Image Credit: 3dprint.com
The Nordic market
The Nordic region (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland) with its 1.4 trillion dollar plus economy is considered one of the ten largest economies in the world, and the fifth largest market in Europe. The market nature of the northern part of Sweden, Finland and Norway, also known as the arctic region, is widely dispersed, with small population centers that are expensive to serve due to long distances and high freight expenses.
Manufacturing firms in the arctic region are predominantly Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Manufacturing industry focuses more on lowering the cost and developing economies with rapid advances in new technologies, SMEs especially manufacturers in this area are facing great challenges such as geographical seclusion from the major market and a low capital turnover ratio. In order to face these challenges, manufacturing SMEs in the Arctic region must develop their own business models and marketing strategies that guarantee the sustainability of their activities.
Companies need to not only identify applications and parts to build with Additive Manufacturing (AM), but to look at their manufacturing strategy as a whole to see how the technology can enable innovation and add value to overall operations. Instead of finding products that fit the technology, make the technology fit the product and business model.
While new technologies can sometimes be implemented with existing business models, AM technologies are disruptive to the extent that they may require some reshaping or reinvention of the business model in order to capture its value.
Business model connectivity
AM technology makes free forming and personalization of the products possible to a large extent. A consumer-centric business model proposes a shift in the productive activities from the manufacturer to the consumer. Advances in Internet capability (the so-called “Web 2.0”) make it even more possible to establish a direct contact between manufacturers and consumers, which will allow them to produce their own personalized products.
The new business model will be efficient in terms of cost reductions offered by the manufacturing platform, ease of accessibility between sellers and buyers, transparency throughout the supply chain, leveraging opportunistic behavior, and accelerating the purchasing process via direct connectivity.
The consumer-centric business model represent a shift from mass production to mass customization to personalized production, which creates a necessity to move toward a more decentralized supply chain structure to embrace the central role of the individual consumer in the value creation-capture process.
Economical aspects of 3D-printing components
3D-printing is per volume of the components a relatively expensive process. However, the SLM process does not care if the geometry is simple (box) or complex, it is the amount of powder that needs melting that have economical impact. This is why it still might be an economically valuable process. In order for 3D-printing of components to be economically sound, the advantages of the process needs to be employed (e.g. reduced material by complex design, added functionality or design not otherwise possible to make).
A report for the first two examples can be found here: C3TS_Demonstration parts
1. Clamp (for robots) – weight optimization
In this case, the component in volume is 0.033 dm³ and support structures are 0.005 dm³ (15%). Post processing takes 25 min per part (to remove from the build plate, grind and blasting). Printing time for one component is 8.5 hours at a cost of 660€, but if four is simultaneously built on the same platform the printing time (per part) is reduced to 4.1 hours with a cost of 330€.
2. Gas mixer – part consolidation
This demonstrator part (reduced assembly) was especially designed for 3D-printing and only has 2.2% support material, requiring 30 minutes of post processing per part (5 minutes to unfasten from platform, 20 min machining and 5 min blasting). One batch printing is 11 h at 880€, while a four batch printing takes 29 h at a cost of 580€ per piece.
3. Firefighter nozzle
For Turnhill, a first version of samples serving as nozzles used in firefighting (using 316L as material) has been produced. More details can be found in this Report for firefighter nozzle. If printing 200 parts (multiple variants possible), it is estimated that 3D-printing time is 5 days and 13 hours and post processing 30 min/piece (mostly manual), which results in a total cost of about 100€/piece (which could be reduced by more effective post-treatment).