Introduction to 3D Printing for Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing

In the past few years, technological advancements have made 3D printing more of a reality. It is also interesting to note those manufacturers who have been involved with 3D printers are now taking manufacturing to a higher level. For instance, motorsport firms like Prodrive were initially using 3D printers for their prototypes, but now creating production parts with the same technology.

In the year 2017, Boeing began using FAA-approved 3D-printed parts in the manufacture of its 787 Dreamline aircraft while the American Food and Drug Administration, FDA also approved the use of 3D-printed metal implant for medical purposes.

These examples illustrate the advancement in 3D printing, also referred to as Additive Manufacturing (AM) Technology, as it transforms into a commodity that is changing logistic in the 21st century.

All manufacturers utilizing AM will need to incorporate Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications in their process manufacturing software. AM constitutes process manufacturing – It is more like you taking certain alloys and materials and then combining them in a process that involves chemical reactions to create something new.

So even if you regard yourself as a discrete manufacturer, you are a process manufacturer when you engage in 3D printing.

In the years to come, this will have a significant impact on supply chain processes, which includes the vital areas such as planning, sourcing, contracting, inventories, vendor collaboration, and manufacturing. The ERP utilized by these organizations will also be affected by this transformation.

These are the significant areas that will be impacted:

  • Master data and also bills of material (BOM)
  • Product lifecycle and product data management (PLM/PDM)
  • Procurement
  • Material requirement planning

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solutions will, at the same time, be vital to the building of the infrastructure required for successful 3D printing manufacturers.

Manufacturing Issues with 3D technology

As many more manufacturers adopt 3D printing technology, it is necessary that their IT structures will change also. For instance, organizations will need to make a detailed examination of their ERP system’s ability to adopt a machine-to-machine interaction.

And for ERP solutions to solve 3D manufacturing, there may be the need to have them integrated with specialized point solutions as computer-aided design (CAD) software and product configuration management systems. There may also be the need to integrated performance lifecycle management systems and supply chain management systems into the IT structure.

3D technology is a transformative and disruptive technology, most notably in the manufacturing industry. With this advanced form of technology, organizations will have no need for huge factories with extensive tools. Alternatively, manufacturing can be localized.

However, this technology has lots of complex issues that need to be addressed and managed appropriately. For instance, one of the most contentious issues is protecting the intellectual properties of the configure-to-order design. If a company is to make available its manufacturing blueprint to its customers for the printing of parts, then the bone of contention here is who has the right to the design combination.

Role of ERP solution in 3D printing

With an effective ERP system, the company will be positioned to embrace the advancement in 3D printing. With an ERP, you can closely track the quality of the materials for the product that is manufactured in the company – and this will include those created with AM.

Since 3D printing is relatively new to the Aerospace & Defense world, there is the need to track the safety records of the 3D printed parts. Part serialization tracking with an ERP implies you can detect where a specific part has come from – either from a supplier or something that was produced by your own company. With ERP, the company will have better records that are more convenient to use than what any employee can document with pen and paper.

ERPs Will Enlighten the Future of Additive Manufacturing

To fully comprehend the 3D printing industry, additive manufacturers will require a massive source of information and data mining. With ERP, there will be a secure means to acquire the data needed and also allowing organizations to have the competitive advantage they need to be a leader in the industry.

Companies to integrate ERPs into their manufacturing and distribution system will need to have an understanding of the total resource allocation, which will include labour hours, the materials, as well as the cost of marketing and sales associated with 3D printing.

ERP solutions such as CloudSuite Industrial (CSI)/Syteline by Infor acquire information and also automate processes that can give more enlightenment on the meaning of ‘efficient’ in the additive manufacturing market.

ERPs will motivate Adoption of 3D Manufacturing

Revolution in 3D printing will affect all kinds of product and process manufacturing, especially with its relations to the cost of labor as well as parts. ERP software can be incorporated by conventional manufacturers and additive manufacturers interested in the adoption of additive manufacturing.

Just like Infor CSI, ERPs can create a smooth working environment through automation of the background processes. And it also can eradicate menial activities in manufacturing – every member of the team can be more resourceful through learning and understanding the process of additive manufacturing.

ERPs will enhance prototype manufacturing capabilities

Prototype manufacturing has been one of the most valuable utilization of 3D printing. With this process, innovators and inventors can create a cost-efficient model of a new idea (or improvement on an existing design) so developers can have a concrete sample to work on.

With ERP, prototype manufacturing can be enhanced by offering designers and engineers robust modeling and quoting modules to adopt more resourceful formulas for improvement.

With ERPs, there can be more sophisticated prototypes when businesses are encouraged to experiment with different kinds of inputs and CAD models and also compare what the effect of variable changes to the output of the final product will be. And finally, with the use of advanced data management tools attached to materials and cost input, analysts and managers will be able to detect trends and then make the best decisions on prototypes.

The Definite Reality of ERPs in Manufacturing

If there is more focus on ERP systems, there is an absolute reality: all the manufacturers making use of 3D printing will have their ERP manufacturing software adjusted to the system, since maintaining and monitoring records for every data has become more critical than it used to be.

Organizations need to have an accurate forecast that gives information on the amount of the raw materials that will be required for manufacturing, and with the use of ERP software, this can be easily achieved.

Harness Innovation with ERP

Additive manufacturers understand that manufacturing products with predictable and consistent top quality is the order of the day. The best solution that can be utilized in harnessing this emerging innovation in ensuring consistent quality is using an ERP.

Just like every other new technology or innovation that gains traction when introduced into the business, the utilization of ERP software in 3D printers makes a more valuable impact on the industry. The points discussed above are just a part of the changes ERP can bring into 3D printing.

Cloud Dominance with ERP

Although this is not a new innovation, cloud dominance is, however, becoming the industry standard for most manufacturing sectors. The cloud ERP market is projected to be worth $29.8 billion by the year 2021, as more manufacturers are looking beyond on-premises solutions.

This forecasted growth is more feasible considering the numerous benefits of cloud ERP, which will include broader access, lower costs, better security and easier management. With this, an offsite ERP solution will be more advantageous as manufacturers expand their operations around the world.

Additive Manufacturing in A&D

There are literally hundreds, even thousands of applications for additive manufacturing in all facets of the aerospace and defense industry. Not only are original parts being printed for use on aircraft, tanks, and other military equipment but imagine the possibilities of being able to print and reproduce replacement parts for this equipment in the field of combat! Being able to print parts in hours can save weeks or months waiting for parts to be delivered to remote locations in hostile situations providing a significant competitive advantage to our soldiers.

Choosing the right ERP Vendor

Not much is changing about ERP as the best strategy that can be implemented to get the most out of your ERP solution is to work with the right vendor. One vital aspect in ERP is the solution you adopt, but more important is the quality of the vendor you choose to work with as this will determine how well the solution will work when implemented in your company. SolutionsX is at the front-edge of ERP and 3D printing technology. Contact us to find out how we can implement an integrated ERP system to solve your most complex manufacturing problems.