Filling the Additive Materials Gap for Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is transforming how things are made at an ever-increasing pace with year-over-year growth rates of more than 20 percent. Amid growing adoption, however, lingering challenges present obstacles when it comes to producing highly functional parts for unique customer applications.

According to a 2019 survey of 3D printing stakeholders sponsored by Jabil, the cost and availability of certified material continue to restrain widespread adoption. Companies who have product requirements that fall outside of the common additive manufactured materials currently on the market must wait, on average, six months to attain the specialized material – if they can find it at all.

Materials, Processes and Machines (MPM)

Cost and availability may be two main obstacles for mainstream adoption of additive manufacturing, but they are not the only ones. Material performance is another critical barrier. Additive materials must be qualified across the variety of 3D printers leveraged to make a variety of parts, and quality cannot waiver. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods where, through years of test and quality inspection, engineers know how a material will perform in a machine and are fully confident of its ability to meet the compliance requirements of each unique application, Additive Manufacturing is still in the early stages of adoption. Particularly in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and aerospace, production applications and the relative performance of specialized materials for 3D printers are not as commonly known and must be extensively tested prior to certification.

Meeting industry regulations and applying manufacturing rigor to the development of each additive manufacturing material for every unique open printing system has been lacking across the industry, and it is contributing extensively to the limited progress of Additive Manufacturing adoption in production. Further, new industrial 3D printers are being developed every year, changing and expanding the list of machines that each material must be qualified on. Qualification and certification of all custom and specialized materials is required to ensure part strength and durability in each unique setting, and until this hurdle is overcome, it will continue to hinder adoption of additive manufacturing.

Distributed Manufacturing

One crucial benefit of additive manufacturing is distributed manufacturing, or the ability to produce and deliver production parts locally, where and when the part is needed. Distributed manufacturing networks also ensure that a part made in one location has identical properties of one made halfway around the world. Local environments, such as heat, humidity, and dryness can affect the outcome of each part that is made and 3D printers in each location must be calibrated to guarantee exact outcomes in all regional areas. Without a connected Additive Manufacturing ecosystem, full-scale adoption of production Additive applications is severely hindered.

Jabil Engineered Materials

Jabil understands the outstanding potential of Additive Manufacturing, and is committed to supporting further adoption of 3D printing to produce highly functional parts for diverse and unique customer applications. To help overcome these obstacles and increase adoption of additive manufacturing in production environments, Jabil is taking advantage of its rich history in materials science innovation to advance the entire additive manufacturing market with the introduction of Jabil Engineered Materials.

“Our ability to integrate new engineered materials into our ecosystem of 3D printers and rigorous processes will transform a new generation of additive manufacturing applications, including those for heavily regulated industries, such as aerospace, automotive, industrial and healthcare,” said John Dulchinos, vice president of digital manufacturing, Jabil. “We will be able to produce custom materials in weeks – not months.”

Jabil has opened a Materials Innovation Center in Minnesota to deliver complete 3D printing solutions under one roof, encompassing polymer formulations, compound development and ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS) certification. Additive manufacturing engineers, chemists, materials scientists and production experts consult with customers, leverage Jabil’s materials science innovations and oversee each step of making custom powders and filaments. Further, by leveraging its Materials, Processes and Machines (MPM) solution, Jabil will ensure that manufacturing rigor is applied to each specialized material that’s custom-developed across its 200-printer Additive Manufacturing Network across the globe.

The rapid iteration and certified production of these engineered materials will provide customers with a faster path from prototyping to production than previously available. Value-added attributes include reinforced, flame retardant, conductive, lubricated, Electrostatic Dissipative (ESD) and other engineered characteristics. And, the new materials are coupled with a full range of services, including compounding, extrusion and powder creation as well as complete system integration on standard, open-source platforms supported by Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and High-Speed Sintering (HSS) equipment to enable a powerful breakthrough for Additive Manufacturing in production. Jabil Engineered Materials will be available to Jabil customers through distributor partners, including Chase Plastics and Channel Prime Alliance.

Filling the gap that is hindering mainstream adoption has been a Jabil goal since the inception of its Additive Manufacturing organization. The formation of Jabil Engineered Materials is a tremendous step in the right direction, and Jabil is leading the way.