3D printing in outer space, really?

Stefan van Olst

Stefan is a Senior Marketing professional, specialized in the computer software industry, new technologies and gadgets are his passion.

A customer of yours has been waiting for too long on their product. You are doing everything you can think of, but alas, your customer takes off because he or she has been able to find the desired product somewhere else. In bigger amounts. For less money. What does that company have that you don’t? Well, a 3D printer.

You can place a 3D printer anywhere at any time, making it possible to produce almost anywhere and anytime. It is now even realizable to print in outer space. Salvation has finally come for the crew that still has to spend time in orbit for the next 254 days, having to deal with a broken coffee machine. It’s really true: 3D printing has become so effective, fast and mobile that it’s even possible to place a 3D printer inside a space station for the production of important replacement parts for the crew. Otherwise, those parts would be sent into space all the way from planet Earth. It is needless to say that this saves a lot of manpower, fuel and equipment – and thus a lot of money.

For factories, this would mean a much faster and cheaper production rate. Usually, all kinds of parts have to be transported, sometimes even multiple times, from point A to point B and back. Using a 3D printer, everything can be made on the spot, just like that, making it conceivable to provide products to the customer almost instantly. In short, the return on investment goes up fast compared to that of conventional production processes. Related to this is the simplicity of designing products and prototypes. In the same way, 3D printing makes it a lot easier to produce in small, and even tiny, amounts. It will be no problem at all when there’s just a small need for something or just a single piece. Testing becomes effortless and small prints will be feasible. You won’t be needing to mass-produce anymore when you don’t really need to.

Besides saving resources in increasing productivity, 3D printing touches a sweet spot that is nowadays of major importance in manufacturing: personalization. The customer is getting a bigger say in what he needs, and when he needs it. Customized products are no longer an exception. With 3D printing, products can be printed on-demand, making it possible to adapt to the customer’s needs directly. The number of products and the products themselves can easily be adjusted, based purely on sales figures. Aside from this, it will be more rewarding to test different kinds of materials, also because there aren’t disadvantages to producing a single item. And if there’s something that needs tweaking or if you, or your customer, is not quite satisfied with a certain design, it can be changed in an instant.

Combining 3D printers with the internet of things and a compatible ERP opens up a world of possibilities with regard to manufacturing and takes “on-demand” to a new level. With Rootstock Cloud ERP, you are sure you get the most out of your 3D printer. Rootstock is suitable for all types of manufacturing strategies: make-to-stock, configure-to-order, make-to-order, and engineer-to-order. Of these strategies, engineer-to-order would be the most innovative in respect to personalized manufacturing. Engineer-to-order allows for a high level of customer participation and customization. Rootstock entirely supports this process and allows the integration of your 3D printer.

In addition, Vanenburg develops smart process apps, which can be placed on top of ERP to accelerate your adoption of new technologies. In relation to personalization and 3D printing, we could develop an app for customers to enable them to pick the parts they need themselves. This way they can choose a completely personalized product. Combining 3D printers with the internet of things, the 3D printer could order needed material(s) or maintenance itself. The technology is out there, and Vanenburg has the experience and knowledge.

Do you want to maximize your possibilities with the 3D printer in manufacturing? Contact Vanenburg and we are happy to guide you through this journey!

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