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Additive Manufacturing Solutions: Going Beyond 3D Printers

Additive manufacturing (AM) is becoming more commonplace in the industrial sector, as 3D printers are introduced into manufacturing facilities. But not all manufacturers are open to the idea of new technologies and don’t realize the benefits of additive manufacturing solutions.

Even manufacturers who have already adopted 3D printing are not aware of all the advantages this technology provides. Manufacturers can use AM to solve problems that don’t have a traditional manufacturing solution and leverage this technology to become more efficient and competitive. 

Additive Manufacturing Use Cases and Benefits

Present-day use cases for AM extend far beyond prototyping, which many still mistakenly believe to be the primary use of this technology. Having one or multiple industrial 3D printers in-house gives manufacturers more control over their production operations and flexibility to react to issues that arise.

“With additive manufacturing, manufacturers can decrease production costs, reduce outsourcing needs, lightweight tooling, improve time-to-market, and increase efficiency,” explains Jesse Cranfill, an additive applications engineer at Phillips Corporation, a manufacturing solutions company that partners with Markforged for AM. “Traditional manufacturing has certain limitations and industrial 3D printing empowers manufacturers to have more design freedom.”

Andrew Romanick, also an additive applications engineer at Phillips, elaborates on this point: “Additive manufacturing allows companies to have a certain level of agility and versatility to solve problems very quickly and efficiently as they come up. For example, if a manufacturer needs a new part or tool to accommodate a process change, with traditional manufacturing that could be prohibitively expensive, have a long lead time, or may just be unfeasible, especially for limited runs. With additive, manufacturers can quickly come up with an affordable solution in a matter of hours or days.”

Manufacturers that have AM available in-house don’t have to worry as much about spending significant amounts of time and money solving these problems, they can use industrial 3D printing to resolve their issues quickly and keep production moving.

These benefits also extend to helping mitigate supply chain issues, with 3D printing giving manufacturers the ability to replace broken parts on equipment and machines without having to outsource to an external supplier. 

Additionally, using AM to create these components, and other end-use parts such as custom tooling and fixturing, often results in better, more durable products. “Additive manufacturing actually allows us to engineer stronger components,” says Brad Garris, Business Manager at Phillips Corporation. “We can change stress points and breaking points to make more effective components that are better suited to their individual applications.”  

The Need for Additive Manufacturing in Industry 

AM clearly provides significant benefits for those who adopt the technology, but beyond that there is a need for innovative solutions in the manufacturing industry. Supply chain constraints, a labor shortage, the skills gap – the industrial sector is dealing with multiple industry-wide challenges. 

“Some of the biggest pain points we see are part cost, lead time, supply chain issues. Any process inefficiencies or bottlenecks in the manufacturing process are major pain points,” describes Romanick. “When manufacturers bring additive manufacturing in-house and have 3D printers within the facility, they essentially become their own supplier. This can significantly reduce costs and lead time because these manufacturers are no longer 100% reliant on an external supply chain. I have seen over 90% time and costs savings with additive.” 

Having AM in-house clearly gives manufacturers more control over the supply chain, mitigating some of those issues, but what about combating the skills gap and labor shortage? 

Cranfill expands on that: “A main efficiency gain for manufacturers is that they can run 3D printers overnight, or in a ‘lights-out’ setting. Additive manufacturing doesn’t have to be constantly monitored by employees, allowing them to be efficient while 3D printers supplement their work.”

Utilizing AM technologies can help to make a manufacturer’s workforce more productive in the present day. In the future, having AM in-house will attract new workers to these manufacturing facilities.

“A lot of schools are introducing additive manufacturing programs, which is creating a new generation of workers that have these capabilities and bring a new way of thinking to manufacturing,” says Nichola McCarley, Additive Sales and Support Specialist at Phillips. “Any company hesitant to implement additive manufacturing can benefit from the knowledge of these younger workers. It’s going to be critical to the survival of some of these companies, especially the smaller companies that have been resistant to change.” 

Manufacturers should view AM as more than just a technology; it is a tool they can continue to use to solve problems and improve operations. “Additive manufacturing enables self-reliance: You can quickly resolve issues. You can make your own parts. You're not reliant on third parties. It gives you the power to solve your own problems,” explains Romanick.

The Additive Manufacturing Journey 

Adopting AM doesn’t start and end with buying a 3D printer. Manufactures must identify how additive can help their business and, after taking the initial step to acquire the technology, continue to look for new ways they can utilize AM. 

“Manufacturers can often grow their usage of additive,” says McCarley. “They just need to learn to look at things from an additive point of view, rather than through a traditional manufacturing lens.”

AM certainly won’t replace all traditional manufacturing, but it can complement a company’s manufacturing processes. In some cases, manufacturers can even use AM to resolve issues to improve production. 

“Some shops just have band-aid solutions, and they don’t realize that in-house additive manufacturing can resolve those problems in a more efficient, ergonomic way, that’s usually more cost-effective,” describes Cranfill. 

Garris adds: “The limitation of additive manufacturing is your imagination. If you can imagine that it can be done, you can probably manufacture it additively. With additive, manufacturers can find multiple opportunities to solve multiple problems they didn't think had a solution.” 

Though every manufacturing company will have different needs and use cases for additive manufacturing, it is a technology that can help manufacturers remain competitive as the industry continues to advance. The cost of waiting to implement additive technologies can be a significant loss for manufacturers, especially those who have already identified a need for AM. 

“To any manufacturer interested in additive manufacturing: Don’t wait,” advises Garris. “The return on investment is there. Additive is a tool that's going to help you be more advanced in your manufacturing processes.” 

If you’re a manufacturer looking to get started on your additive journey, reach out to the additive manufacturing team at Phillips Corporation. The team has considerable experience and expertise in additive solutions, and partners with Markforged to offer industrial strength 3D printing options to their customers. To learn even more about additive manufacturing and the possibilities of 3D printing, attend RAPID + TCT: North America’s largest additive manufacturing and industrial 3D printing event, taking place June 25-27, 2024 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. 


Brad Garris:

Brad GarrisBrad Garris is the Business Manager for the Phillips Commercial Markforged Team. He manages a team of 11 that supports the mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and South Central. Garris’ primary goal is to support the sales team with delivering the best solution for the customer, to support the applications team ensuring they are up to date on the latest trends and latest advancements, to support his field service technicians with the necessary training to provide legendary support, and to make sure that Phillips is viewed as the first choice for every customer’s additive needs.

Nichola McCarley:

Nichola McCarleyNichola McCarley is an Inside Sales and Support Specialist for the Phillips Commercial Markforged Team. She helps provide direct support to the outside sales team in their efforts to engage current and prospective customers in Markforged 3D printing conversations, generate leads through prospecting, support the application and service teams within their roles as experts helping customers advance in their 3D knowledge and usage, and assist the marketing team to promote Phillips Corporation as the leading choice for every company’s additive needs.

Jesse Cranfill:

Jesse CranfillSince joining Phillips Corporation in 2015, Jesse Cranfill has been instrumental in advancing additive manufacturing from prototyping to complex end-use applications. At the helm of the Additive Applications team, he focuses on educating customers and unlocking innovative solutions that challenge traditional manufacturing constraints. Jesse's collaboration with Markforged's Digital Forge exemplifies his commitment to transforming manufacturing with cutting-edge technologies and materials.

Andrew Romanick:

Andrew RomanickIn his two and a half years at the forefront of 3D printing within the furniture manufacturing industry, Andrew has coupled his technical educational background with innovative applications in production. Now at Phillips, he is dedicated to empowering manufacturers by showcasing how industrial 3D printing can revolutionize their processes, aligning with his mission to leverage cutting-edge technology for enhanced manufacturing efficiency and creativity.