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Unsettled Topics on the Benefit of Additive Manufacturing for Production at the Point of Use in the Mobility Industry

  • Research Report
  • EPR2021006
Published February 15, 2021 by SAE International in United States
  • English

An oft-cited benefit of additive manufacturing (AM), or “3D-printing,” technology is the ability to produce parts at the point of use by downloading a digital file and making the part at a local printer. This has the potential to greatly compress supply chains, lead times, inventories, and design iterations for custom parts. As a result of this possibility, both manufacturing and logistics companies are investigating and investing in AM capacity for production at the point of use. It can be imagined, however, that the feasibility and benefits of point-of-use manufacture are a function of size, materials, build time, manufacturing complexity, cost, and competing technologies. Because of this, there are instances where the viability of point-of-use manufacturing ranges from the perfect solution to the worst possible choice.
As the fourth installment in an ongoing series on AM, this report discusses the benefits, challenges, trade-offs, and other determining factors regarding AM at the point of use.
NOTE: SAE EDGE Research Reports are intended to identify and illuminate key issues in emerging, but still unsettled, technologies of interest to the mobility industry. The goal of SAE EDGE Research Reports is to stimulate discussion and work in the hope of promoting and speeding the resolution of identified issues. These reports are not intended to resolve the challenges they identify or close any topic to further scrutiny.

Notes on terminology:

  • Product: What the customer purchases from the manufacturer
  • Assembly: Putting together multiple AM and non-AM parts to make the product
  • Product OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer): Organization that makes the product (automobile, airplane, launch vehicle, etc.) that is sold to the customer
  • Tier-1: Supplier of integrated assemblies or subsystems to a product OEM
  • Tier-2: Supplier of subassemblies or nonintegrated subsystems to a Tier-1
  • Part OEM: Organization that makes a part that goes into a larger product (either directly or via a Tier-1 or Tier-2 supplier)
  • Product team: The integrated team for a product or a substantial subpart of a product
  • Using organization: An organization that uses a product and is concerned with keeping the product operational