The 9 Components of an Effective Direct manufacturing Team: the complete list
Direct manufacturing is the type of manufacturing in which you can go directly from a digital file to a produced part, without any intermediary. Direct manufacturing, and in particular additive manufacturing (AM), gives a true advantage to the companies that use them. But it is important to know how to best use it, and to have the skills, within your team, to carry your project forward. What do you need to implement a direct manufacturing strategy in your company? We bring you some answers to this question, in the shape of The 9 components of an effective direct manufacturing team, thanks to an interview with Steve Fournier, co-founder of Makernest.
Makernest is a startup company, aiming at providing the right information and guidance for users (mainly industrial) to reach full benefits of the additive manufacturing technologies for their applications. Specifically, Makernest is a consulting group which will provide additive manufacturing (AM) product development, AM technology integration and AM Training services, in addition to an online tool (under development) which will help users find the best-validated resources on the market for their needs.
The 9 Components of an Effective Direct Manufacturing Team
1. A use for direct manufacturing
The first thing you need for an effective AM team is a use for AM. This is fairly obvious, but it needs some thinking about.
Direct manufacturing can be a great tool to give a company a competitive advantage, especially because it brings flexibility in the design options. In particular, it is useful for:
- Rapid prototyping
- Production when:
- the series is small
- you need customization
- you want to create complex shapes
- A reduced lead time and time to market
It allows designers to focus more on the function of a part rather than on its “manufacturibility”.
It benefits to large industrial companies and also to startups and small enterprises which require flexible prototyping and production options/technologies will be our focus. As well, research and education institutions can benefit from partnering with a market expert consulting group for development, teaching as well as industrial internship projects.
Depending on the market segment, it will bring different benefits. To give a few examples:
- For Aerospace and Aeronautic, the main advantage is the weight reduction.
- For Automobile, weight but also customization.
- For Semiconductor, mostly assembly reductions and performance enhancement, etc.
- For the Medical field, it allows customization to the patient and high bio compatibility.
However, it is not beneficial in all cases. Like any other technology, direct manufacturing does have its set of limitation or rules to be respected to enable designs, which need to be well understood. Don’t go into it because it’s trendy, study the costs and benefits of each action, and remember that even if the technology is new and brings tremendous possibilities, it doesn’t erase the advantages of traditional manufacturing: it complements them and can solve some of their current challenges. For more information, check our article and webpage about when to use 3D Printing or traditional manufacturing.
2. A management champion
A Management champion for a direct manufacturing team will understand the benefits of the technology for their business. The uses and benefits are different whether you use it for rapid prototyping or for production. They will be aware of those differences, and able to use AM in prototyping or production to their best advantages. They will also have the whole ecosystem of direct manufacturing in mind (not just 3D printing, but also laser cutting, 3D scanners, etc…), and know when to look into a different option for a different application.
3. Direct Manufacturing Designers
Good direct manufacturing designers are aware of the design requirements for 3D printing, laser cutting and other technologies they might want to use. They can navigate through and make the most of the different software options (an example for laser cutting software options on our blog). They are aware of the different types that exist within each of these technologies – the guidelines won’t be the same for Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fuse Deposition Modeling (FDM), for example, and will also change according to the materials. Most importantly, they need to keep up to date with the different technologies, as new technologies have different design requirements, and learning about it is always a process.
4. Material specialist
To complement this design knowledge, a material specialist is very important: the design guidelines will change according to the material chosen, but also the technical properties. It is important to know the options available and to know which one(s) fit your application best.
5. Supply chain specialist
A supply chain specialist with a strong knowledge in direct manufacturing will be very helpful in order to establish whether to use the services of vendors or to invest in your own machines (check out our infographics of 2015 and 2014 about the cost of a 3D printer vs an online service).
When you choose to use the services of a vendor, the supply chain specialist will audit the different services option, and check the vendors validation.
6. Skilled technicians if you use machines
If you choose to use your own machines, the technicians will need a specific training.
7. Quality control knowledgeable with direct manufacturing processes and technologies
Whether it is with traditional or direct manufacturing, all parts need testing. Testing for direct manufacturing means knowing which are the potential faults that can occur with this specific technology, and how to test for them.
8. A product manager who can cover the whole process
Ideally, every one of the steps we’ve already mentioned could be supervised by a product manager that has a broad understanding of the whole process.
9. Direct manufacturing Trainers (or training partners)
Sometimes, the research required in order to stay up to date and trained might be too much to implement into a pre-existing team. It could be interesting to use the services of a specialist whose purpose will be to provide advice and guidance for your entry and progress in the direct manufacturing ecosystem. They will understand the pool of applications of the technology and present metrics showing what and where the benefits are. ROI metrics are required at the management level, and technical examples are required at the designer level. They will help to set the expectations correctly so that there is no backfire in the strategy.
Conclusion: looking for direct manufacturing knowledge
You might have spotted a trend in all the elements we cited: most of them are members of a regular team, but with added knowledge in the direct manufacturing field. Knowledge is the key element
Knowledge and a broad perspective on the whole ecosystem of Direct Manufacturing are they key to an efficient direct manufacturing strategy. They are also what is still lacking for the field: specific training and consulting are only slowly appearing, and the technology progresses faster than the education around it. It is a great progressing point for our field.