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Posted on December 7th, 2016 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & ApplicationsAdditive manufacturing has received significant attention for revolutionizing engineering and manufacturing – enabling the design and production of previously impossible configurations – but does its potential abate when it comes to the assembly line?
While feats of engineering in their own right, manufacturing assembly lines are typically more concerned with throughput. Learning the process over time, then running at maximum efficiency. Like a well-practiced orchestra, all raw materials, components, and operations occur just in time and in sufficient supply to meet production schedules. The melodious harmony quickly fades when machines break down and experience unplanned downtime.
Jung & Co., a German manufacturer specializing in processing stainless steel and special alloys, envisions new capabilities for additive manufacturing to achieve “spare parts on demand.” In an interview published in Printing 3D Today, Thomas Lehmann, Managing Director of Jung & Co., explains how additive manufacturing can eliminate parts in non-machined assemblies so replacement parts are manufactured and delivered more quickly while repairs are easier and faster to complete. The net result is assembly lines are up and running again faster with less downtime.
Lehmann explains their approach through a filler valve used in a beverage bottling plant. Seven precision machined components are assembled using seals and fasteners in the conventional approach. A single component can be produced using additive manufacturing, not only eliminating wear and tear items like seals, but also the requisite assembly time of the traditional approach. According to Lehmann, “3D metal printing enables short machine downtimes for the beverage fillers that previously seemed impossible. A new 3D design and rapid availability saves the customer time and money.”
By critically analyzing each step in the beverage filling process, engineers at Jung & Co. appear to be employing a management practice known as the “theory of constraints”. Described by Eliyahu M. Goldratt in his 1984 book entitled The Goal, the concept is that throughput of any process is governed by bottlenecks. The theory of constraints gives a systematic approach to identifying, analyzing, and overcoming their effects. Here’s a brief introduction for visual learners:
As an engineer, I’m not sure which is more exciting, the invention of a new technology or the creative ways it’s applied. Much like how Jung & Co. have found an innovative application in the beverage industry, I’m sure there will be many more revelations for additive manufacturing applications in the years ahead.
What bottlenecks in your manufacturing processes can be improved with additive manufacturing? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.
All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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