The progression of 3D printing in manufacturing shows that change is happening at a practical, nuts-and-bolts level as companies seek ways to innovate and compete in a digital world.   By Scott Schiller

An analog-to-digital manufacturing revolution is underway, one that will change the way the world designs and produces everything and that will forever transform our $12 trillion global industry. Along with other disruptive new technologies like artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and the Internet of Things, 3D printing technology is leading a new Fourth Industrial Revolution that will digitize large-scale production and change the face of manufacturing as we know it.

But such an epic change isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, it’s literally progressing piece by piece. Manufacturers are increasingly embracing 3D full production to innovate and compete in an increasingly fast-moving and hyperconnected world, but the road to this epic shift will be paved by billions of smaller ones: a methodic but accelerating process of reinvention that begins at a nuts-and-bolts level; specifically, with actual nuts and bolts.

 

Increasingly, the world’s largest and most advanced companies are reinventing their businesses for the all-digital future by thinking small, scrutinizing every aspect of their product lifecycles for individual parts that can be made faster, better, and more efficiently with 3D printing.


Digital Design Freedom 

It’s more than just finding new and better ways to produce existing parts. What it’s really about is using unprecedented digital design freedom and flexible manufacturing to create entirely new parts and processes that were previously unimaginable with traditional molding. It’s important to consider this transformation piece by individual piece because when viewed at industrial scale even the smallest of benefits can compound into an enormous competitive advantage for companies on the leading edge of digital transformation.

HP is no exception when it comes to digital reinvention. We’re a $50 billion global business that produces over 100 million products per year for customers in over 170 countries. And we’re digitally transforming our own design engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain with our own advanced 3D printing technology called Multi Jet Fusion.

I know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t you just guzzling your own champagne?” Far from it, actually. HP’s manufacturing, design, and product engineering experts are collaborating across functions to continuously and deeply scrutinize every part of every product we make for opportunities to leverage the competitive advantages of 3D manufacturing.

The world’s largest and most advanced companies are reinventing their businesses for an all-digital
future
by thinking small.

In less than a year, we’re already seeing immediate benefits from deploying 3D technology across our design, development, manufacturing, and supply chain operations like reducing production time/cost, speeding time to market, leveraging digital design freedom, accelerating innovation, improving product performance, increasing sustainability, and reducing environmental impact.

And the more we look, the more potential benefits of digital manufacturing we find across all of HP’s business units: Printing, Personal Systems, and 3D Printing itself. For example, there are over 140 Multi Jet Fusion-printed parts in just one product alone, HP’s Jet Fusion 300/500 series full-color 3D printers, which essentially makes it the printer that prints itself. 


Environmental Benefits 

The benefits of 3D printing to the environment are just as important to us as the benefits to HP’s bottom-line. In one of our printer lines, we were able to lower the cost of producing a key part by 50% and reduce our carbon footprint by 95x by leveraging digital design and manufacturing. Now extrapolate that by the billions of parts we produce each year and the massive scope of positive implications, economically and socially, becomes clear.

When measured against traditional manufacturing, 3D printing reduces energy consumption, carbon footprint, and production waste. And in the future, it will reduce vehicle emissions by enabling distributed manufacturing, lowering electricity consumption by reducing physical warehousing, and creating products that are more lightweight, energy-efficient, and recyclable.

We’re constantly asking ourselves how we can improve our business, and how we can do it in the most innovative, efficient, and environmentally-conscious way. To us, what’s good for the planet is good for business.

Those ideas are fundamentally interconnected, and 3D printing helps us turn it from company credo to measurably positive benefits for our business, our customers, and our planet. And we’re doing it by taking one nuts-and bolts step at a time.  M