Replique, a German startup that specializes in additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), says that 3D printing can be used to make components and spare parts. This will allow manufacturers to reduce their costs, use of resources, and embed carbon. It also simplifies supply chains.
“All industries – including HVAC&R – are facing global challenges, from the pandemic and geopolitical issues, to sustainability demands and disrupted supply chains, and these challenges result in higher costs, increased risk and slower delivery time” said Mark Winker, Replique’s Technical Sales Expert. “3D printing can offer the solution.”
These remarks were made by Winker during his keynote presentation at ATMOsphere (ATMO Europe Summit) on natural refrigerants. The conference took place November 15–16 in Brussels and was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
As detailed during Winker’s presentation, Replique will only work with HVAC&R manufacturers that use natural refrigerants.
“All industries – including HVAC&R – are facing global challenges… 3D printing can offer the solution.”
Mark Winker, Replique
According to Winker, current production methods have “significant limitations” and create challenges around inventory management and logistics.
Formative manufacturing – i.e., using molds to cast parts or products – is generally only cost-competitive in large quantities, which leads to high upfront costs for OEMs and long-term storage requirements to manage the inventory, he said.
Subtractive manufacturing – i.e., taking a block of material and carving it to produce a part or product – limits design complexity and wastes a lot of material, he added.
“3D printing is different,” explained Winker. “It doesn’t need any additional tools; it just needs the [printing] Machine and raw material are only used when they are needed. It’s much more efficient in resource consumption than conventional productions methods.”
Additive manufacturing removes limitations from traditional production technologies and allows for new thinking in product design. It can also meet growing demands for product customization. It is compatible with many materials, including aluminum, copper and plastics.
“All the materials you [use] in your products can be printed today on an industrial scale and to the expected quality,” he added.
Quality of the printed product is assured based on a manufacturer’s specifications and printing partners’ following the required safety procedures, said Winker.
According to Winker, 80% of a manufacturer’s sales come from just 20% of its inventory, with the remaining 80% of its inventory rarely needed.
He said that 3D printing allows manufacturers to manage their components better and reduce the need for warehousing.
Rather than producing parts in large volumes – to reduce per-unit costs – and storing them all until they’re needed, manufacturers can store designs digitally and print parts when requested by customers. He said that spare parts are especially important because manufacturers must make products repairable.
“OEMs struggle to provide spare parts while keeping overhead costs low,” he explained. But with 3D printing, “manufacturers can simply store parts digitally, print them when needed and get them sent directly to the end user.”
At the moment, 3D printing is an efficient and cost-competitive means of production for small and medium volumes – around 1,500–5,000 pieces. He added that 3D printing is likely to become more common for high-volume production over the next five or six years.
On-demand production reduces waste and allows for the creation of surplus parts. 3D printing also increases resource efficiency, as it uses only the required amount of material to produce a product.
“The additive process means that almost only the material that is part of the final product is used,” explained Winker.
This not only reduces waste but also improves the sustainability of production.
Supply chain simplified
“By utilizing industrial 3D printing, we’re creating a more resilient and sustainable supply chain,” said Winker during his presentation.
This is due to a more simplified value chain of fewer links, with Replique offering an “end-to-end solution,” according to Winker.
“By utilizing industrial 3D printing, we’re creating a more resilient and sustainable supply chain.”
Mark Winker, Replique
He explained that when a part is needed, the raw material and product design is sent to whichever certified 3D printer is closest to the product’s destination. This reduces the delivery time and costs of products as well as the product’s carbon footprint.
“Sending a digital file to 3D printer closer to an end user can save time, money and CO2 emissions from transport,” he explained. “You can do overseas business overnight.”
According to Winker, 3D printing can “boost sustainability in each stage of product life cycle, from product design to disposal and recycling.”