Additive Manufacturing: Lighter, Stronger, Better

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Rethinking How We View Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing may seem like the latest and hottest thing in manufacturing due to the publicity it has gained from prototyping. But did you know that this production method has been around for more than 30 years? It’s widely used in the aerospace and automobile industries for production parts, because both industries know the value of additive manufacturing in making vehicles lighter, stronger and better.


Additive manufacturing compared to traditional manufacturing methods can sustainably reduce weight in the parts produced. This leads to better fuel efficiency and performance.

According to American Airlines “Fuel Smart” program literature, replacing existing Boeing 757 cargo liners with lighter-weight materials (and replacing cargo containers used on Boeing 767 and 777 aircraft with lighter weight containers) saves nearly 3 million gallons of jet fuel annually. These same fuel efficiencies cross-over to other industries including automotive, transportation, and heavy equipment.

Additive manufacturing adds material in layers and with this highly-efficient approach, weight of products can be substantially reduced and unused materials in the print bed can be reused, making additive manufacturing very sustainable. The layered approach of additive manufacturing means that parts produced can reduce the weight of vehicles of both the ground and the air.


In addition to weight reduction, due to the ability to consolidate several pieces into one part, there are fewer points of failures that can arise from assembly. Reducing the weakest points of a part can lead to longer lasting parts and better overall performance from products. Many of the polymers used in additive manufacturing were formulated to work well for the manufacturing process (for example: flow, mold release, shrinkage) and also for part properties such as tensile or impact strength. With materials and 3D printers advancing significantly in recent years, additive manufactured parts are gaining in strength.


What makes additive manufacturing better? Consider the following:

BOM Consolidation--Additive manufacturing processes enable the production of geometric shapes that would otherwise require assembly of multiple parts. When designers think of the entire product holistically instead of just one part, costs can be saved while making the overall product more effective and efficient.

Design Freedom--Additive manufacturing design is liberated from the rules of traditional manufacturing methods. Draft angles are no longer a consideration and much greater complexity in part design is now possible within one print build and no assembly required.

There is a strong relationship between geometry and performance of a part and planning for this geometry is a core component of the design process. Additive manufacturing has dedicated flexibility to allow the creation of almost any sophisticated geometric shape.

Additive manufacturing also has a much higher capability to construct complex lattice designs.

The most rewarding part of this freedom is that added complexity in design comes at no additional cost, as there is no need for additional tooling, re-fixturing, increased operator expertise, or even fabrication time.

Time—With additive manufacturing, molds, jigs, fixtures, and tooling are not required to produce a part. This reduces the time between the design and production considerably. With traditional manufacturing methods, building molds and fixtures before a part could be manufactured could take months. Additive manufacturing reduces the time from design to manufactured part to just a few days.

Power of Digital—The Jabil digital thread upends the needs for excessive infrastructure, equipment and bulky processes of traditional legacy manufacturing. It enables companies to design parts in one location and manufacture them in another. Instead of shipping parts, a digital file is sent to a local print factory, and a production part is manufactured. The entire Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network is harmonized with digital production systems. Our systems permit the integration of design, production and financial technology to collapse the product realization cycle. This digital thread is imperative in realizing a secure and effective distributed manufacturing strategy. With services such as Jabil’s Intelligent Digital Supply Chain (IDSC), the company is leading the digital renaissance of manufacturing.

Local manufacturing—Global manufacturing can face challenges from sourcing and fulfillment to customs and transportation. But additive manufacturing, powered by the digital thread, enables locally efficient and the ability to highly-customized production. The digital thread enables companies to quickly see where production capacity is available and avoid production bottlenecks. They can create 3D print production parts close to factories that are assembling the final product and easily manage compliance with various regional and country-specific regulations. Locally produced parts become viable in nations with a high cost of labor, even in the face of competition.  

As the aerospace and automotive industries have known for decades, additive versus traditional manufacturing is not an either-or decision. Both have their advantages and can be strategically incorporated into an overall supply chain to gain the best outcome for a company.

Through the Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network you can access a growing, globally-distributed footprint of 3D printers and additive manufacturing capabilities in more than 120 manufacturing plants. With dedicated expertise centered on additive Materials, Processes and Machines (MPM), we continually evolve materials and equipment to deliver the best approach to align with your requirements.

Through our additive manufacturing capabilities, you can:

  • Reduce tooling and fixture costs
  • Reduce inventory
  • Produce reliable end-use parts that meet qualifications and certifications
  • Consolidate parts (BOM) for significant cost savings
  • Optimize distribution and build products closer to consumption
  • Realize sustainability goals and lower environmental impact
  • Make just-in-time manufacturing a reality

Discover more on how Jabil can help you manufacture lighter, stronger and better.