This IDC Manufacturing Insights Perspective provides excerpts from an upcoming report on the role of 3D Printing in Service Parts.
Jay Leno, former host of The Tonight Show, owns more than 130 cars and 90 motorcycles and relies on 3D printing to maintain his diverse fleet of vehicles. If you have the time, take a look at some of the recorded videos about the kinds of things Leno is doing with 3D printing, and you'll understand why an avid car collector is so stoked by the possibilities this technology provides. Notably, many of the vendors that Leno works with are the leading providers of 3D printing technology for industry, namely discrete manufacturers across aerospace, automotive, and shipping.
Unlike Leno's garage, which is fully immersed in 3D printing technologies for automotive spare parts, many manufacturers are still in early stages of evaluating and testing the use of 3D printing technologies across their manufacturing value chain, including for spare and service parts. In our recent report, Perspective: The Role of 3D Printing in Service Parts (subscribers can access the report when it publishes here), we provide a glimpse at the growing application of 3D printing technologies for the service and spare parts supply chain in manufacturing. The report delves further into one of our predictions from IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Manufacturing Product and Service Innovation 2016 Predictions (IDC #259809, November 2015):
By 2017, manufacturers will use 3D printing to support the spare parts/service parts supply chain for 30% of retired/end-of-life products and 50% of low-volume parts.
Our analysis includes results from IDC's 2015 Product and Service Innovation Survey on 3D printing adoption and additive manufacturing and offers a summary of some of the greatest areas for potential this innovation accelerator presents in the manufacturing after-sales service life cycle. It is interesting to note the nuances by value-chain: the greatest current adoption being seen in technology-oriented and brand-oriented value chains with prototyping as the most popular application of 3D printing.
The service life-cycle is ripe for 3D printing technology for a number of reasons. Historically, discrete manufacturers have tied a significant amount of resources and capital in managing spare parts throughout the service supply chain to meet SLA's and customer needs. Increased volume of machine models, longer equipment life, and variations of product to meet localized demand are all contributing to an increase in the total number of unique parts a typical OEM has to manage. Some service supply chains manage millions of unique parts scattered globally across distribution warehouses, service depots, field service trucks, and customer sites. The expense of maintaining parts inventory for long-lived equipment, parts that in some cases are now discontinued, is a significant source of pain for some manufacturing service organizations. Often, the mindset is to increase stock to ensure parts availability and meet customer service expectations. New technologies like 3D printing have the potential to make a significant change to this costly model of service parts inventory management.
Early use cases of 3D printing for the service lifecycle are intriguing. Here are just a few to whet the innovator's appetite:
- Maersk has installed 3D printers on some of its tanker vessels for on-site printing of repair parts.
- The U.S. Navy repaired an AV-8B Harrier jet that suffered damage to its frame during an emergency landing on the USS Bataan carrier. using an extrusion-based technology.
- NASA is using additive technologies to assist with future repairs in space. There is a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station that has been used to create parts and tools in space.
- Airbus is using 3D printing to prototype new windshield wiper designs for its subsidiary Airbus Helicopters. In addition, the company has used the technology with Rolls-Royce to print significant parts for the Trent XWB-97 engine that will power the wide-bodied Airbus A350-1000, which is slated to be operational in 2017.
These examples scratch the surface of the potential for 3D printing technologies to disrupt the service supply chain, bringing tangible benefits in the way of cost savings, efficiency gains, and reduction in equipment downtime. While there are still a number of questions and considerations about the best applications near-term, it is undeniable that 3D printing will be a transformational technology for the service life-cycle.