Additive Manufacturing

The path toward individual production

The development of additive manufacturing processes in the 1980s laid the groundwork for the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. Whereas the first industrial revolution refers to the transfer of manual labour to mechanised processes powered by water and steam from the second half of the 18th century, the second industrial revolution saw the rise of mass production on electrically powered assembly lines. The third major developmental leap for industrial processes was based on the use of information technologies to automate production. The intelligent organisation of decentralised production units by linking information and production technology in the Internet of Things will form the foundation for the fourth industrial revolution. Experts regard this development as a major opportunity for the German economy in the face of global competition.

In future, customers will likely be able to purchase a product via an Internet portal, access the component data, and modify, archive and monitor the status of a production order. The manufacturing process will be carried out via decentralised production units where it is most effective in terms of the customer’s location and the use of the manufacturing units’ capacities. Instead of the products themselves, only their production data will be sent around the globe. Furthermore, this data can be adapted to individual requirements even at advanced stages of the production process. These digital factories will no longer be located only in the Far East. Instead, there will be decentralised production units located in regional proximity, which will enable ‘single units off the line’ at prices comparable with mass production. Products, machines and transport boxes are connected with the web via microchips. The Internet of Things will enable the autonomous organisation of intelligent production procedures, resulting in an increase in productivity of up to 50 per cent. In addition, saving raw material information in the product will enhance the recycling capabilities and enable closed material cycles. Experts forecast potential savings for energy and resources of 20 to 25 per cent over the middle term.

Additive manufacturing processes are expected to play a critical role in the context of the fourth industrial revolution. The generative nature of these technologies. will completely revolutionise the previous paradigm of conventional technologies which are based on material removal. These include milling, drilling or turning. This will not only save resources and prevent production waste but will also enable product parts with complex geometries impossible to replicate using conventional methods such as casting processes.

With this brochure Dr. Sascha Peters describes the potential of additive manufacturing for the future of the manufacturing industry. He showcases examples where 3D printing and additive technologies can have a path toward individual production.

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