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Digital Disruption via Cloud-Based Manufacturing

John Nanry
By John Nanry Chief Manufacturing Officer & Co-Founder, Fast Radius Inc.

Manufacturing Engineering: Designers, product developers, and manufacturing companies looking for an online “e-manufacturer” have plenty of choices. What differentiates Fast Radius from the others?

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Aside from additive manufacturing, Chicago-based Fast Radius Inc. also provides CNC machining, plastic injection molding, and urethane casting services. (Provided by Fast Radius)

John Nanry: Other custom manufacturers may focus on getting you parts as quickly and cheaply as possible, but might miss the critical step of making sure your parts can be manufactured to meet your specs. We pride ourselves on having a true partnership model. Each of our customers has a dedicated team of engineers and customer success managers whose job it is to ensure their project is completed to spec and on time. Everything we do is powered by our Cloud Manufacturing Platform, including our hands-on customer support. If something goes wrong or you have a question, you can always get in touch with an expert who can help. We also work with a lot of customers who aren’t sure exactly how to make their products, and we have a team of design and development engineers who can walk them through the whole process, including selecting a manufacturing method and design for manufacturing (DFM).

ME: What do you say to those who’ve had good experiences working with traditional “mom-and-pop” shops and would like to see those small businesses succeed?

Nanry: We want them to succeed too—there’s plenty of business for everyone. Unfortunately, we’re seeing more mom-and-pop shops shut down as people retire. A lot of customers also come to us when none of the mom-and-pop shops they’ve approached can actually make their products, or their need for new technologies and/or materials has surpassed the experience of their prior suppliers. Hearing “no” that much can be exhausting. What we love about mom-and-pop shops is knowing that you have someone—an actual person, not a form on a website—who cares about doing your project right. We offer our customers that same great relationship you’d have with the machine shop down the block, but with many more capabilities. You can consider us a one-stop shop for additive manufacturing, CNC machining, injection molding, urethane casting, and all kinds of post processing.

ME: Sporting goods manufacturer Rawlings recently partnered with Fast Radius and Carbon to develop a “revolutionary” 3D-printed baseball glove, a design intended for mass production. Does this suggest that you will soon be additively manufacturing perhaps millions of gloves?

Nanry: We will continue to manufacture 3D-printed parts for the Rawlings REV1X. We can’t speak to Rawlings’ order projections, but we hope to make a lot more gloves for them. Leveraging our Cloud Manufacturing Platform and growing footprint of micro-factories, we’re able to scale from prototype to volume production.

ME:  As a follow-up to the previous question, why did you partner with Carbon?

Nanry: Rawlings identified the Carbon DLS process as the best way to make the thumb and pinkie inserts for their revolutionary new glove. They needed a partner who could ramp to mass market production. As the largest public-facing Carbon factory in North America, we had both the machine capacity and the expert technicians to make these parts. Using 3D printing in high-volume production takes more than pressing the print button. We needed to provide DFM support and even come up with some custom solutions to make sure we could reliably print these parts in the volumes needed.

ME: Fast Radius joined the country’s digital manufacturing institute, Chicago-based MxD (Manufacturing x Digital), nearly two years ago. Why was this done, and what have been the results?

Nanry: MxD is a huge part of our company’s heritage. Three of our co-founders—Lou Rassey, Bill King, and I—were involved in founding MxD (known as DMDII then). As our company grew, we were able to take on a more active role with MxD, bringing our Cloud Manufacturing Platform to their members, who are some of the most innovative manufacturers in the country. We’ve also been able to partner with MxD on several initiatives.

ME: You’ve trademarked the term “Virtual Warehouse,” but how is this offering different than the other on-demand manufacturing services out there?

Nanry: The Virtual Warehouse is about more than just saving design files to remake parts later. With the Virtual Warehouse, our customers work directly with our Manufacturing Services Team to finalize all design and production specifications and create what we call a Build Package. That Build Package contains all the design and production specifications so the part can be manufactured anywhere, exactly when it’s needed. As we continue to expand our footprint, customers will be able to manufacture parts at any of our locations around the world and be assured they’re getting the quality and consistency they need. You can also produce parts in any volume without minimum order quantities. When you have sophisticated digital inventory like this, you don’t have to worry about maintaining physical inventory or getting stuck with obsolete parts.

ME: Design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) and its 3D printing equivalent, design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), are critical to controlling costs while increasing part quality. What are you doing to support and promote these best practices?

Nanry: We have several teams of engineers who specialize in development, design, application engineering, and manufacturing. At every stage in the process, our teams work with customers to make sure their parts are optimized for manufacturing and assembly. We have testing and quality programs in place in our factories to ensure we achieve reliable results from all of our technology. In terms of sharing this information, we have several guides on how to design for different additive manufacturing processes and we frequently participate in events and webinars on DfAM.

ME: Fast Radius is a relatively new company on a steep growth path. What’s next for you?

Nanry: We are advancing the industry with an integrated digital and physical platform that simplifies the way we design, make, and move parts around the world. We call it Cloud Manufacturing, and we believe it will transform an industry that’s overdue for digital disruption. 

Hexagon and Authentise Deliver End-to-End Workflow Solution for AM

Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division, North Kingstown, R.I., and additive MES provider Authentise of Philadelphia have partnered to build software solutions that they claim will industrialize AM technology by digitizing every step of the workflow, from part design through production to final product and quality assurance. “We are building a next-generation framework for our customers to manage flexible, fully digitized production workflows in private cloud environments,” said Mathieu Pérennou, Hexagon MI’s global business development director for additive manufacturing. “This will connect the data flow and help streamline their workflows in all stages of the AM process.”

The Index Group is Growing

Germany’s Index Group, makers of INDEX and TRAUB brand CNC machine tools, is getting into the 3D printing business with its acquisition of a majority interest in Trumpf’s One Click Metal GmbH. Trumpf will remain involved as an active partner and will support the company’s future development in collaboration with Index. With a workforce of 20 employees, One Click Metal develops metal 3D printing solutions for small and medium-sized components. Its customers include mechanical engineering, tooling, and automotive manufacturers, which use the systems for product development and prototyping as well as the low-volume production of end-use components.

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Wichita State University’s NIAR team will use the Essentium High Speed Extrusion 3D Printing Platform to develop tooling, spare parts, and, ultimately, flight-worthy end-parts. (Provided by Essentium)

NIAR Selects Essentium for Research Program to Advance AM Innovation

AM solution provider Essentium Inc., Pflugerville, Texas, has formed a commercial venture with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) to accelerate AM advancement for the U.S. aviation industry. The collaboration is part of the Kansas Aviation Research and Technology Growth Initiative (KART), comprised of Kansas-based aviation companies including Airbus, Bombardier Learjet, Spirit AeroSystems, and Textron Aviation, which select programs to enable the future of aerospace innovation. NIAR will work with Essentium to advance extrusion AM through a multi-stage process to test solutions to benefit KART and the aerospace industry in general.

Despite COVID-19 Pandemic, Additive Manufacturing Grew 21 Percent in 2020

The global AM market grew by 21 percent in 2020 to a total of $12.6 billion, and is expected to continue growing by 17 percent annually over the next three years, according to the “Additive Manufacturing Trend Report 2021” from on-demand manufacturing provider 3D Hubs, Amsterdam, Netherlands. If so, it will nearly triple in size over the next five years, reaching a value of $37.2 billion by 2026. Barriers to additional growth exist, however—38 percent of engineering businesses report cost as a key factor preventing them from utilizing 3D printing more, with 29 percent reporting part quality as its primary shortcoming.

Cummins 3D Prints its First Binder Jet Production Part

 Diesel and alternative fuel engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., Columbus, Ind. has 3D printed its first production part using binder jet technology. The Cummins Emission Solutions (CES) lance tip adapter is used in high-horsepower engines, and is a critical component that atomizes and injects diesel exhaust fluid into the exhaust stream to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted from the engine. Producing this part using AM provides several additional benefits, the company said, including a lighter-weight design, improved geometry for fluid and air flow, and the elimination of cross drilling. The company hopes to have final PPAP approval soon so that it can begin official production later this year.

Michelangelo’s David Gets a Digital Twin

A 3D-printed replica of Michelangelo’s famous David sculpture was unveiled recently as part of the Italy Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. High-resolution scanning of the original David—which stands 17' (5.17-m) high and weighs more than five tons—took two people working 10 days to complete. An AICON StereoScan structured light scanner and Leica Absolute Tracker with handheld scanner—both from Hexagon—were used to produce the model, after which the full-size “David 2.0” was 3D printed in 14 sections from a lightweight, acrylic resin known as Dimengel. The printing process required nearly 160 hours.

Optomec Sees Continued Success

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One of Optomec’s metal AM systems is shown here processing aviation components. (Provided by Optomec)

Optomec, Albuquerque, N.M. has been in the news several times over past months. The privately-held developer and manufacturer of aerosol jet systems for printed electronics and LENS/Huffman 3D Printers for metal components recently established a metal additive Technical Advisory Board (TAB) with a number of industry leaders, among them a Fortune 500 manufacturing services company, a Fortune 500 producer of energy equipment, a U.S. Department of Defense Top 50 supplier, and two metal additive manufacturing university research labs. The initial meeting focused on the pandemic’s effects on production and supply chain strategies and its implications on metal additive Manufacturing, as well as subjects such as AM automation, in-situ sensors, production-ready process recipes, and the increased demand for titanium alloy production brought about by the aerospace industry.

Optomec also received a $500,000 order from the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force base to extend repair applications for flight critical engine components, and announced it had received $7 million in new orders from its existing customer base. “We have seen a marked increase in business activity over the last few months, following COVID’s peak case count in the first quarter,” said CEO David Ramahi.

ExOne Accelerates Expansion into 3D Printed Tooling Business

The ExOne Co., North Huntingdon, Pa., an industrial sand and metal 3D printer manufacturer using binder jetting technology, has acquired the assets of Freshmade 3D, a Youngstown, Ohio-based startup with a patented method of creating durable “AMClad” tooling out of sand forms on ExOne machines.

This solution is said to be fast, durable, and affordable, and suitable for a range of tooling applications, including composite layup, vacuum and hydroforming, compression molds, trim fixtures, and sheet metal stamping.

Wayland Secures its First Sale

Just weeks after its virtual product launch, metal AM provider Wayland Additive Ltd., Huddersfield, U.K. has sold its first Calibur3 system to Exergy Solutions Inc., Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We are in advanced discussions with a number of companies interested in our metal AM process, all of which recognize that NeuBeam affords them access to numerous production alternatives,” said Peter Hansford, Wayland Additive’s director of business development. Most importantly, he stated, the charging issues that make electron beam (EBM) processes unstable have been fully neutralized with NeuBeam, and its “hot part” process—as opposed to the “hot bed” process used with traditional EBM—also ensures free-flowing powder post-build (no sinter cake) and stress-free parts made with reduced energy consumption.

Additive Manufacturing Update is edited by Contributing Editor Kip Hanson, kip@kahmco.net

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