How to Successfully Integrate Additive Manufacturing Into Your Business

Additive Manufacturing

How to Successfully Integrate Additive Manufacturing Into Your Business

Though additive manufacturing has been around for decades, it’s only in recent years that we’ve begun to see what it’s really capable of. Gone are the days when 3D printing was typecast as recreation for hobbyists. Today, additive manufacturing has delivered massive success in industries like aerospace (e.g. Boeing777X’s 3D printed engine), automotive, and even footwear

If you’re newer to the additive manufacturing space, you might be wondering how to integrate 3D printing into your business model. The transition to additive manufacturing not only promises technological agility and relevance for your company in fast-changing times, but it also makes you crisis-proof in the face of global supply chain disruptions.

But where should you begin your additive manufacturing journey? And how can you implement this technology into your business successfully? 

Alchemy Industrial’s Co-Founder and CEO, Mush Khan, recently joined Houston Tech Rodeo’s panel on “How 3D Printing Can Transform Houston’s Manufacturing Landscape” to provide his expert insight on this topic. Today we’re recapping the key takeaways from the panel.


Roadmap for Successfully Integrating Additive Manufacturing Into Your Business

1. Start small, but start.

Getting started with additive manufacturing doesn’t mean revamping your entire supply chain in one go or purchasing the most powerful 3D printing machine available. It means familiarizing yourself with the foundational concepts of this technology. 

The key is to start small—but start. If you have to begin at desktop printer level, so be it. Slowly build your knowledge through trial and error and work on understanding how the technology functions at the most basic level.

Creating tools and fixtures can be a good, low-risk place to start when you’re introducing additive technology to the rest of your team. Build additive literacy into your team one part at a time—and make space for continuous learning, training, and development programs.

2. Create a process for implementation.

Manufacturing transformation takes time. It’s important to have a clear place to begin and a roadmap for ongoing implementation. Start by getting clear about what you want to achieve.

What added value are you attempting to create? Consider all the initial benefits additive manufacturing brings to the table: reduced costs, streamlined inventory, faster turnaround, and local outsourced manufacturing. 

Build a strategic plan of action based on the added value you identify and set targets and timelines to achieve each objective.

3. Find a great partner.

It’s important to have a partner on your additive manufacturing journey, especially if you’re new to this space. 

Find someone who understands the ins and outs of additive manufacturing and its practical applications for a business like yours. If you don’t have someone in your organization with that expertise, seek an external partner to help guide you.

The team at our machine shop in Houston has been working in additive manufacturing for over 20 years. We’re always happy to lead you to the right direction when it comes to integrating 3D printing into your business.

4. Be open to new possibilities.

Additive manufacturing isn’t just about making parts. It’s about transforming the entire process of how you make parts, from the materials you use to the features you design to the supply chain that supports everything you do.

Additive technology enables you to create new products and solutions for your customers by leveraging your ability to fabricate complex geometries with innovative, high-performance materials. 

Additive technology also deconstructs and reconstructs your entire supply chain to support a faster, better, more holistic way of making parts and products. 

It’s a process filled with learning curves, mistakes, and recalibrations. The key to success is being ready and willing to learn and adapt as you go.


Case Study: NOV’s Journey to 3D Printing 

Recently, Alchemy Industrial partnered with NOV, a global company that offers drilling and product development services to the oil and gas industry. NOV is currently using additive manufacturing for metal and plastic prototyping. They’re also using this technology to make guides, jigs, and fixtures for fabrication, machining, and assembly. 

When asked what valuable lessons they’ve learned from integrating 3D printing into their business, the folks at NOV came up with three big takeaways:

Lesson #1: Whatever you think is the limit. . . it just changed.

The additive manufacturing industry is in a constant state of evolution when it comes to material specifications, printer capabilities, cost structure, suppliers, and technology entrants. 

Transitioning to additive manufacturing requires continuous learning and awareness to understand where the market is now—and where it’s going next.

Lesson #2: Additive manufacturing is a long way from a standard offering.

Qualifying parts with one vendor, technology, and/or material doesn’t always make the part readily transferable to another vendor, technology, and/or material. 

Aligning processes and other parameters is crucial to producing consistent parts. It’s important to create a detailed process for implementing additive technology and to know exactly what you hope to achieve with it.

Lesson #3: Know when additive manufacturing is the right solution. . . and when it isn’t.

It’s possible to successfully transition existing parts to 3D printing. But you’re better off understanding how certain parts can benefit from additive manufacturing and designing them specifically for that process. 

Some parts may not be well-suited for 3D printing at all or may benefit from a hybrid manufacturing approach instead. If you have a part that’s a simple shape like a tube or a plate, for example, consider buying material in that shape and then integrating complex 3D printed parts rather than having the whole structure 3D printed.

A great additive manufacturing partner will give you honest advice on the most efficient and cost-effective way to make your part.   

If you’re thinking about integrating additive manufacturing into your business, Alchemy Industrial is here to help. Give us a call to learn more about how additive manufacturing can transform your business one part at a time.