The Evolving State of American Manufacturing

Automation driving productivity gains but retraining programs needed

A really insightful article was published by Ylan Q. Mui of the Washington Post today.  It spoke about the current state of American manufacturing, which has obviously been a topic of immense focus in this election cycle.

What the article tells us is that American manufacturing is actually doing very well, at least from an aggregate production standpoint.  In fact, total output is nearing the all-time high levels that occurred immediately prior to the Great Recession.

american manufacturing, automation impacts on productivity
The Fed notes that total American manufacturing production has climbed significantly in the last few decades.

It is true that the total number of Americans employed in manufacturing has gone down significantly in recent years.  But that inherently implies that the people doing the manufacturing are reaching new levels of productivity on a per person basis.

We can speak to this first hand.  Every day at 3Diligent, we interact with companies pursuing more effective production of their next generation prototypes, production parts, replacement spares, and custom tools to support some of their traditional manufacturing processes.  All of these companies recognize that advancements in technology are providing them new and better ways of doing things.  Injection Molding, CNC Machining, and most recently Additive Manufacturing (a.k.a. 3D Printing) are all examples in that progression.  Our rock star contract manufacturing partners utilize those tools to accelerate innovation and make our customers more competitive in the global marketplace.

Automation is a good thing.  It allows us to innovate faster and produce more products locally that otherwise would need to be sent overseas to be price competitive.  While the pace of change can sometimes make us uncomfortable, we have to recognize that short of an international truce on technological advancement, continued automation is going to happen.  Because America doesn’t have a monopoly on processors, memory chips, and the internet, trying to pump the brakes on technological advancement only stands to leave us behind those countries who are pushing forward aggressively.  Better to be the ones doing the innovating and creating the next generation technologies than the ones having to buy them from overseas once foreign countries have developed them.

With that said, whether it be to automation or overseas labor, there are a significant number of manufacturing professionals who have been lost in the shuffle.  So for all the macro benefits that faster times to market and lower unit costs provide the American economy, at the micro level, there are some very real consequences for those individuals displaced by technological advancement and their families.

The number of American workers in the manufacturing sector has declined in recent years
The number of American workers in the manufacturing sector has declined significantly in recent years

It is of critical importance then that America develops retraining programs for manufacturing workers displaced by automation and globalization.  Such retraining programs can equip those displaced workers with the skills to tackle jobs for the new manufacturing economy or transition them into other industries.

That is one of the reasons that we at 3Diligent are big supporters and proud members of America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.  In addition to funding a wide number of research programs helping foster American innovation in the area of 3D Printing, they are also starting to really tackle the challenge of helping train the next generation of American manufacturers in how to get the most out of additive manufacturing technology and take this innovation from the R&D lab to the shop floor.

American manufacturing is doing admirably but it isn’t without some serious growing pains.  We are excited to support innovative companies that are embracing this evolution and organizations like America Makes doing the right things to help retrain American manufacturing workers to succeed in these times of rapid change.

Uber Meets Amazon for Industrial 3D Printing

 

Cullen, our CEO, talks to TCT at RAPID about how 3Diligent has created a network of industrial grade 3D printing service providers to solve the supply and demand challenges of the current market. By bringing together industrial service providers across North America, customers can take advantage of submitting a single RFQ’s to a network of vendors across the region and experience the fastest turnaround possible for that given part and process.

“We’re kind of an Uber meets Amazon for industrial grade 3D printing. Much like Uber has networked a whole bunch of drivers and Amazon has networked a bunch of retailers – we have networked industrial service providers with heavy-duty resin, plastic, and metal equipment. What that allows you to do as one of our 3Diligent customers is submit a single RFQ using an algorithm that analyzes the RFQ and routes it dynamically to those vendors who are capable of doing the job. You get real time bids and, as a result, faster turn arounds and fantastic prices for guaranteed quality work – as we back every part with our money-back guarantee.

Additionally, 3Diligent will help you identify who has the availability at any given moment to meet very fast turn arounds. Sometimes that will be a local provider, but sometimes that local provider may have a back log of weeks on a particular production run. [With 3Diligent], you won’t be held down by just what is in your neighborhood but rather be able to access some vendor across the country that can get something to you next day or two days out that you would have never come across otherwise.”

3Diligent: The Next Generation 3D Printing Service

3D Printing is naturally and uniquely suited to distributed production across many sites.  3Diligent has qualified and networked the providers to do distributed manufacturing right.

Preface

Despite less than stellar stock performance from a few publicly traded market leaders who placed unfortunate bets on consumer 3D printing, the additive manufacturing industry as a whole is indisputably in a state of rapid expansion.

Innovation is happening across myriad industries.  Surgeons are improving patient recovery times and care through custom 3D Printed implants.  Aerospace companies are shedding pounds off their planes and months off their time to market with topologically-optimized designed-for-3D parts.  Manufacturing companies are creating highly complex jigs, fixtures, and molding inserts with 3D printing to bring down costs of production and increase efficiency.

 

The Catalyst: Proliferation of Industrial 3D Printing Processes and Materials

All of this is brought about by a proliferation of new 3D Printing technologies and materials that are allowing for ever-expanding applications.  No longer exclusively the province of 3D Systems and Stratasys, innovation is coming from all corners.

The metals world is led by a mixed bag of companies including EOS, Concept Laser, Arcam, SLM Solutions, ExOne, and Renishaw, with prospects like XJet and Desktop Metal on the way.  With respect to plastics and resins, just look to the recent launch of Carbon and the impending market arrivals of flagship products from Voxel8 and HP as indications that competition is not just from imitators, but true innovators, with each bringing unique capabilities to bear.

 

Arcam, EBM, Concept Laser, Lasercusing, EOS, DMLS, 3D Systems, SLS, stereolithography, Envisiontec, DLP, 3SP, Stratasys, PolyJet, FDM
Parts from Arcam, Concept Laser, EOS, 3D Systems, Envisiontec, and Stratasys machinery

The Problem: Identifying the Right Process/Material Combination to Meet Your Additive Manufacturing Needs

In aggregate, it’s clearly an exciting time for the industry.  But if you’re a user rather than manufacturer of these technologies, where does all this leave you and your company?  Advancement in technology is wonderful – it brings the promise that you’ll soon be able to do more, faster.  But it comes with a very clear caveat emptor.  With rapidly evolving technology comes risk of ownership.  The costs of buying equipment and material, training staff, and servicing the machinery are significant – and come with the threat that it will all be for naught when the next big thing hits the market.

3d printing decision, 3d printing options
Balancing process tradeoffs when no single machine can do it all can be a source of real frustration.

 

It’s no wonder then that many companies often choose to offload that risk and learning curve onto outsourced service providers – or service bureaus as they are otherwise known.

But does an outsource service provider really solve the problem?  Overall customer satisfaction with service providers suggests the answer is no.  Prices are sometimes insanely high, material availability is spotty, and lead times can be weeks.  Of course, this makes sense.  These service providers face the same constraints that their customers do – they can realistically only carry a subset of machinery and materials, and as a result, customers are constrained by what providers are running when.  It seems as often as not, service providers are calling a friend at another provider for a quote, adding a few percent to that price, and seeing whether the customer will take it.  It’s no wonder that for a technology that is supposed to bring down costs and increase speed, things tend to feel expensive and slow!

3Diligent: A Next Generation Solution for a Next Generation Technology

One Los Angeles-based startup is looking to solve this industry dilemma: 3Diligent.  In light of the rapidly evolving landscape for this next generation technology, the team at 3Diligent believes a next generation service solution is required.

3Diligent is in some ways like Uber or Amazon for industrial grade additive manufacturing.  Both of those companies created a superior customer experience by creating digital connective tissue between demand and sources of supply that might otherwise go untapped.  Both also provide you a range of mid-to-high end options depending on your need at the moment.  Just think, on Amazon you might buy a TV from a retailer you wouldn’t find online in a million years, or via Uber you might hitch a ride from a guy named Jim that you couldn’t have known was game to drive you halfway across town at a moment’s notice.  Both provide tremendous customer benefit by connecting the dots of the market with hyper efficiency.

3Diligent's network of industrial additive manufacturing service providers spans across North America and more than a dozen processes. So this challenging question is answered...and well.
3Diligent’s network of industrial additive manufacturing service providers spans across North America and more than a dozen processes. So this challenging question is answered…and well.

3Diligent is bringing this distributed supply, on-demand model to the industrial 3D printing world.  Over the past two years, the 3Diligent team has vetted and qualified industrial service providers for its 3D printing service.  The 3Diligent network now represents several dozen industrial service providers across North America representing roughly a half billion dollars in annual manufacturing capacity.  At any given point, there are hundreds of 3Diligent-networked machines ready for a new project, running dozens of different resins, plastics, and metals.

Implications of a Distributed Industrial Manufacturing Partner for Your Business

What does this mean for you as a customer?  An expectation of faster turnarounds and highly competitive prices on your prototyping for a start.  Customers across many industries visit 3Diligent.com to submit RFQs, which the 3Diligent algorithm then analyzes to identify capable vendors and facilitate real-time bidding for the work.  Customers accept bids on the platform, and 3Diligent guarantees the quality of parts, offering customers a full refund unless agreed upon specs, tolerances, and delivery deadlines are met.

3d printing partner, 3d printing service bureau, 3d printing company, 3d printer, 3d printing service, 3d printing service provider, service bureau
. 3Diligent’s algorithm and team of experts analyze RFQs and identify the most capable vendors for that particular job.

Figure 4.  3Diligent’s algorithm and team of experts analyze RFQs and identify the most capable vendors for that particular job.

Pushing toward production runs?  Again, 3Diligent offers the prospect of a flexible and scalable partner by operating as a general contractor for project runs across its distributed network. By its nature, this network provides more capacity than any single provider along with the ability to rapidly scale up.  3Diligent also offers a hedge against supply chain disruption, as its distributed network across North America prevents local calamities from impacting your broader production.

Closing Thoughts

It is an indisputably exciting time for innovation in 3D printing.  Hardware is advancing rapidly, which is good news for speed and reliability.  New materials are being announced regularly, opening the door to new applications.  And 3Diligent continues to advance its software and service offering, ensuring customers can access this rapidly expanding universe of opportunities through its next generation 3D Printing service.

 

Cullen Hilkene is CEO of 3Diligent, a 3D printing service provider.  He is an alumnus of Princeton University, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Deloitte Strategy and Operations Consulting.  

A version of this article previously appeared on Engineering.com.

Key 3D Printing Takeaways from CES 2016

3Diligent Goes to Vegas

A couple weeks ago, members of the 3Diligent team paid a visit to Sin City to take in the sights and sounds of the International Consumer Electronics Show.  Since we’re all about industrial grade 3D Printing, we don’t go looking for the next generation of personal printers on display there.  We go to connect with our customers displaying at the show and to take in the 3D Printing discussion track, where some of our industry’s heavyweights offer perspective on how they are positioning themselves to support the next wave of consumer products – whether it be toys, electronics, or household durable goods.  The sessions didn’t disappoint.  And whereas last year “generative design” ruled the day, this year it was “bespoke materials.”

So without further ado, here are five key 3D Printing takeaways from CES 2016:

  1. The Lewis Lab – and presumably Voxel8 with it – have some cool materials in the pipeline.

    Jennifer Lewis has become somewhat of a brand name in the 3D Printing industry for the advanced 3D Printing work she’s done in her lab at Harvard.  At a biomedical conference we attended in 2015, the buzz was about work the lab was doing to print vascular systems.  At CES, she led a discussion about material science.  The most publicized breakthrough they’ve made is in the silver-based conductive ink used in the Voxel8 printer.  But they plan to release a number of different “inks” that take 3D Printing “beyond form, and start to integrate function” in the near future.  Conductive, epoxy, flexible, and battery inks are all in the pipeline and have been tested with compelling results in their lab.

  2. Carbon3D’s angle isn’t just speed, it’s materials too.

    Carbon3D’s Joe DeSimone used the CES platform to make some notable announcements about their offering, although we haven’t seen much of it made in the press just yet.  The big announcement – that they are rolling out 4 resin-based materials – is significant for a few reasons.  First is that they’ve developed custom polyurethanes that their data suggests are comparable to a number of thermoplastic counterparts.  These include rigid, semi-rigid, high heat, and elastomer, providing a decent range of options for varying applications.  Second is that if those resins are truly industrial strength and the Carbon3D speed is what it’s cracked up to be, then Carbon has offered a meaningful step in transitioning 3D Printing from being a primarily prototyping to production technology.

  3. The ISS is open for business, via Made In Space.

    Made in Space is a super cool company, solving a major supply chain problem…getting things to space is really expensive.  Not only do you need to buck up for a rocket that can get you there, but you also have to massively over-engineer anything making the trip to space strictly for the few minutes it’s taking on big G forces to get out of our atmosphere.  With Made In Space’s “space-grade” 3D Printer, astronauts on the International Space Station can simply have files beamed to them and then printed by the crew.  That’s cool by itself, but perhaps not the basis of big business.  Now MIS is taking things a step further now, by opening up the ISS 3D Printer for business.  Made In Space has designs on having companies beam designs for cube sats (small, high powered cube satellites) and other high value assets for printing in space that would otherwise have to hitch a ride on a rocket.

  4. HP’s MJF is on its way later this year.

    HP offered some perspective on its 3D Printing endeavor, Multi Jet Fusion.  Scott Schiller of HP provided some detail on the process, which sounds like existing multijet/colorjet printing on steroids, with a lot more nozzles and thermoplastic (nylon, in particular) instead of gypsum powder.  He described the process as building upon the technology in HP’s large form 2D Printers, which are differentiated by a staggering number of nozzles per square inch.  It appears that with so many nozzles in such a small space, curing of the powder can happen much faster and possibly at a higher level of detail/crispness than previously possible.  It did make us wonder though, if you’re going to saturate the powder with all of these nozzles, what does this do to material properties?  Existing MJP/CJP technologies don’t tend to produce especially durable parts, but we’ve seen pictures of HP test parts doing heavy duty applications.  As we approach HP’s launch target of Q4, we look forward to seeing additional testing data.

  5. The 3D Printing market is up to $4.5B globally.

    Joe Kempton from Canalys offered up that consultancy’s current estimate of the global 3D Printing market is $4.5 Billion.  That figure reflects the combination of total annual revenues across printers, materials, and services.  45% of that amount was in the Americas, 34% in Europe/Middle East/Africa, and 21% in the Asia Pacific region.  We look forward to the estimate in the forthcoming Wohler’s Report as another reference point on the industry’s continued growth.

Did you make it to CES and have other big takeaways?  Do any of these developments speak to you?  Let us know in the comments!

Best,

Cullen and the 3Diligent Team

 

Cullen Hilkene is CEO of 3Diligent, the Sourcing Solution for Industrial Grade Rapid Manufacturing. He is an alumnus of Princeton University, the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and Deloitte Strategy and Operations Consulting. For more information about 3D Printing and to access 3Diligent’s marketplace of 3D Printing vendors, visit www.3Diligent.com

And the Winners of the 3Diligent 3D Printed Trophy Contest Are…

Trio of classmates at Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City take 3D Printed Trophy Contest Grand Prize

A few months ago – after 30 years and a lot of crummy baseball – the drought finally was over…the Kansas City Royals had won the World Series!

A few days afterwards,  two hardcore Royals fans at 3Diligent HQ (Cullen and Wyatt) started cooking up a notion of how to uniquely celebrate the momentous occasion.  And what they came up with was 3Diligent’s first ever 3D Printed Trophy Contest.

The idea was to take advantage of 3Diligent’s unique place at the crossroads of cutting edge design and industrial grade 3D Printing by inviting all kinds of designers to create the ultimate 3D Printed memento of the World Series victory.  We’d then go out and print the winning trophy via our 3D Printing platform as a gift for the Royals.

The submissions we received did not disappoint.  And when it was all said and done, a team of high schoolers took first prize!

3Diligent offers its hearty congratulations to Samuel Hrabko, Raghav Parikh, and Momin Tahirkheli for winning the 3D Printed Trophy Contest!  $500 cash and $1,000 in platform credit are headed to this trio of up-and-coming designers!  While we received a number of submissions that received top marks when it came to design aesthetics, their submission truly excelled in evoking the spirit of the team and Kansas City’s support for it.  We loved the true-to-life representation of the city skyline and names of the 25-man roster, but perhaps most of all the way the design reflected the community’s support for the team.  We thought the message at the base of the trophy “Supported By The Fans” and the fan figurines encircling the base were really cool touches.  And we think anyone who followed the season would agree that fan support was central to KC’s season – from almost voting in a full starting 9 at the All-Star Game to 800,000 fans (almost 40% of the metro population!) showing up at Union Station for the championship parade.

 

3d printed trophy, metal printed trophy
The design team highlighted the Kansas City community’s support of the Royals as part of their design

Sam, Raghav, and Momin are classmates in Bill Griffiths’ 3D Printing class at the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri.  We at 3Diligent care excited by how the educational market has embraced 3D Printing, and our thanks go out to Pembroke Hill and Mr. Griffiths’ for helping nurture the next generation of design through their classrooms.  In recognition of their support for providing this unique opportunity to young designers, we are providing $250 in platform credit to Mr. Griffiths’ class at PHS for future 3D Printing projects.

Thanks to everyone who participated in or followed the contest!  Keep your eyes peeled for the next one!

Best Regards,

Cullen, Wyatt, and The 3Diligent Team

3Diligent on Engineering.com

Hey all,

You might have read our Key Considerations Before Buying a 3D Printer post in this blog a few months back.  Well check out a new and improved version on Engineering.com!

There are a few new nuggets in there – including links to a number of great resources to inform your search.  As we spell out, it’s important to take application, hard costs, soft costs, obsolescence risks, and viable alternatives into account.  We hope you find it insightful.  And as always, if you have questions, feel free to reach out to us.  You can also comment below or in Engineering.com comments section…

Best,

Your Friends at 3Diligent

 

3Diligent Trophy Contest Finalists Announced!

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a very exciting last few weeks at 3Diligent as design submissions for our 3D Printed Trophy Contest to honor the World Champion Kansas City Royals rolled in!  While we received a number of outstanding submissions, we felt two designs truly separated themselves from the rest.  So without further ado, we announce these 3Diligent Trophy Contest Finalists:

  1. The team of Samuel Hrabko, Raghav Parikh, and Momin Tahirkheli
  2. Vladimir Nikolic

Congratulations to our finalists!

In addition, we wanted to also offer special recognition to Bill Griffiths’ 3D Printing class at the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri.  Not only did their high school class generate one of the finalist trophies in the Hrabko-Parikh-Tahirkheli team, but also submitted two additional excellent trophies from Gregory Bortnick and Macauley Greif.  In honor of their contributions, we’re extending $250 in platform credit to Mr. Griffiths’ class for future class projects and $50 cash to each Gregory and Macauley.

So there we have it.  Who will prove to be the Royals and who will be the Mets in this World Series of Trophy Design?  We’ll look forward to gathering your input in deciding a champion between our two finalists in the coming weeks!

Best Regards,

Your Friends at 3Diligent

 

Last Call for 3D Printed Trophy Submissions!

Hey Everybody,

We hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday and that tryptophan comas didn’t get in the way of some fantastic trophy / memento designing!

A gentle reminder that the submission window for our 3D Printed Trophy / Memento Design Competition has entered its final hours!  Consider this a last call for 3D Printed Trophy Submissions!

Be sure to fire across your designs before midnight Pacific TONIGHT to be in contention…the winner takes $1500 in cash and credit on the 3Diligent platform for future projects!  Semifinalists also get $350 in cash and credit!

Here are details on the competition, or click here for the official rules.

Email your design(s) to trophycontest@3Diligent.com before tonight, Monday, 11/30, at 11:59pm Pacific time!  Good luck!

-Your Friends at 3Diligent

 

 

 

One Week Until 3D Printed Trophy Submissions Close!

Hey Everybody,

Hope you’re having a nice start to the holiday week!

Just passing along a reminder that our 3D Printed Trophy / Memento Design Competition is underway!  If you’re a talented CAD designer, we can’t wait to see your best crack(s) at a 3D Printed trophy / memento design.  Be sure to take advantage of the extensive 3D Printing capabilities our sourcing platform offers with your design.

The winner takes $1500 in cash and credit on the 3Diligent platform for future projects!

Here are details on the competition, or click here for the official rules.

Be sure to email your design(s) to trophycontest@3Diligent.com before next Monday, 11/30, at 11:59pm Pacific time!  Good luck!

-Your Friends at 3Diligent

 

 

 

3Diligent Royals Trophy Contest Official Rules – Submissions Open!

Designers can start submitting designs now; deadline is November 30!

We’re very excited to have officially opened the 3D Printed KC Royals Trophy Competition!

We’re now accepting submissions and have extended the submission deadline to give everyone Turkey Day weekend as extra time to perfect their design (or to submit multiple designs!).  Please send us your submission(s) before end of day Monday, November 30th, by emailing trophycontest@3Diligent.com with the following details:

  1. Your trophy CAD file
  2. Your name, birth date, address, telephone number and preferred email address
  3. Your preferred printing process for the design
  4. Your preferred materials and finish for the design

We’ll be judging on the following criteria:

  1. Creative reference to the Royals winning the championship
  2. Realistic design and manufacturing consideration (i.e., uniquely suited to 3D Printing)
  3. Creativity, originality, and uniqueness
  4. Overall design and appearance

Please keep designs inside a bounding box 10 inches cubed, and please don’t infringe on the actual World Series trophy design, as that is trademarked content belonging to MLB and Tiffany.

Semifinalists will get $100 cash and $250 credit for use on future jobs on www.3Diligent.com.  The winner will get $500 cash and $1,000 in platform credit.  We’ll also be printing the trophy as a gift to the Royals, so if it’s awesome enough, it might find a place next to the circular one with the little flags on it!

Here’s a link to the official contest rules: http://news.3diligent.com/trophy-contest-terms/

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Happy Designing,

3Diligent