer IFAM Dresden has developed a fast and accurate screen printing process for metals.

Despite remaining challenges in performance, quality, and material, these examples demonstrate that Rapid Manufacturing is now at a breakthrough to large series production. For OEMs and suppliers, the risk of being maneuvered into the tight spot of a tipping point rises.

The current practice of opportunistic introduction of Rapid Manufacturing becomes more and more risky. To date, interested employees identify the benefits of new 3D printers and try them out. The enterprise then allows various projects. Sometimes these projects are coordinated centrally. This coordinated opportunism causes a very slow introduction of Rapid Manufacturing until the tipping point is reached. At the tipping point the competitive pressure soars. Now Rapid Manufacturing has to be introduced throughout the company within months.

Companies can avoid this tight spot, earn significant productivity benefits, and bring their competitors under pressure by implementing a Rapid Manufacturing roadmap.

For their own applications they first develop challenging targets, milestones, and development plans to implement Rapid Manufacturing. For this purpose they integrate the manufacturers of 3D printers, material suppliers, research institutes and IT vendors into a regional cluster. They organize themselves so that these targets are unerringly reached at milestones, for example, by a line organization or by a strong project organization. This organization is responsible for targets, milestones, development plans, implementation, and results. A role model for this provides the semiconductor industry with Moore’s Law, targets and coordinated approach, for example, by the non-profit organization SEMATECH.

We advise you how your business most effectively and competitively achieves the productivity benefits of Rapid Manufacturing. This includes the entire Rapid Manufacturing, from competitive strategy through process, organization, implementation to tangible results. We offer unerringly reached targets through Innovation Engineering. With you we solve the most difficult problems by Statistical Engineering.