As COVID-19 continues to disrupt traditional supply chains, firms are increasingly turning to localized manufacturing as a more secure means of sourcing products or spare parts.
SLS 3D printing holds particular promise within distributed production, given that it often yields models with a higher level of surface finish than FDM-printed parts, plus the compact size of such systems now enables entire assembly lines to be condensed into small spaces, operating in everyday areas ranging from offices to people’s kitchens.
One of those seeking to better secure their logistical set-up is German wholesaler Gautzsch Firmengruppe, and it recently turned to 3D printing service provider SLS3D, for help setting up an in-house production lab. On SLS3D’s advice, the company acquired Sinterit’s Lisa 3D printer, and found that its installation was not only easy, but yielded significant cost savings when used for low-volume production runs.
“With the addition of the Sinterit Lisa to their AM Lab, Gautzsch is able to experiment with a variety of parts currently in our offer,” said Gautzsch Executive Board member Peter Benthues. “We can explore the feasibility of local versus international supplies, and gain an insight into the products that will likely move to AM in the near future.”
“The Lisa is one of the few economically feasible solutions in the first stages of any AM Strategy. At lower volumes, it is a perfect solution.”
Edging towards industry 4.0
Of all the technologies behind manufacturing automation and Industry 4.0, 3D printing has the potential to be the most disruptive, due to its inherent mixture of flexibility, repeatability and accessibility. Modern distribution networks, by contrast, are often complicated by complex logistics, business agreements and technical limitations, making it a difficult web to untangle and drive maximum value from.
To make matters worse, large-scale distributors like Gautzsch are usually more sensitive to the repercussions of wider macroeconomic shifts, thus the firm stands to benefit more than most from adopting 3D printing. As a result, the company has recently made the decision to in-source more of its production, and turned to AM Germany subsidiary SLS3D for advice on the best way to set up its very own ‘AM Lab.’
“SLS3D was able to determine the best course of action, and ordered a Lisa to compliment the FDM machines in our Lab,” explained Benthues. “Adding the printer to the Lab was simple. For a company at the beginning of an investigation, support from, and discussion with the technology experts is extremely beneficial.”
Gautzsch weighing up options
In effect, Gautzsch has chosen to install its compact new Sinterit system as a means of assessing the benefits of open-platform SLS 3D printing. Given that the Lisa is now supported by a broad powder range composed of eight different materials, the system therefore provides the company with an ideal platform for experimentation.
In the past, Sinterit has also demonstrated that its Lisa machines boast a low powder refresh rate, thus Gautzsch has been able to prototype parts of varying complexity, without racking up costly material bills. Similarly, as Gautzsch is essentially a newcomer to 3D printing, the Lisa represents an optimal SLS entry point, due to its simplified setup and operating software that’s designed to be easy-to-use.
Following extensive feasibility testing at its AM Lab, the company ultimately aims to establish which of its product lines would benefit most from being 3D printed rather than produced via conventional means, and given the scalability provided by Sinterit’s machine, the firm could eventually ramp up its production into batches of thousands of parts, if it so desired.
3D printing spares on-demand
Within its SIENA Garden subsidiary, Gautzsch has already found that its new AM Lab enables it to manufacture spare parts for its outdoor furniture portfolio in-house, rather than sourcing them via external providers. The firm’s own-brand garden amenities often last much longer than their production cycle, thus they naturally require some minor maintenance following extended periods of customer usage.
By 3D printing spare parts to aid these repairs internally, Gautzsch is now able to flex its levels of production to meet demand, while boosting client satisfaction in the process. The inherent flexibility of additive manufacturing also provides the company with the ability to optimize the design of future components, potentially making them more sustainable and durable than their predecessors.
Although Gautzsch remains at an early stage of its 3D printing investigation, it has already identified the efficacy, data security and customization benefits of its AM Lab as well as Sinterit’s Lisa 3D printer, and with the help of SLS3D, it’s developing an understanding of the technology that will enable it to make informed decisions on its supply chain strategy moving forwards.
“Sinterit is a company that prides itself on knowledge sharing and it has positioned itself to enable the next generation of SLS innovations through open research and development,” added Maxime Polesello, CEO of Sinterit. “We look forward to supporting the innovators at Gautzsch in the future, and are excited to see their developments.”
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Featured image shows an engineer filling Sinterit’s Lisa 3D printer at Gautzsch’s AM Hub. Photo via Sinterit.