Additive Manufacturing (AM) refers to building objects by adding layers of material. A subset of AM is 3D printing. This contrasts with machining (removing) material from raw stock or filling a mold. AM opens a world of possibilities, such as enabling remarkably rapid prototyping and low- to mid-volume production of otherwise prohibitively expensive parts. A product or component can be designed online and “printed” in hours. This can even take place in distant or remote areas, dramatically simplifying the supply chain.
Jabil’s history with AM began like many manufacturers. Its use was limited to a few areas, including prototyping, fixtures and tooling, and creating injection molds with conformal cooling.
In recent years, we have expanded our investment as AM presents cost models appropriate for a widening set of uses. We are producing final parts where small batch sizes challenge the investment in traditional production techniques, like injection molding. AM also offers significant reductions in time-to-market for new products. The most competitive weapon in business is time, and AM is proving its value in new product introduction.
Another area where AM excels is when considered as a part of maintenance, replacement, and obsolescence (MRO) strategies. Capital equipment is often designed to last several decades, but when parts wear out, spares might be unavailable or have a long lead time. Using 3D computer-aided tomography (CAT) scanning capabilities, Jabil can recreate the part digitally, then use AM to cost-effectively build replacements.
With 50+ years of manufacturing and supply chain experience, we have developed a network of systems enabling faster and more efficient management of product lifecycles and specific manufacturing processes. Connectivity across internal and external infrastructure is a critical aspect of driving distributed models that are powering the proliferation of Additive Manufacturing, now and over the next few years.