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3D printers creating car factories of the future

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3D printing. Photo courtesy HP
Photo courtesy HP
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The future for many industries is the 3D printer and the future factory will be composed of several industrial-sized printers. The car and automotive sector is one area likely to be affected. We survey the technologies.

One industrial area being revolutionized by 3D printing is the automotive sector. The application of the technology to the automotive sector remains relatively new. It was only back in 2014 that Local Motors printed the first 3D-printed car from an ABS carbon-fiber blend (about 80/20 respectively).

The car was called Strati. This was followed in 2016 when Honda released a new version of its Micro-Commuter car. Other car manufactures have followed, not necessarily printing entire cars but key components. The main drivers are consistency, reliability and a consistent reduction in lead-time.

A new report, titled “Global 3D Printing Automotive Market Analysis & Trends – Industry Forecast to 2025” predicts a 10 percent growth in the use of 3D printers to create most of the parts that go towards making cars and lorries by 2025. There are different types of 3D printing technologies being taken up by the automotive sector. These include electron beam melting, fused disposition modeling, laminated object manufacturing, three dimensional inject printing, stereolithography, and selective laser sintering. These are complex sounding words, what do they mean?

Electron Beam Melting is a high technology form additive manufacturing which uses an electron beam instead of a laser or thermal printhead. The process is commonly used for the production of incredibly dense metal parts.

Fused disposition modeling is an additive manufacturing(AM) technology commonly used for modeling, prototyping, and production applications. With the process a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part.

Laminated object manufacturing involves layers of adhesive-coated paper, plastic, or metal laminates being successively glued together and cut to shape with a knife or laser cutter.

3D inject printing involves recreating a 3D digital image by propelling droplets of ink successively to a substrate.

Stereolithography is a process for creating three-dimensional objects, in which a computer-controlled moving laser beam is used to build up the required structure, layer by layer, from a liquid polymer that hardens on contact with laser light.

Selective laser sintering uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material, aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.

What is interesting about many of these applications of additive manufacturing to the automotive industry is that they are being used to create lower cost (and more affordable) personalized cars.

Other manufacturers are using the digital technology to prototype, test, and produce all manner of tools, jigs, fixtures, and street-ready parts. While the technology still remains in its infancy for car manufacturers, the application of 3D printers is key to the digital transformation of the automobile sector.

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Manufacturing

How IoT is helping companies take advantage of new revenue streams

In this Q&A, Gartner analyst Eric Goodness explains how manufacturers create impact with connected devices

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Sponsored by Cognizant

Connected products create new opportunities for manufacturing companies to bond themselves with their customers, says Gartner analyst, Eric Goodness.

In a recent interview with DXJournal.co, Goodness talked about how the combination of IoT and manufacturing is helping manufacturing companies transform their processes and take advantage of new revenue streams.

DXJ: What are three digital transformation trends you’ve seen in manufacturing?

EG: The three digital trends that we’re seeing in manufacturing [include]:

  • Looking at applying IoT to operations to drive out inefficiencies and to improve asset performance
  • Applying IoT to the supply chain, again, to drive out cost inefficiencies and to gain more visibility there
  • the biggest trend, without a doubt, and where most of the revenue that we’re seeing being spent — rather than languishing in cycles of indecision — is the creation of connected products.

If you look at how manufacturers are looking at bringing connected white goods, connected industrial infrastructure, connected commercial infrastructure, connected consumer products that is by far the biggest use of IoT as an extension of the digital business technology platform that’s happening out in the marketplace.

DX Journal: Is the use of connected products where IoT technologies are creating the most impact within larger manufacturing companies?

EG: Today, it is creating the largest impact as it provides [large manufacturing companies] a new way to bond themselves with their customers, to help those customers better monitor and manage those big industrial assets that they’re acquiring from the manufacturer.

Related: Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

And it also helps the manufacturers create a premium revenue stream from their ability to remotely monitor, manage and create performance-based service-level agreement (SLAs) with their industrial customer base that are buying those assets.

Service-based revenue is going to be far more profitable than actually selling the capital asset. It’s the creation of these connected products where we’re seeing manufacturers actually sell some industrial assets at cost or at a slight loss in favour of these performance-based long term contracts, with the maintenance and support of those assets that they’re selling.  

DX Journal: Are there any areas within manufacturing companies that are easier than others to implement IoT?  

EG: The real bifurcation that we’ve seen in the marketplace is simply those environments behind the four walls of the factory that are security instrumented and where there is significant safety of life concerns, or where there is significant intellectual property at risk from external breaches. An environment where those concerns are less so, we are seeing IoT slowly make it to the factory floor.

[Download] Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

There are initiatives such as analytics of production lines or plants where they analyze cold data in the cloud or within the corporate data lake to find inefficiencies in production or applying an optical-visual inspection on a production line to drive out errors. But in process manufacturing where there’s hazardous chemicals or other safety of life issues it’s going to take a long time before IoT makes it within the four walls of [those] factories.

DX Journal: What are some ways that large manufacturing companies have been keeping up with emerging technologies?

EG: We’re finally starting to have the conversations where the operational technology (OT) side and the IT side of the manufacturer are coming together. We’re seeing more investments in centres of excellence that have representatives from operations and engineering as well as the CIO part of organization, and sometimes even from the product side that reports within the CTO of a manufacturer.

Inside of organizations, we’re starting to see these multi-business unit, multi-stakeholder centres of excellence work to identify short lists of relevant vendors. It’s a slow slog for these organizations to come to agreement, but it’s very encouraging to see these organizations work together.

DX Journal: Is it possible to predict what the next five years will look like in the manufacturing industry?

EG: Over the next five years, we’re going to see a lot of IoT manufacturing convection currents. IoT is going to be subsumed into other recognizable services that vendors offer to their manufacturing clients. For example, vendors are going to be increasingly introducing their own platforms to provide manufacturers with fully-formed OT and IoT solutions. Traditional OT players, like GE, ABB, Honeywell, and Rockwell, are looking to present their own IoT platforms, alongside their legacy conjunction control and automation capabilities. While players like SAP, Microsoft, and Oracle are leveraging their IoT platforms with their manufacturing execution systems, asset performance management systems, or enterprise performance management applications.

[Download] Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

We believe that IoT is going to become an embedded capability of all legacy platforms in platform-as-a-service and integration capabilities. There is going to still be a sector of the market where you see smaller niche IoT specific companies, but if you consider yourself an SAP, Microsoft or GE, why wouldn’t you at least consider participating in a closed ecosystem of value that has a natural and virtuous integration path to make it easier to deploy IoT to your business problem.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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How Cummins is embracing disruptive change to stay innovative and attract talent

New skills and ideas are needed to keep up with the digital transformation of manufacturing

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Sponsored by Cognizant

“It’s really hard to say we’re a leading-edge product engineering company if our business tools are dated and do not appeal to the talent we want to attract and retain at Cummins,” said Sherry Aaholm, CIO at 100-year old engine and generator manufacturer Cummins.

Transformative tech and attracting talent are two of the main issues manufacturers need to address in order to stay competitive and grow.

Consider this:

  • 71 percent of manufacturing executives say they need to innovate faster to stay relevant, according to a Fujitsu report
  • In the U.S., the manufacturing industry needs 3.4 million workers over the next decade just to replace retirees, according to The Manufacturing Institute.

The Talent Gap

Replacing retirees is only part of the talent shortage challenge for manufacturers. The other is finding workers with the right skills.

Related: Designing Manufacturing’s Digital Future

“We will need people who are able to manage these new operations, manage the robotics, to program them and maintain them,” said François Barbier, the president of global operations and components at Flex. “People who used to produce things with their hands, they’ll start to produce things with their brains.”

Gone are the days where a high school degree is enough to have a lucrative career in manufacturing, said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger, speaking on a panel about manufacturing and logistics, adding: “It hasn’t been that way for a long time.”

[Download]: Designing Manufacturing’s Digital Future

Manufacturing jobs are still here, they just look different, says Linebarger. As new tech emerges, workers need to have the skills necessary to perform maintenance and programming, he says. Rather than hiring for traditional roles in manufacturing, companies are hiring for tech-oriented roles where workers are tasked with not just building, but improving.

Staying Innovative

To keep their innovation sharp, Cummins has also created a Digital Accelerator where ideas around manufacturing, the customer or supply-chain are tested and, if successful, then commercialized.  

The focus is on three key themes,” says CIO Aaholm. “How can we improve product quality and up-ime availability? How can we help with new services for our customers? And how can we find value within the company?”

[Download]: Designing Manufacturing’s Digital Future

One example from the accelerator is the Cummins X15™ engine. Cummins says it has reduced the overall cost of ownership by as much as 40 percent, compared with a Cummins 2010 ISX15 engine, and it provides between a 2 percent and 12 percent gain in fuel economy.

The focus on innovation helps attract and retain customers too. John Savage, the executive vice president of transportation services company, Savage Services, says: “Cummins has always been a technology leader, helping us to meet new emission standards whether we’re operating in California or across the nation. When it comes to reliability, Cummins is progressive. They don’t sit back on their laurels.”

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Distributed Manufacturing: Next in line for blockchain innovation

Blockchain has already disrupted business processes in the financial sector, and is poised to impact companies across industries.

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Sponsored by Cognizant

By: Jagmeet Singh

Blockchain has already disrupted business processes in the financial sector, and is poised to impact companies across industries. Because the technology can provide an immutable digital record of contractual interactions and transactions across an ecosystem, we believe that manufacturing is likely next in line.

Blockchain is a mutually shared ledger of all transactions in a given transactional relationship. Combined with its consensus mechanisms and use of public key infrastructure (PKI) to verify and authenticate all changes made to the ledger, blockchain can enable the network itself to ensure trust among participants. The result: a whole new way to support distributed manufacturing across the value chain.

The Importance of Trust

Consider, for example, the ways in which blockchain can simplify how trust is developed within a manufacturing ecosystem. In the traditional manufacturing world, parties transacting with each other spend considerable time and money on establishing external mechanisms to ensure trust, in the form of contracts, service-level agreements, quality checks, inspections, audits, scanning, escrows and regulatory compliance reviews, to name a few. As the number of parties increases, so does the complexity. Reconciling separate ledgers, enforcing contracts, ensuring supply chain transparency and protecting intellectual property when multiple entities are involved are all laborious and burdensome processes, prone to error and vulnerable to fraud.

Related: Blockchain in Manufacturing: Enhancing Trust, Cutting Costs and Lubricating Processes across the Value Chain

Research shows that companies that build a culture of trust can fuel stronger performance by enabling departments to interact better and perform better across multiple dimensions. Establishing trust betweencontracted parties has similar positive effects. All these measures, however, amount to a costly “trust tax.”

For participants in a blockchain network – product designers, production shops, 3-D printers, logistics partners, sales and customer service  – that tax is greatly reduced. A secure, distributed ledger infrastructure accessible to multiple parties enables a new level of real-time transparency and efficiency for transactions involving the transfer of anything of value – whether that means ideas, money or ownership.

In our recent global study that included 281 manufacturing professionals, in fact, “trust” was a top driver for blockchain adoption.

Distributed Manufacturing Next in Line for Blockchain Innovation

Ensuring Transparency, Security, Auditability

Blockchain ledgers are:

  • Shared: Separate entities share a common source of truth.
  • Distributed: Blockchain relies on peer-to-peer collaboration, with no central ownership.
  • Secure: Cryptographic algorithms verify, authenticate and secure transactions.
  • Time-sequenced: Data is written consecutively and is time-stamped.
  • Immutable: Once written on the blockchain, data cannot be changed, tampered with or deleted.

Through smart contracts with supply chain partners on the blockchain network – programmed agreements that are independently verifiable and automatically executed when predefined conditions are met – companies can minimize human intervention and ensure performance transparency, transaction certainty and auditability.

[Download]: Blockchain in Manufacturing: Enhancing Trust, Cutting Costs and Lubricating Processes across the Value Chain

Within industries and even across interlocked, tiered manufacturing sectors, distributed ledger systems allow companies to develop new, platform-based process flows. A user might execute a smart contract for a custom-configured order, for example, combining designs from multiple sources. The encrypted design data would be recorded on the shared platform; materials and services could be autonomously sourced; and a shared factory could produce the customized product. Payments, including royalties to designers, would be issued when the product is delivered. A record of all transactions, from design selection to payment, remains on the blockchain.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Blockchain technology thus enables distributed manufacturing, offering participants unprecedented opportunities to develop new product and service lines, create new customer segments, enter new markets and find new ways to use and share assets:

  • Through supply chain transparency. All parties transact on a common platform, gaining real-time visibility into processes in the value chain, and simplifying materials sourcing and the interaction of design, manufacturers and other service providers. Supply chain processes, including payments and trade finance, can be streamlined and automated using smart contracts.
  • Through digital product memories. Immutable records of asset provenance, materials, production data, ownership and other data ensure authenticity and minimize transaction risk.
  • Through secure digital intellectual property. Parties to a transaction can be assured that their intellectual property is protected. Using blockchain to manage a contracted production run from a 3-D printer of ceramic components, for example, would allow a manufacturer to encrypt proprietary 3-D print files from end to end while creating an immutable history of the transaction. Similarly, escrows and royalty accounting would protect designers and other owners of IP.

There are many more circumstances in which adopting blockchain technology can deliver value. Participants can slash inventory costs and service times. They can eliminate reconciliation, and automate and speed financial and process flows. They can reduce manual interventions and reduce fraud. And they can create new ways to extend the lifecycle of products and optimize the use of assets.

What’s Next? Evaluating Readiness

As manufacturers move toward a shared and distributed model, business leaders can consider four questions when evaluating readiness:

  1. Where in the value chain, internally and externally, are we paying the highest “trust tax” in terms of excess cost, effort or lack of agility?
  2. How would the availability of a digital product memory drive value for our company, our customers and our business partners?
  3. Which types of partners, in what geographies and with what expertise, could we work with if transaction costs and efforts were lower?
  4. Which information assets (e.g., manufacturing, maintenance, operational and usage data) about our products could we monetize if there were a secure way to do so?

A blockchain-enabled, collaborative database is optimal for ensuring agreement between all participants in a value chain. It’s time for manufacturers to examine the implications for their business model. Organizations that gain hands-on experience with blockchain technology thorugh pilot projects will have an advantage as consortia start to form, and will be better equipped to lead the effort and make key decisions around structure and governance, prepare for the corresponding cultural shift, build skills and capabilities, and understand how it will impact business strategy going forward.

Get in the blocks. The race starts now.

[Download]: Blockchain in Manufacturing: Enhancing Trust, Cutting Costs and Lubricating Processes across the Value Chain

Olesya Gorbunova, a Senior Consultant in Cognizant’s Blockchain & Distributed Ledger Practice, contributed to this blog.

This article originally appeared on the Digitally Cognizant Blog

Cognizant

Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) is dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses — helping them go from doing digital to being digital.

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