Using design to maximise operations has never been such a value-adding tool. But, how can manufacturers best leverage their creative potential within 3D printing?
Earlier this year, the UK Design Council even found that around 40% of British companies are missing out on the opportunity to make their business more productive through design innovation.
The time for manufacturers to think creatively, it seems, is now.
“In the AM space, there wasn’t and isn’t enough of a focus on design thinking, and the impact of that on AM technology capability.” Sarat Babu, founder of 3D printing company Betatype, tells TM.
“We really look to optimise what 3D printing can offer, we design products, software, pilot prototypes and manufacture. In doing this, we can drive down part cost, we are problem-solvers.”
The company only formed in 2012, but since this period the 3D printing business has developed and designed parts for the aerospace, automotive and fashion sectors.
Burrowed on the outskirts of Bow in East London, and with only a modest space, Babu believes their skill lies in the ability to maximise production through creative and capable design.
Often design strategy is overlooked, and businesses concentrate on economic strategies instead of investment in design improvement that could ultimately accelerate profits long-term.
“You’d be surprised by how many people decide they want to use AM, but don’t understand the design process, they just make decisions purely from an economic standpoint,” he says.
In previous examples, Babu explains the business has been able to innovate production to an extent where they have – in some cases – reduced build time by 40%, this of course results in a reduction in part cost.
Effectively, this makes design-led decisions an economic strategy.
“Another example is in the medical industry, where we’ve been able to reduce part per cost for AM spinal cages – we were able to decrease build times by roughly 60%.”
Additive manufacturing is shaping up to be a highly sought after technology, and for good reason. In some instances it is curing environmental disasters, and in others it is transforming the medical industry, ultimately saving lives.
If businesses can really begin to expand on the potential of these technologies particularly through design-led thinking, then this could further drive other industries and innovations forward.
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Design thinking could exploit 3D printing
Babu explains: “3D printing machine manufacturers build integrated control software, their job is to build the machine and a set of tools which allows people to really take any part and build it.
“However, if you want to optimise that part from a production standpoint, then that is not something they can quite easily address, and that is where we have our unique optimisation algorithms that we create, which allows us to essentially maximise a machines capacity.”
The amount of data Betatype collects is, according to Babu, a “magnitude higher” than other AM providers. This then allows them to improve production as the information and data they have access to is extensive.
Babu illustrates this by showing The Manufacturer several watch strap prototypes and the evolution that that particular product has undergone.
He says: “In the future, the machines themselves are going to become even more capable. More people in the industry are now concerned about design-led questions like, ‘what’s the expertise or the methods of design that is required to really exploit this technology?'”
Manufacturers could enhance their operations by deploying creative and design-led strategies. If there is a longer term benefit to this, that being a better profit margin, why would businesses not map out their design-led options?
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