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Meet Julien Guillen, Additive Manufacturing Leader for Decathlon’s ADD LAB project. After 19 years spent within this iconic French sporting goods manufacturer and retailer, along with 8 years of expertise in Additive Manufacturing, Julien is eager to develop 3D Printing sports projects for Decathlon.
I majored in acoustic physics, and along with this curriculum, I have worked at Decathlon. I discovered Additive Manufacturing 8 years ago, and that’s during this period that I bought my first 3D Printer and started to train on this topic, both for personal and professional motives. That’s also how I got to understand that this tool would help overcome barriers, whether in warehouses, factories or offices. Yet it required to learn how to tame it. While training, I also made great encounters within the company, and altogether we could create the ADD LAB project, which allows to carry out Additive Manufacturing R&D projects, to develop and propose parts achieved with this technology.
Our goal at ADD LAB is to work on a set of Decathlon products and tools, for all our co-workers in the company and within the AFM network (Decathlon’s mother group). We work on tools and products all along the value chain, from idea generation to end-use products. Between prototyping and After-Sales, there are different options we can go for, such as pre-series manufacturing, or making customized/co-created parts.
The 3D Printing ecosystem is evolving fast, our project is growing the same way. Today we have around 40 machines spread across all our sites, that’s to say product development facilities attached to a variety of sports equipment: Biking, urban mobility, water & team sports, golf, fitness, mountain sports, hunting & fishing, etc.
Our approach to these applications is about developing method offices for validating methodologies to go beyond prototyping and the pre-series stage, hence to reach production.
For each development facility, we made the decision of choosing and implementing the right tool at the right place. Our co-workers work according to their needs with FDM (pellet extrusion processes), multicolor 3D printing, Multi Jet-Fusion technology, Digital Light Processing, resin, and vacuum casting. We are also testing new technologies in line with further innovations.
In order to develop new products, Decathlon systematically studies athletes. We thus have laboratories and experts working on it, so to define accurately the right conception of the product.
If in that regard, we start taking into account customization variables pertaining to the athlete’s morphology, weight, way of walking, running, or even of positioning oneself on products, then Additive Manufacturing takes on its full meaning.
We could indeed use it to make sports available to everyone by adapting our products, also to those with disabilities.
Yes, at the After-Sales service level. We already have references for 10 to 12-year-old products that we repair only with Additive Manufacturing. When we don’t have spare parts to repair these nearly discontinued goods, such as elliptical cross trainers, rowing machines, or table tennis posts, we provide 3D Printing solutions. Beforehand, we obviously validate norms and mechanical strength standards, to make sure our solutions are viable. We repaired that way about a hundred products, for which there was no alternative solution.
In the upstream phase, at the ideation level, we perceive agility and intellectual property advantages. We are capable of iterating in-house quickly, of maturating the idea while mitigating the risk of getting it stolen.
There are economical gains as wells. Relying on more flexible tooling techniques empowers us with the right to make mistakes. Additive Manufacturing is more cost-effective than other development and testing processes, which is useful to try different possibilities. For pre-series, we find this agility as well when developing products. We can rely on 3D Printing before scaling production to an industrial level, hence to wait for the project to mature up, and to invest further according to customer feedbacks.
On the after-sales side, Additive Manufacturing is more eco-friendly. Instead of disposing tons of products, we can repair them and avoid over-consuming. Finally, making products with nearly no end of life, which evolve as qualities and weaknesses are being identified through time, is a great perspective. The ability to extend their lifespan by refining files would be promising.
I’m convinced that soon, we will reach some kind of production unicity and switch our approach to Mass-Market. My point is that customization will be made possible, in regard to customer sport practice needs and to their evolution in time. That would for example consist in enabling runners to exercise for 3 more miles, because they can practice in comfort and safety. Customizing products according to consumer morphology, need, and way of exercising can enhance efficiency and pleasure.
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