Additive Manufacturing – Essential Element of Industry 4.0
Published by : Industrial Automation
As Industry 4.0 pushes towards on-demand manufacturing and innovations in customisation of parts, AM proves to be the best fit, says Shubhneet Lakhera.
The deposition of material in semi-solid form, in a layer-by-layer fashion, to fabricate a three-dimensional part, is referred to as 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing (AM). It’s sheer flexibility and adaptability makes the technology outclass other traditional manufacturing techniques. This advanced manufacturing technology involves use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) file of the desired part, for generating toolpath, which is traced by the deposition head.
Right from its inception in the 1970s, the technology has advanced with tremendous pace, and transformed the face of industry such that, today it has become an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0. AM machines work on the principles of major branches of engineering such as, mechanical, computer science, and mechatronics. Thus, it is regarded as the interdisciplinary field of advances manufacturing. A journal on ‘Cost, benefits, and adoption of additive manufacturing’ 2 , predicts the AM industry to be valued at 16 billion USD in 2025, and 196.8 billion USD in 2035. Recently the adoption of Industry 4.0 is supported by Siemens, as they inaugurated the Advanced Manufacturing Transformation Centre (AMTC), for providing the knowledge, guidance, and training to the companies present in Southeast Asia. During the Covid-19 crisis, the company developed medical grade face shield design and fabricated it using additive manufacturing.
Advancement of materials in AM
3D-printing entails use of different materials such as, metals, polymer, ceramics, biological substance, sand, sugar and, even composites. A report from Fortune Business Insights claims that the market size of AM materials will reach 3.78 billion USD by 2026. The rise of innovation in aviation and medical industry, has yielded part of complex shapes, and better mechanical properties. The bigger challenges in materials are tackled by incorporating additive
manufacturing techniques, which gives room for research, keeping the fabrication cost low, as compared to other manufacturing techniques. Magnesium material is very difficult to print, due to its highly reactive nature, i.e., gets oxidised rapidly, but a recent study at Delft University of Technology mentioned fabrication of biodegradable scaffolds, using magnesium material, by additive manufacturing.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning to fabricate rocket engine parts, by developing AM technique, involving metal powder and laser. It will provide a cutting edge over other AM techniques, ensuring low-cost of 3D-printing as well as forming intricate shapes.
Smart manufacturing in AM
The collaboration of 3D printing with smart manufacturing puts AM in the driving seat, becoming the vital constituent of Industry 4.0. According to the reports from Business Wire, the revenue generated globally for the year 2020 is 12 billion USD, and is expected to reach 78 billion USD till 2028, i.e., a CAGR of 26%-32%. A recent report, highlighting the push towards Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) mentions that Wabtec Corporation has collaborated with HP and Redington for inaugurating the Wabtec Additive Manufacturing Centre, which will emphasise on integrating additive manufactured components, by enhancing the design and production of components. The deadly combination of additive manufacturing with computer science tends to increase the appreciation of smart manufacturing at the global level. Upnano GmbH, a spin-off company of Vienna University of Technology, has embarked on research on 3D printing of parts with size in range from few micrometres to centimetres. They employed 2-photon polymerisation (2PP), a 3D printing technique, to fabricate parts with micro and nano resolution. The system was equipped with smart algorithms to drive the laser accordingly, resulting in laser spots of varying sizes.
It is very important to increase the sustainability and adaptability of the AM technique, which is possible by making it available to the larger audience. The industry-academia tie-up should be encouraged for infusing smart manufacturing in the education system, and enhancing skills of our young talents, making them ready for the upcoming digital world. The University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), has introduced a degree course focussed on implementation of Industry 4.0 in the manufacturing industry.
New normal through AM
The start of 2020 saw a novel deadly virus taking over the whole world. Corona virus or Covid-19 is transmitted to normal people, by coughing and sneezing of the affected person. The virus brought the whole world to a standstill, shutting down roads, malls, schools, and industries. The only functioning body was hospitals, who faced ample amounts of difficulty initially in obtaining protective gears such as face shields, mask and PPE kits. Additive manufacturing technique came to the rescue worldwide, when other manufacturing techniques were experiencing a shut down. Face shield masks were manufactured with AM techniques, providing doctors and nurses with protection to run emergency services.
The AM machines take very less space, which gives the ability to print in a room. Supply chains got badly affected during Covid-19, hence the world strived for on-demand manufacturing. 3D printing has already produced wonders for the medical, aviation and automobile industries. The corona virus has made them rethink about the vitality of the technique, and has invoked a thought of projecting it as the technology of the future. Social-distancing was maintained by fabricating holders and grabbers through additive manufacturing, avoiding direct contact. The AM industry giants such as General Electric, EOS, Boeing, Siemens, BASF, Stratasys and many more, have provided the industry with services in this unprecedented time. Even, the open-source community and hobbyist have taken up the challenges to fight this virus, by fabricating their own face masks and shields. This shows that the technology is favoured by a much larger audience and holds a promising future. The interdisciplinary nature of additive manufacturing and such level of global acceptance will automatically help in projecting itself as the future of the advance manufacturing industry. Additive Manufacturing is slowly replacing the traditional manufacturing machines because of its capability to produce part with much better flexibility and reduced manufacturing time. As Industry 4.0 pushes towards on-demand manufacturing and innovations in customisation of parts, AM proves to be the best fit, as it fabricates parts based on digital models, which can be altered using intelligent computer software, fabricating a part according to consumer desire and reducing the waste produced while post-processing.
 Thomas, D., 2016. Costs, benefits, and adoption of additive manufacturing: a supply chain perspective. The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, 85(5-8), pp.1857-1876.
Shubhneet Lakhera is a post-graduate student of mechanical engineering, specialised in manufacturing, from the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing, Jabalpur. Presently actively pursuing opportunities in the field of Additive Manufacturing, Shubhneet has experience of being a research scholar in the field of metal additive manufacturing, with a paper published in an international conference. He has laid hands on filament and pellet based Additive Manufacturing machines, and also designed and analysed parts on computer software. Shubhneet would like to work with different people, which helps in learning as well as broadening his horizon. He has also assisted and guided students in their projects, which helped him enhance his leadership skills. Currently a resident of Vasundhara, which comes under the city of Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh), Shubhneet loves exploring and travelling to new places and has a taste for movies under the genre of suspense and science fiction.