For manufacturers, keeping the production running can often be an enormous challenge. Managers need to regularly track inventory to ensure they have sufficient supplies of all critical spare parts. Machine part breakdowns can delay production by weeks if not months; losing both time and money while waiting for replacement spare parts. Often, the part is not available in neither the manufacturer’s nor the OEM’s inventories. This is especially common for old parts that the OEM stopped producing or parts that are not commonly used.
With Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Network, you can easily connect to an ecosystem of design and manufacturing experts who can help you quickly print and deliver your replacement part.
In this post, we will dive into the advantages of the Siemens’ AM Network in managing such emergency production of spare parts, paying close attention to the combination of digital tools and an ecosystem of experts to support such cases.
1. Reverse Engineering Spare Parts
Often, a company does not realize they need a replacement part until it is too late, especially when it comes to large specialty parts that rarely need replacing. The replacement can be both costly and time-consuming, especially when the spare part is not available in the OEM warehouse or when the part is custom-made designed to fit very specific customer requirements.
Additive manufacturing allows for the unique opportunity to replace such critical spare parts quickly, by reverse-engineering the parts and printing them nearby. When a manufacturer is in need of a spare part they just need to connect with an AM expert who can reverse engineer the desired part for AM while maintaining the functional specifications and then print it in a fraction of the time.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many manufacturers have been facing shortages and trouble retrieving spare parts. A hospital management company in Germany faced a crisis as a part of one of their ventilators was frequently broken due to intensive use, and they couldn’t get spares from their suppliers in China. With the help of Siemens’ AM Network, the company was able to find an expert who helped in reverse-engineering the broken part, and a supplier who printed it. The replacement printing and installation were quick and effective - in a time where every moment counts.
2. Quick and Cost-Effective Repairs
Additive manufacturing is not only used to create spare parts but is used to assist in repairs of broken items as well. A new breed of machines emerged in the recent years that combines the benefits of subtractive manufacturing, such as machining, with the benefits of additive manufacturing. Such machines have cutting tools, like any other CNC machines, as well as the ability to place layers of materials on the surface of the part and build geometric features on top of the part milled. The cutting tools could be used to add fine details such as treads or to smooth the surface.
This technology could be used to repair a broken spare part: the broken part is placed on the machine and then, the AM nozzle adds material to the part to replace the broken pieces. Lastly, the cutting tools mill the printed section to the final shape needed. This process is especially useful in repairing expensive parts which are more cost-effective and faster to fix rather than replace.
In the case of the companies Innomia and Ecoparts, they use DMLS tools for 3D printed repairs. The process includes melting very fine layers of metal powders from the bottom up, creating a single homogenous part made of steel. This is also used to fix broken parts by having a computer generate exactly the area that needs to be fixed and the machine completes it entirely. This gives opportunities to remove specific broken areas instead of an entire part and having laser technology assist in its complete fix, with sustainable high-quality materials.
3. Build a Virtual Warehouse
AM provides significant benefits in improving the product performances, from weight reduction to improvement of thermal and fluid dynamics performances. However, companies realize that they can benefit from AM not only in their product design but also in optimizing their operations.
With Siemens’ AM network, you can eliminate the need for a producing and maintaining a physical inventory of spare parts warehouse in favor of a digital warehouse. In the digital warehouse you can keep all of your 3D printing files ready for production so if needed, the parts can be produced within hours. You can significantly reduce your capital spent on producing and maintaining a spare parts warehouse. With relevant suppliers from Siemens’ AM Network, you can also produce the parts with a supplier located near your end customer, saving the time and cost for logistics.
The benefits of operating such a digital warehouse are not limited to a new product designed especially for AM. You can proactively scan your inventory records to find spare parts that are worth creating for them the digital files for AM production. Then, you can utilize Siemens’ AM Network to manage a catalogue of these parts, and, when the parts are needed, send the files and production order directly to your certified supplier within the system.
With Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Network, enterprises can connect to nearby suppliers from the network, providing access to more professionals within a closer vicinity, who can fulfill orders at an accelerated rate.
For international companies with multiple locations, numerous suppliers can be contracted for providing the same part at different manufacturing locations around the world, without keeping a physical warehouse.
Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Network provides many benefits for managing spare parts and digital inventory, including:
- Connecting manufacturers who need a quick replacement of spare parts to AM design experts who can reverse engineer a necessary part.
- Connecting these manufacturers to quality nearby suppliers, allowing for quicker part replacement and less downtime
- Access to a digital platform for collaboration between all parties with digital tools to enhance information exchange and reduce administrative responsibilities
- A digital inventory catalogue to locate and order needed parts, enabling reduction of the physical inventory level
An example of additive manufacturing at its peak is the Siemens Mobility GmbH digital rail maintenance center. Previously, it would take as long as 6 weeks to produce a new spare part. But since incorporating additive manufacturing into the repair and spare part replacement processes, production time has been reduced by 95%, producing items that previously took 6 weeks in merely 13 hours.
3D Printing can be applied in many fields; from aerospace to energy, and healthcare to transportation. Join the world’s leading Additive Manufacturing Network at Siemens to manage your critical spare parts more efficiently and avoid costly production downtime.
Ready to learn more? Contact an expert today!