Robotics and 3D printing, here’s how they benefit time to market

Since the restart, the pace for companies has been increasing. We still consider little what impact robotics and 3D printing, encapsulated within Additive Manufacturing, also have on time to market and, consequently, on our lives.
The last two years have certainly made their mark on our recent history, we have recounted it several times already here on our blog. And now in a recovery and restart phase, everything is picking up again at a fast pace, as if there is a race to make up for lost time. And by “everything,” we really mean everything. To realize this, of what may seem like an exaggeration, one only has to look at the delivery time of any product purchased online or in-store. Delivery times have been stretched out, bringing with them a whole host of issues that will hopefully (hopefully) be resolved for good.
Looking deep into things, and we often forget to do so, we can realize that in this fast-paced recovery phase there are solutions that, although only seemingly light years removed from our daily lives, actually have a great impact on our lives, which we referred to earlier.
Now, looking at the title of this article, and reading this far, you may be wondering, “but what does this have to do with Robotics, 3D printing, time to market?” The answer is simple: it has everything to do with it!
The solutions just mentioned are exactly what so many companies are adopting at this stage, characterized by markets in turmoil, with the complications of the conflict in Ukraine and the energy issue, have as their common denominator the use of robots and 3D printing to support production for time to market reduction, i.e., speeding up production to meet a growing and sustained demand, and the use of 3D printing to build machine components to prevent the same production from experiencing problems.

These are solutions that are finding their way into every field at this stage, especially retail. If there is one lesson that companies have learned over the past few years, it is that the process of plant digitization must move forward in an expeditious manner, embracing, precisely, robotics and 3D printing, that branch of technology called Additive Manufacturing. In this way companies, in a hyper-connected phase like this, Roberto Rizzo, founder and president of SolidWorld Group S.p.A., a leading Italian group with an increasingly international reach, told us about it right here on InTime Blog.
And this is a world that is making countless innovations, to try to meet the needs of companies, in this particular historical moment.
And innovations focus, mostly, on improving product traceability, energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact, integrating product design and manufacturing aspects to reduce, the increasingly cited, time-to-market.
Areas of research interest include rapid prototyping (Additive Manufacturing), lightweighting (multi-material joining, plastic and metal fabrication, carbon fiber-based composite manufacturing), intelligent robotics (agile robots, consumer robots, swarm robotics, cobots), monitoring and control (wireless network control, human-machine interface) and simulation and modeling (design and simulation software).
Not forgetting, indeed, 3D printing, sensors and wireless networks, information and communication technology, composite manufacturing, digital manufacturing, micro- and nano-manufacturing, lasers, advanced software and printing techniques.
All of this, we have actually summarized it to give a glimpse of what we are dealing with, is the basis of what Rizzo was referring to, and that is Factory 4.0, the technology-connected, digitized company that embraces robotics and related technologies to improve its production and its business in general.
To give an example of using robotics, very close to us, to better manage production or even distribution, in November 2022 Amazon unveiled “Sparrow,” the robot warehouse that will help workers in factories to make the work environment more efficient and safer. Think about the exponential growth of Amazon’s product shipping and how this can come in handy to manage workloads, safely.
Just to better define the role of 3D printing, within the Additive Manufacturing industry, at this stage, think about what custom manufacturing of parts within a production process might entail. Printing parts, or even just complete parts, involves: cost reduction, production costs are low with the elimination of scrap production; time to market, the ideation and design phase, and the commercialization phase.
To give some numbers, and to make the size of the markets clear, Mordor Intelligence has estimated that the market for 3D printing and thus Additive Manufacturing is projected to be over $63 billion by 2026. The market for so-called collaborative robots (corobots) is estimated by Future Market Insights to be worth $20.5 billion by 2033, while the Robotics and Automation market is estimated at $67.48 billion by 2032 with an average growth of 13.8 percent.

Examples of the use of Additive Manufacturing are many today, but wanting to make an estimate, we can certainly mention:

Medical device manufacturing: 3D printing employed to develop products such as dental implants. In addition, a whole range of products and the finalization of specific designs for patients can be made, ensuring high comfort.
Automotive industry: additive manufacturing techniques have moved beyond rapid prototyping and are now being used to build strong and lightweight car parts. As a result, high-end cars can get lighter and stronger carbon fiber parts to improve performance.
Aerospace and defense industries use additive manufacturing for lightweight and strong parts. After all, aircraft and shuttles must withstand the excessive forces experienced during takeoff and flight, and the use of 3D printed layered composite parts is an excellent solution for this specific use.
More common discrete item manufacturing (automobiles, furniture, toys, smartphones, and airplanes) also use additive manufacturing techniques for faster product development and prototyping, reducing the time required to take an item from minimum viable product to full production.

Without sounding too biased, but we are talking precisely about the reach of companies like SolidWorld Group that preside over these sectors with a leading role, in Italy and around the world.
Here, we just wanted to make more explicit and understandable what is really meant today by companies’ use of robots, 3D printing, meaning Additive Manufacturing in general, within their organizations and production cycles. These are digitization technologies and processes that can be encapsulated in the term Factory 4.0, which has, and will increasingly have a great impact on our lives.

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