How 3D printing changes the game
Gido Elferink & Vincent Scholten - Lead Engineer Manufacturing & Improvement Engineer
Both represent a new generation of employees: Lead Engineer Manufacturing Gido Elferink and Improvement Engineer Vincent Scholten. Passionate, ambitious, and with an eye for new technologies in the industry… and all that has been combined in our approach to additive manufacturing. We use 3D printing not only for printing demos, but also for optimizing our business processes.
Gido has worked for Aeronamic for more than three years, kicking off his career here in 2018 after graduating in applied 3D printing technology for the high-tech industry. Vincent has worked for Aeronamic for a year now, after finishing his internship in the improvement department of the F35 Forward Module. He is now focused on project improvement. Gido and Vincent talk about how Aeronamic uses 3D printing.
Gido: ‘Let’s be clear about this: 3D printing is not something new. In fact, it goes back to the early nineties. However, it really took off around 2010 because that’s when it became available – and affordable – for hobby use. When we talk about 3D printing in plastic, we are talking about desktop 3D printers and these are widely used nowadays by small and medium-sized enterprises. At Aeronamic, we can also see ways in which additive manufacturing can be suitable for our work. We use in-house 3D printing with thermoplastics and thermosets for molds, tools and high-standard fixtures which offer customized protection for high-standard products.’ Vincent: ‘And over at Product Development, they use 3D printing to make product demonstrators, so that we can get an in-depth understanding of how an end product will eventually turn out. Enabling fast iterations in design.’
Vincent continues: ‘How we apply 3D printing adds a whole new dimension to the development of products and our production processes. Instead of looking at drawings and screens trying to envision something, you can actually make a physical version in plastic! And when you do that, it also sparks better ideas and new approaches. But that’s just the beginning. Compared to turning and milling, 3D printing offers a whole new realm of complexity that you can bring to a project. And at the same time, it can all be done at a lower cost. Take the manufacturing of a customized assembly tool, for example. From first design to end result, this would take six weeks and cost around € 2,000. Now that same tool can be made in two days for € 25. It’s almost beyond comparison. And perhaps the best thing of all is this: making customized tools for internal use can now be done in-house. This type of vertical integration guarantees quicker processes that run more efficiently.’
Gido adds: ‘Apart from the results at the production level, it’s also very rewarding to see what it does for our colleagues. If someone needs a new customized tool, they no longer hesitate to ask for one. They know of our in-house 3D printing capabilities and that they can get their customized tooling without needing to worry about it taking too long or being too costly.’ Vincent: ‘And this shift in our thinking can also be seen in the motivation to keep on improving. Even if it’s an improvement of just half a percent, our colleagues go for it wherever and whenever they can. And that’s what we need. Lots of little improvements, which together lead to big changes. We encourage everyone to push limits, no matter whether the results might be big or small. We’ve got to keep ourselves going for it.’ Gido: ‘One way to do that is to invest in 3D printers. However, we also believe that we should facilitate new technologies for our people to see what possibilities it might offer. That’s our take on being pioneers in our industry and to be ready for whatever is coming next. It generates new opportunities that we and our customers will benefit from.’
In what way could 3D printing help you optimize your business processes?