Dr. Ben Wang's 3D printing presentation draws record crowd for Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce
Posted Sep 04, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
On Aug. 28, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce drew its largest crowd to date for a quarterly Manufacturing & Supply Chain Forum with guest speaker Dr. Ben Wang, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. Approximately 70 guests heard Dr. Wang’s presentation on “3D printing and the Future of Manufacturing.”
On Aug. 28, the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute provide a demonstration of 3D printing, using a small portable printer, at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce's quarterly Manufacturing and Supply Chain Forum. PhD student Christohper Oberste explained the 3D pritning process and answered audience questions during the demonstration.
“3D printing is critical to the U.S. economy,” said Dr. Wang. “It will change many aspects of how we will live our lives.”
Dr. Wang pointed to several studies that have been conducted in the past couple of years noting the importance of advanced manufacturing to the United States. The common denominator among all of the studies is the significance and potential impact of 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
Policy makers, too, have acknowledged its importance. In fact, the first of the advanced manufacturing institutes recommended by President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership was established in August 2012 to study additive manufacturing. Because of its applications to the aerospace and defense manufacturing industries, the Department of Defense, which led the selection process for the first institute, identified additive manufacturing as the most critical area of need for the security of our nation.
“3D printing will change many aspects of our lives, but there are still many advancements to come,” reported Dr. Wang. “The technology was created 25 years ago here in the United States for what we call rapid prototyping, but in the past, we could only use plastics. Today we use materials with much better mechanical properties.”
3D printing also reduces the need for “in stock” components and turnaround time for producing parts. Nowhere is this more critical than in the defense arena. According to Gary Newton, U.S. Navy Deputy Commander, Fleet Readiness Center, “The Navy’s inventory of aircraft is being pressed into service beyond their design life. As a result, components fail that were never expected to be repaired or replaced. With no replacements available in the supply system, long lead times develop for the repair or manufacture.”
In addition, when a ship sets out to sea, it has to stock all parts potentially required for repair while out on the waters. This increases costs for the Navy and the weight of the ships. And more importantly, only about 5 percent of the stock on a ship is used.
With 3D printing, the Navy can shift from “just in case inventory to just in time repair,” explained Dr. Wang. By incorporating 3D printing into the process, lead times drop from the current 8-28 weeks to 2-7 weeks. In addition, 3D printing machines can be installed on the ships, eliminating the need to keep parts in stock on the ship. Parts could be printed by downloading CAD files into the 3D printer and the part is produced as needed. “This,” Dr. Wang noted, “is game changing.”
The opportunities with 3D printing are boundless. “We can enter mass customization,” said Dr. Wang. “We can personalize products while taking advantage of cost savings and time effectiveness.”
The program ended with a demonstration from PhD student Christopher Oberste. He explained the 3D printing process and answered audience questions while showing a product being produced on a small, portable 3D printer.
The Gwinnett Chamber hosts a Manufacturing and Supply Chain forum quarterly to highlight topics that are current and relevant to the manufacturing and supply chain industries. To learn more, visit the chamber’s Web site at www.gwinnettchamber.org.