ArtSystems/Westcoast present 3D print and Industry 4.0: the future is now

Hosted at the Westcoast headquarters in Milton Keynes, ArtSystems presented a packed itinerary outlining the implications of 3D print, Industry 4.0, and the ramifications for companies that fail to embrace them.

An audience of 3D print technology resellers from across the UK were asked the question "What does 3D printing and Industry 4.0 mean to you?"

L-R Simon Brandon, Ted Freer, Phil Hall, and Victor Golescu.

Ted Freer, ArtSystems' Divisional Sales Manager, spoke first.

Ted explained that Industry 4.0 is nothing less than the fourth industrial revolution, the latest in a series of technological leaps that began in the 1780s with the advent of steam power and continued in the 1920s thanks to the flourishing of electricity and mass production.

The 1970s saw the emergence of IT and the internet, allowing the globalisation of high speed communications and mankind's first steps into online life.

In the present day more people have access to online merchandise through tablets and their smart phones than have flush toilets. Industry 4.0 and cyber physical, batch one manufacturing has arrived.

"Batch one"? The growing consumer drive towards ever greater personalisation of products has created a batch one culture that moves away from mass production, to a bespoke manufacturing model which creates a single, on demand item; in other words unique output in batches of one.

This only became commercially feasible when cyber-physical manufacturing matured, which required a number of factors to fall into place: Cloud-based communication, advanced digitisation, and an integrated digital workflow, plus artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and highly developed automation all funnelling down to an accessible, localised, additive manufacturing process. The customer orders their unique product online and within 24-hours it has been 3D printed and delivered. 3D printing is the only production process that can provide this.

Speakers from leading 3D printer manufacturers – Simon Brandon from Stratasys and MakerBot's Victor Golescu – predicted a bright future for 3D printing. The market is set to grow by 42% over the next five years, of which 80% will be desktop units, with short-run, mass customisation of products becoming the norm.

By 2025 the 3D print market is forecast to be worth between $230-550 billion per annum, and will provide up to 10% of all consumer products, up to 50% of all direct manufacturing and half of all industrial tooling. Every aspect of production from food through to aerospace, automotive and healthcare will be using additive manufacturing. Simon Brandon reasoned that 3D print is currently at the point the worldwide web had reached 20 years ago.

It is already beginning to revolutionise design technology, a factor highlighted by Phil Hall from Windsor Boys' School. His design technology classes use 3D printing to create prototypes from student designs which can be tested, analysed, refined then reprinted until perfect. He sees 3D printing as ideal for the classroom because his 13-18-year-old students can see their designs made solid without the lengthy and expensive tooling process traditional prototyping demands.

Because of this factor 3D printing could see the demise of compromised commercial product development and design, moving the effort focus away from the prohibitive costs of prototyping towards perfecting design and development.

Thanks to Westcoast finance packages the printers can be bought on a subscription basis that makes them even more affordable, saving customers over 8% during a five-year subscription period and then they can refresh the technology as it develops, as mobile phone providers and technological giants Adobe, Apple and Microsoft do now.

Ted concluded: "The need for people who can manipulate materials and design bespoke products will continue to grow, and new materials are being developed all the time. Not getting left behind by competitors who have embraced Industry 4.0 requires a shift in mindset, and an acceptance of new, turnkey technologies.

3D printing delivers better products faster and at a lower cost, and because you only print what you want when you want it, there is no waste. Stratasys and MakerBot systems are already Industry 4.0 enabled and ArtSystems is here to help with its comprehensive technical support and staff development program, plus information sharing. It's an exciting time to put the foundations in place for your future growth, and the future is now."

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