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Tech trend Additive manufacturing in A&D

The emergence of additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, requires full attention. Since this trend coincides so well with automation and machine learning, it’s incumbent upon you to prepare your company’s quality processes for a refresh. New use cases for additive manufacturing in the aerospace and defense industry are prime examples. Here is an update on where additive manufacturing in A&D stands today.Tech trend Additive manufacturing in A&D_IQS

3-D printing in A&D

The cost benefits of additive manufacturing are undeniable, which is one of many reasons why A&D has embraced 3-D printing. A&D manufacturers across the world are realizing that the pros of additive manufacturing outweigh the cons, according to Deloitte University Press. The top pros include:

  • Lower material costs
  • Increased availability of parts
  • Lower scrap costs
  • Reduced lead time
  • Faster new-product introductions
  • Lighter parts

If you do not work in A&D, your company can reap similar benefits, which is why additive manufacturing continues to develop so quickly. A&D is simply ahead of the pack when identifying the benefits.

3-D printing machines “produce less scrap than traditional machines, a critical attribute when using expensive aerospace materials such as titanium,” Deloitte says. Additive manufacturing also allows A&D manufacturers to leverage economies of scale because customized production drives the A&D industry.

Given the proliferation of additive manufacturing, you can imagine how regulatory bodies are scrambling to keep pace. It is standard for a large, global manufacturer to maintain multiple tiers of suppliers, so A&D is among the first industries to run into regulatory hurdles, particularly when the Federal Aviation Administration has its say.

FAA makes a statement

If you look into recent actions by the FAA, you will see that additive manufacturing innovation has hit a road block. “An (additive manufacturing) lab had to be shut down because it did not meet safety protocol[s],” SupplyChainDrive.com notes.

New approaches to additive manufacturing are already gaining attention. For instance, Norsk Titanium AS uses titanium wire as a 3-D printing base, which can lower costs by as much as 30 percent. Citing safety concerns like waste management, the FAA has stepped in to ensure that manufacturers can demonstrate consistent quality, so where does A&D go from here?

3-D printing quality challenges

You understand that each company faces unique quality management concerns, so new research is key to finding a consensus across industries. Deloitte once again has taken the lead and identified four facets of additive manufacturing quality. According to Deloitte’s model, optimal 3-D printing quality consists of:

  • Repeatability
  • Process resiliency
  • Reliability
  • Consistency

Certainly, as a seasoned quality professional, you know these concepts well. What will benefit your company is preparing to integrate a similar additive manufacturing quality model well ahead of time.

Furthermore, Deloitte proposes a pyramid model to visualize how each facet coincides. Extensive testing using traditional methods (e.g., destructive testing), “negates many of AM’s identified economic and operational advantages,” Deloitte writes. Now that additive manufacturing has matured, your task is to reiterate your approach to quality, which is where enterprise quality management software comes in.

How EQMS can add value

Information management is the foundation of Deloitte’s pyramid model. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you can simply plug-in additive manufacturing to your quality process. You need a holistic platform before you begin to deploy additive manufacturing, especially in the A&D industry.

EQMS allows you to integrate disparate information sources to eliminate data silos among applications. Coordinating with a large, global supply chain can benefit from EQMS by pinpointing opportunities to integrate data and by giving you a means to execute initiatives.

Additive manufacturing is emerging as fast as automation and machine learning. Keep reading this blog for periodic updates on additive manufacturing in A&D.

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