How 3D Printing Will Energize The Chemical Industry - Part 1: Key Opportunity Areas

Stefan Guertzgen

It’s been nearly 30 years since Chuck Hull, the “Thomas Edison” of the 3D printing industry, introduced the first 3D printer. Since that time, 3D printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, has been used to create everything from shoes to airplane parts to even food. Although issues such as durability and speed have kept 3D printing from being used in mainstream manufacturing to date, the industry is making tremendous advancements.

The growing adoption of 3D printing by more markets is being driven by three primary developments. First, the cost of 3D printing is rapidly decreasing due to lower raw material costs, stronger competitive pressures, and technological advancements. According to a recent report by IBISWorld, the price of 3D printers is expected to fall 6.4% in 2016.

Second, printing is getting faster. Last year, startup company Carbon3D printed a palm-size geodesic sphere in a little over six minutes, which is 25 to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printing solutions. The company’s unique printing approach applies ultraviolet light and oxygen to resin in a technique called Continuous Liquid Interface Production to form solid objects out of liquid. Traditional additive printing is getting faster as well.

The third driver of 3D printing growth is the ability of new printers to accommodate a wider variety of materials. Aided by innovations within the chemical industry, a broad range of polymers, resins, plasticizers, and other materials are being used create new 3D products.

While it is impossible to predict the long-term impact 3D printing will have on the world, the technology likely will transform at least some aspects of how nearly every company, in nearly every industry, does business. In fact, the chemical industry already has implemented 3D applications in the fields of research and development (R&D) and manufacturing.

Developing innovative feedstock and processes

Chemicals is a highly R&D focused industry. In 2014, $59 billion was invested in R&D to discover new ways to convert raw materials such as oil, natural gas, and water into more than 70,000 different products. There’s a vast opportunity for 3D printing to develop innovative feedstock and corresponding revenue in the chemical industry . While over 3,000 materials are used in conventional component manufacturing, only about 30 are available for 3D printing. To put this in perspective, the market for chemical powder materials is predicted to be over $630 million annually by 2020.

Plastics, resins, as well as metal powders or ceramic materials are already in use or under evaluation for printing prototypes, parts of industry assets, or semi-finished goods, particularly those that are complex to produce and only required in small batch sizes. Developing the right formulas to create these new materials is an area of constant innovation within chemicals, which will likely produce even more materials in the future. Below are a few examples of recent breakthroughs in new materials for 3D printing.

  • Covestro, a leader in polymer technology, is developing a range of filaments, powders, and liquid resins for all common 3D printing methods. From flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU) to high strength polycarbonate (PC), the company’s products feature a variety of properties like toughness and heat resistance as well as transparency and flexibility that support a number of new applications. Covestro also offers TPU powders for selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a laser beam is used to sinter the material.
  • 3M, together with its subsidiary Dyneon, recently filed a patent for using fluorinated polymers in 3D printing. There are many types of fluorinated polymers, including polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), commonly known as Teflon, which often is used in seals and linings and tends to generated waste in production. The ability to print fluorinated polymers means they can be manufactured quickly and affordably.
  • Wacker is testing 3D printing with silicones. The process is similar to traditional 3D printing, but uses a glass printing bed, a special silicone material with a high rate of viscosity, and UV light. The printer lays a thin layer of tiny silicone drops on the glass printing bed. The silicone is vulcanized using the UV light, resulting in smooth parts that are biocompatible, heat resistant, and transparent.

The chemical industry is also in the driver’s seat when it comes to process development. Today about 20 different processes exist that have one common characteristic – layered deposition of printer feed. The final product could be generated from melting thermoplastic resins (e.g. Laser Sinter Technology or Fused Deposition Modeling) or via (photo) chemical reaction such as stereolithography or multi-jet modeling. For both process types, the physical and chemical properties of feed materials are critical success factors, not only for processing but also for the quality of the finished product.

3D printing of laboratory equipment

Laboratory equipment used for chemical synthesis is expensive and often difficult to operate. Machinery and tools must be able to withstand multiple rounds of usage during the product development process. With 3D printing, some of the necessary equipment can be printed at an affordable cost within the lab. Examples of equipment already being created with 3D printing include custom-built laboratory containers that test chemical reaction and multi-angle light-scattering instruments used to determine the molecular weight of polymers. Some researchers are also using 3D printers to create blocks with chambers used to mix ingredients into new compounds.

3D printing for manufacturing maintenance and processes

In addition to printing equipment used in laboratories, some chemical manufacturers are using 3D printers for maintenance on process plant assets. For example, when an asset goes down due to a damaged engine valve, the replacement part can be printed onsite and installed in real time. Creating spare parts in-house can significantly reduce inventory costs and increase efficiency because there is no wait time for deliveries. Chemical manufactures are also started to print prototypes (e.g. micro-reactors) to simulate manufacturing processes.

For companies that don’t want to print the parts themselves, there is now an on-demand manufacturing network that will print and deliver parts as needed. UPS has introduced a fully distributed manufacturing platform that connects many of its stores with 3D printers. When needed, UPS and its partners print the customer-requested part and deliver it. Connecting demand with production capacity is known as the “Uber of manufacturing.”

While not all parts will be suitable for 3D printing and work still needs to be done in terms of durability and materials, the potential reduction in inventory costs is significant. In the United States alone, manufacturers and trade inventories were estimated at $1.8 trillion in August 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Reducing inventory by just two percent would produce a $36 billion savings.

For more about 3D printing in the chemical industry, stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog, which will address commercial benefits, risks, and an outlook into the future. In the meantime, download the free eBook 6 Surprising Ways 3D Printing Will Disrupt Manufacturing.

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About Stefan Guertzgen

Dr. Stefan Guertzgen is the Global Director of Industry Solution Marketing for Chemicals at SAP. He is responsible for driving Industry Thought Leadership, Positioning & Messaging and strategic Portfolio Decisions for Chemicals.

Can This Builder Get The Young Adults Out Of Your Basement?

Darren Hunter

There’s an old saying that says, “How are you going to keep them down on the farm?” However, these days an updated version might be, “How are you going to get them into their own place?”

What’s become almost a cliché—young adults moving back in with their parents due to lack of affordable housing—remains a big problem for young adults as well as their parents. Highlighting the crisis is a 2017 report “The Large Unmet Demand for Housing” from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The conclusion of the report is that there is a significant shortage of housing and affordable new options remain far below demand.

The report cited the limited supply of housing available for rent or sale as the biggest reason for the U.S. housing crisis. Other factors included rising rent and new home prices and the fact that “…construction of new apartments is centered disproportionately on luxury units too expensive for most young adults.”

That’s bad news for young people who can’t afford to move out. Although there may be some advantages to having amenities that only mom can provide, many would like to trade their makeshift basement apartments for their own digs.

However, despite the clear need for housing, the report states, “Construction has not responded vigorously to increasing demand thus far.”

What’s the holdup? Major challenges facing builders include a shortage of construction workers, difficulty financing land purchases, and the technical logistics of new construction.

Enter Katerra

As bleak as the situation may sound, young people may want to hold off on convincing their parents to install a basement pool table. A new construction company called Katerra recognizes that the current housing crisis also presents opportunity, and it has set out to revolutionize the construction industry.

At Sapphire Now 2017, Ravi Naik, senior vice president for Technology at Katerra, explained how Katerra’s unique approach, coupled with the latest in available technology, is transforming the way buildings and spaces come to life.

The company has factories around the globe, where they produce their own materials. They also manage the global logistics for construction companies, own their supply chain, and manage design through construction. The company is applying systems approaches to remove unnecessary time and costs from building development, design, and construction.

Technology at work

Naik believes his company’s unique approach is already yielding results. “Efficiency no longer needs to come at the expense of quality or sustainability. Our goal is to build buildings very rapidly at a significantly reduced cost, which would in turn bring great value to the citizens of this country and then globally,” he says.

This should be good news for tech-savvy young people who would appreciate both the transformative way new spaces are coming to life as well as the technology that is driving the progress.

Naik said that the company needed to have the right technology in place before it could get more people into new housing. “We went live with a next-generation ERP suite, and for the first time we have a truly integrated end-to-end business process in place—right from procurement to logistics to finances and revenue recognition.”

Naik added that the upgrade was integrated and went live in a very short time with minimal disruption. Katerra can now track inventory and knows when deliveries are expected. Additionally, their business intelligence platform now ties to the IoT network, allowing for tracking labor and managing productivity.

This level of technology has already made an impact. Naik described how Katerra finished the construction of an entire first floor of a multi-unit residential building in just six hours. “We were able to do that because now we have technology, tools, and software actually designing the building, right to the last nail.”

With Katerra seemingly cracking the code on new affordable housing construction, parents with young people residing in their basement can take heart, knowing a solution could soon be at hand.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

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About Darren Hunter

Darren Hunter works in the Customer Newsroom at SAP. His areas of expertise include storytelling, speaking engagements, covering events, interviewing SAP customers, partners and stakeholders and creating engaging content for worldwide distribution and enjoyment.

How to Take Advantage Of 3D Printing Service Parts In Aerospace

Thomas Pohl

The time of 3D printing being a hobbyist’s plaything is in the past. Not only has additive manufacturing come into its own, but it is rapidly gaining ground as a more sustainable technology than centralized systems that require shipping networks to get goods to market. In the aerospace industry, we’re seeing more use of 3D printing than in the past; for example, GE has produced a 3D-printed 1,300 HP advanced turboprop engine. But one area where 3D printing technology is expected to have the largest impact on the aerospace industry is in parts printing.

The aerospace industry was one of the first adopters of 3D printing technology, beginning in 1988, only four short years from the first patent registration for the technology. At the time, it was only used for modeling and prototypes. A little over a decade later, industry leaders started to explore the full potential of the technology.

Today, it’s clear there are a number of areas where 3D printing of service parts can benefit the aerospace industry.

Increased asset uptime

Because airline fleets are always on the go, it can be difficult to anticipate in what locations and at what times specific parts may be needed. Internet of Things (IoT) technology improves inventory tracking, but that isn’t the solution when you don’t have the right part where it’s needed. Aircraft-on-ground delays can cause serious problems in a number of areas, and 3D-printed parts help avoid this issue and improve overall fleet uptime. Personnel in the hanger can simply print a new part instead of maintaining an exhaustive inventory or hoping the part comes in quickly.

Reduced cost

Beyond the problems of grounded assets, 3D-printed parts also reduce costs. When an asset is grounded, it can quickly become an expensive problem. A typical “B check” maintenance issue that grounds a plane has an average cost of $60,000. The crew must be moved to other aircraft or lodged locally; replacement parts need to be shipped in (if they’re not on location); fleet coordination is impacted; flight schedules are thrown off; and service-level agreement (SLA) compliance becomes an issue. And that’s before you deal with the resulting customer service issues.

Lighter components

In aeronautics, weight is money, and 3D-printed parts could lighten the components used in aircraft. Reducing the weight of your components means using less fuel to get off the ground. A recent contest by GE challenged designers to create an engine bracket designed for production with a 3D printer. The winning entry produced an 83.4% reduction in weight, from 2 kg to a svelte 327 grams. That may not seem like much on a 400-ton aircraft, but it’s just that much less weight to get in the air.

More durability

It’s much easier to design 3D-printed components for strength and durability versus manufacturing ease. “We get five times the durability. We have a lighter-weight fuel nozzle. And we frankly have a fuel nozzle that operates in an environment more effectively and more efficiently than previous fuel nozzles,” Greg Morris, head of GE Aviation’s additive printing division, said in an interview. The ability to design and print parts remotely makes updates to fleet assets much easier to implement.

Improved customer satisfaction

In aeronautics, customer satisfaction has a huge impact on a company’s bottom line. It’s estimated that in 2016, flight delays cost airlines $25 billion in actual expenses, and that figure does not include damage to an airline’s reputation. If an airline becomes known for flight delays and maintenance issues, it’s less likely to be used by consumers. Having 3D printing capabilities for a number of parts helps reduce flight delays and keeps cancellations to a minimum. It also helps improve overall fleet uptime and reputation for excellence.

By adding 3D printing capability, aeronautics companies can enjoy lean operations with better flexibility and resiliency. It provides a range of benefits, including avoiding aircraft-on-ground problems. By placing a 3D printer at the hanger or a nearby distribution warehouse, response time is drastically improved, costs are reduced, and excess inventory is eliminated.

Digitization and disruption require businesses to be lean and agile. This is true of all industries, including aeronautics. While 3D printing was initially used for out-of-production or slow-moving inventory parts, it’s progressing into more complex parts as the technology has improved.

As part of an overall digitization plan, 3D printing allows companies to respond faster to industry changes. Imagine a scenario where sensors in your assets sense a problem in a particular part of your aircraft. Those sensors automatically contact the arrival airport, which 3D-prints the part while the plane is still in the air. Wait time decreases and the plane gets back in the air faster. The future of aeronautics is now. Where does your business stand?

Read this whitepaper to understand how a digital world in aerospace and defense industry can help you to reinvent products, services, and core business processes.

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Thomas Pohl

About Thomas Pohl

Thomas Pohl is a Senior Director Marketing at SAP. He helps global high tech and aerospace companies to simplify their business by taking innovative software solutions to market.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

Link to Sources


From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Blockchain: Much Ado About Nothing? How Very Wrong!

Juergen Roehricht

Let me start with a quote from McKinsey, that in my view hits the nail right on the head:

“No matter what the context, there’s a strong possibility that blockchain will affect your business. The very big question is when.”

Now, in the industries that I cover in my role as general manager and innovation lead for travel and transportation/cargo, engineering, construction and operations, professional services, and media, I engage with many different digital leaders on a regular basis. We are having visionary conversations about the impact of digital technologies and digital transformation on business models and business processes and the way companies address them. Many topics are at different stages of the hype cycle, but the one that definitely stands out is blockchain as a new enabling technology in the enterprise space.

Just a few weeks ago, a customer said to me: “My board is all about blockchain, but I don’t get what the excitement is about – isn’t this just about Bitcoin and a cryptocurrency?”

I can totally understand his confusion. I’ve been talking to many blockchain experts who know that it will have a big impact on many industries and the related business communities. But even they are uncertain about the where, how, and when, and about the strategy on how to deal with it. The reason is that we often look at it from a technology point of view. This is a common mistake, as the starting point should be the business problem and the business issue or process that you want to solve or create.

In my many interactions with Torsten Zube, vice president and blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network (ICN) in Potsdam, Germany, he has made it very clear that it’s mandatory to “start by identifying the real business problem and then … figure out how blockchain can add value.” This is the right approach.

What we really need to do is provide guidance for our customers to enable them to bring this into the context of their business in order to understand and define valuable use cases for blockchain. We need to use design thinking or other creative strategies to identify the relevant fields for a particular company. We must work with our customers and review their processes and business models to determine which key blockchain aspects, such as provenance and trust, are crucial elements in their industry. This way, we can identify use cases in which blockchain will benefit their business and make their company more successful.

My highly regarded colleague Ulrich Scholl, who is responsible for externalizing the latest industry innovations, especially blockchain, in our SAP Industries organization, recently said: “These kinds of use cases are often not evident, as blockchain capabilities sometimes provide minor but crucial elements when used in combination with other enabling technologies such as IoT and machine learning.” In one recent and very interesting customer case from the autonomous province of South Tyrol, Italy, blockchain was one of various cloud platform services required to make this scenario happen.

How to identify “blockchainable” processes and business topics (value drivers)

To understand the true value and impact of blockchain, we need to keep in mind that a verified transaction can involve any kind of digital asset such as cryptocurrency, contracts, and records (for instance, assets can be tangible equipment or digital media). While blockchain can be used for many different scenarios, some don’t need blockchain technology because they could be handled by a simple ledger, managed and owned by the company, or have such a large volume of data that a distributed ledger cannot support it. Blockchain would not the right solution for these scenarios.

Here are some common factors that can help identify potential blockchain use cases:

  • Multiparty collaboration: Are many different parties, and not just one, involved in the process or scenario, but one party dominates everything? For example, a company with many parties in the ecosystem that are all connected to it but not in a network or more decentralized structure.
  • Process optimization: Will blockchain massively improve a process that today is performed manually, involves multiple parties, needs to be digitized, and is very cumbersome to manage or be part of?
  • Transparency and auditability: Is it important to offer each party transparency (e.g., on the origin, delivery, geolocation, and hand-overs) and auditable steps? (e.g., How can I be sure that the wine in my bottle really is from Bordeaux?)
  • Risk and fraud minimization: Does it help (or is there a need) to minimize risk and fraud for each party, or at least for most of them in the chain? (e.g., A company might want to know if its goods have suffered any shocks in transit or whether the predefined route was not followed.)

Connecting blockchain with the Internet of Things

This is where blockchain’s value can be increased and automated. Just think about a blockchain that is not just maintained or simply added by a human, but automatically acquires different signals from sensors, such as geolocation, temperature, shock, usage hours, alerts, etc. One that knows when a payment or any kind of money transfer has been made, a delivery has been received or arrived at its destination, or a digital asset has been downloaded from the Internet. The relevant automated actions or signals are then recorded in the distributed ledger/blockchain.

Of course, given the massive amount of data that is created by those sensors, automated signals, and data streams, it is imperative that only the very few pieces of data coming from a signal that are relevant for a specific business process or transaction be stored in a blockchain. By recording non-relevant data in a blockchain, we would soon hit data size and performance issues.

Ideas to ignite thinking in specific industries

  • The digital, “blockchained” physical asset (asset lifecycle management): No matter whether you build, use, or maintain an asset, such as a machine, a piece of equipment, a turbine, or a whole aircraft, a blockchain transaction (genesis block) can be created when the asset is created. The blockchain will contain all the contracts and information for the asset as a whole and its parts. In this scenario, an entry is made in the blockchain every time an asset is: sold; maintained by the producer or owner’s maintenance team; audited by a third-party auditor; has malfunctioning parts; sends or receives information from sensors; meets specific thresholds; has spare parts built in; requires a change to the purpose or the capability of the assets due to age or usage duration; receives (or doesn’t receive) payments; etc.
  • The delivery chain, bill of lading: In today’s world, shipping freight from A to B involves lots of manual steps. For example, a carrier receives a booking from a shipper or forwarder, confirms it, and, before the document cut-off time, receives the shipping instructions describing the content and how the master bill of lading should be created. The carrier creates the original bill of lading and hands it over to the ordering party (the current owner of the cargo). Today, that original paper-based bill of lading is required for the freight (the container) to be picked up at the destination (the port of discharge). Imagine if we could do this as a blockchain transaction and by forwarding a PDF by email. There would be one transaction at the beginning, when the shipping carrier creates the bill of lading. Then there would be look-ups, e.g., by the import and release processing clerk of the shipper at the port of discharge and the new owner of the cargo at the destination. Then another transaction could document that the container had been handed over.

The future

I personally believe in the massive transformative power of blockchain, even though we are just at the very beginning. This transformation will be achieved by looking at larger networks with many participants that all have a nearly equal part in a process. Today, many blockchain ideas still have a more centralistic approach, in which one company has a more prominent role than the (many) others and often is “managing” this blockchain/distributed ledger-supported process/approach.

But think about the delivery scenario today, where goods are shipped from one door or company to another door or company, across many parties in the delivery chain: from the shipper/producer via the third-party logistics service provider and/or freight forwarder; to the companies doing the actual transport, like vessels, trucks, aircraft, trains, cars, ferries, and so on; to the final destination/receiver. And all of this happens across many countries, many borders, many handovers, customs, etc., and involves a lot of paperwork, across all constituents.

“Blockchaining” this will be truly transformational. But it will need all constituents in the process or network to participate, even if they have different interests, and to agree on basic principles and an approach.

As Torsten Zube put it, I am not a “blockchain extremist” nor a denier that believes this is just a hype, but a realist open to embracing a new technology in order to change our processes for our collective benefit.

Turn insight into action, make better decisions, and transform your business. Learn how.

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Juergen Roehricht

About Juergen Roehricht

Juergen Roehricht is General Manager of Services Industries and Innovation Lead of the Middle and Eastern Europe region for SAP. The industries he covers include travel and transportation; professional services; media; and engineering, construction and operations. Besides managing the business in those segments, Juergen is focused on supporting innovation and digital transformation strategies of SAP customers. With more than 20 years of experience in IT, he stays up to date on the leading edge of innovation, pioneering and bringing new technologies to market and providing thought leadership. He has published several articles and books, including Collaborative Business and The Multi-Channel Company.