Magí Galindo, technical and scientific director of the International Center for Advanced Manufacturing and 3D Printing, IAM3DHub, explains the challenges and impact of additive manufacturing and 3D printing in a new session of the Girbau LAB Innovators Club, held on May 11.
The IAM 3D HUB, located in the Leitat technology center, opened in 2018 with the mission of accelerating the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies in the European Union manufacturing sectors, as an alternative way to design, develop and manufacture new competitive products and services.
It is defined as a digital innovation center specializing in additive manufacturing and 3D printing that will provide SME’s a «One-Stop» Shop to assess, guide and address all their needs in additive manufacturing.
Through several practical examples, Magí explains the role of additive manufacturing in the productive industry and its impact on production.
Magí points out that “the evolution of additive manufacturing has transformed the way products are designed, developed, produced and distributed. For the industry, he adds, these advances have opened doors to new designs, as well as to cleaner, lighter and safer products; shorter delivery times, and lower costs, new value chains and new business models.”
Magí Galindo concludes the session by highlighting the role of additive manufacturing: “Despite the challenges, the fact is that additive manufacturing is a versatile set of technologies that can support companies in the industry in their search for strategic imperatives of performance, growth and innovation.”
1. -How is innovation linked to additive manufacturing technologies and 3D printing?
If we understand that to innovate means to introduce something new (into something) and be successful, additive manufacturing is linked to innovation in two areas: It’s a source of product innovation, and it’s the cause of the transformation of the supply chain.
Regarding the product: it contributes a big reduction of the constrictions of design —complexity, lightness, consolidation of sets in only component, etc.—; the ability to incorporate customization, design (multi)functionality, or enhanced functionality; it paves the way for new aesthetics and the design of more sustainable products since they are produced additively. In short, as digital technology, it brings a new way of designing and producing safer, lighter, more efficient, faster, less expensive, and more personalized products.
About the supply chain: it eliminates the need for production tools, it shortens the chain and, therefore, the time to introduce products to the market is also shorter. From design it goes directly to production, thus eliminating the industrialization phase and shortening the production process.
It makes the production of unique components and small series viable, increasing the variety of products and families of a given product. The result is that it allows better use in niches and consumer markets, and all this without the need for a large capital deployment.
It is made to order, which reduces inventory costs; and in the place of consumption, the production is decentralized, and this reduces the logistical costs.
2.-How is additive manufacturing changing the production methods of companies?
Additive manufacturing can impact the entire value chain of companies, not just the operational part of production.
Today, these technologies are already a common tool in any company that designs and develops products, in the same way that CAD and CAE tools are.
But changes can go further.
Even if the company does not change its production methods, additive manufacturing already provides solutions for improvement and efficiency in its production processes. During the industrialization phase, it facilitates the development of production aid tools (handling tools, fixing, positioning, verification, in-line transport, assembly, programming…) and even the development of manufacturing tools (casting molds, injection molding, injection, forming, stamping…)
Once product innovation has introduced new designs, to be produced with additive technologies, the transformation of production methods is clear and strong. We could almost say it’s radical. The industrialization phase is virtually non-existent, production tools do not exist, and additive production processes require quite different operations when compared to the operations of production methods with more conventional technologies. What does not change so much, although there are differences, is perhaps the use of post-processing and treatment technologies, and the methods of quality control and verification.
Furthermore, the production linked to the maintenance of the product in the market (spare parts) is also finding an innovative alternative in additive manufacturing.
3.-How is innovation applied to IAM 3D HUB?
The IAM3DHub was born with the intention to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies and to provide companies with tools that enable a new way of designing and producing. Therefore, all the resources, both human and technological, and the services of the Hub have been selected, thought, and designed to accompany companies on their path of adoption of additive manufacturing as a strategic tool for innovation.
An environment for experimentation and testing of additive manufacturing technologies has been created and made available to companies. This way, companies have access to many state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies and equipment without any need to take investment risks,
At the same time, it provides information, guidance, advice, and support (mentoring) to companies in their process of adoption and implementation of these technologies in terms of selection, and screening of the areas of application where it is expected to obtain greater profit and profitability, as well as in the elaboration of business plans linked to its adoption.
We also provide services that we call “end-to-end” projects; that is, those that start with the design, continue with the production, and end with the characterization, validation and, if necessary, the certification of new products or applications based on additive manufacturing. The aim is that, at the end of the project, the company has the knowledge, experience and information needed to make decisions for the adoption of these technologies.
And, finally, the IAM3D Hub offers training and coaching in these technologies, to provide companies with staff that is trained to extract the highest performance.
The IAM3DHub itself must face the new challenges posed daily by companies, from which it expects innovative solutions, and this means that we must introduce something new in everything we do, and do it in new, more efficient ways that add more value.
4.-What is the best way to promote joint innovation between a corporation and a startup?
I’m not an expert in collaboration strategies between Corporations and Startups, so it’s extremely difficult for me to say what is the best way for them to foster joint innovation.
I found quite interesting an IESE article, “A Practical Guide to Collaboration between Corporations and Startups” on the 2017 publication “Corporate Venturing: Achieving Profitable Growth Through Startups”, directed by Julia Prats and Pau Amigó. This article states that there is no single way to promote it, but that the options are many, and there are the formulas that are presented: Shared Resources, Competition, Hackathon, Scouting, Strategic Alliance, Incubator, Accelerator, Incubator, Venture Capital, and Acquisition Program. Common sense tells me that not a single one is the best, because it all depends on the corporation and the startup, the technological field, and the industrial sector in question. What is needed is to know what each of these formulas is, and what it provides and, once analyzed, to propose the one or a combination of those that are most appropriate for the collaboration that is to be established.
5.-What improvements in efficiency and sustainability do you see for the laundry industry in the next 5 years?
Again, I am not the most suitable person to answer this question. However, I have asked for advice from a very experienced and a leading person in this field, Dr. Rosa Escudero, a colleague of mine at Leitat, who shared her thoughts with me. I will try to summarize them, but what I would suggest is to invite her to one of Girbau’s innovation sessions.
Today, the laundry sector is linked to three main pillars: the appliances –washing machines— with the treatment of laundry, textiles, and detergents. Improvements in each of them, impact and will inevitably impact, the other two.
If we refer to the innovative trends specifically in washing machines and laundry treatment, we can talk about the widespread application of the eco-design regulation, the improvement in the supply and use of energy and water, the shaft technology horizontal (best performance), the autopilot of the washing machine —sensors that identify the load, the types of fabrics, the level and types of dirt, and that perform spectroscopic scans of the washing liquid in case additional treatments are needed. The reduction of the mechanical action to avoid the abrasion of the tissues. Knob and button machines switch to machines with touch screens (with countless programs). Users customize their washing experience by combining different conditions, resulting in their favorite cycles. When detecting the type of parts, by reading identifiers (RFID tags?), it self-programs the best wash cycle. In the face of odors, by biofilm growth, it responds with biofilm sensors and self-cleaning programs. The combination of the elderly + scarcity of energy and water resources is being met with infection prevention measures and hygienic requirements.
If we look at the innovation trends in textiles, we will have to talk about fabrics with improved functionalities, protection against contaminants, microorganisms, personal fatigue, sweat… New fiber structures, new materials (natural bio-based fibers), composite materials, functional coatings at micro and nano levels, integration of electronics into clothing, intelligent properties with the ability to act according to an external stimulus, developments in 3D printing, etc.
And finally, in the field of detergents, there is also a set of innovation trends.
In terms of its ingredients, high-performance raw materials are developed that are completely renewable and biodegradable, of natural origin, with a less aggressive profile and with ingredients for new, multifunctional applications.
Versatile detergents with softening and stain remover action are proposed, where fragrance is key. Detergents with odor-neutralizing properties, long-lasting fragrances, washing odor reinforcements and emulation of beauty perfume markets (argan oil), with evocation of exotic places (Amazonas, Caribbean) scents that enhance sleep (lavender)… Stain removal is the most active segment in innovation: Oxy products, Devices/capsules for the combination of powders/liquids/gels, products designed for specific stains…
Detergents are developed for the preventive treatment of tissues and to restore their properties, such as stain resistance or hydrophobia.
There is a growing concern about the environmental impact of these products, and they are sought to be more ecological and sustainable, that is, to wash at lower temperatures, easier to rinse, free of chemicals and based in botanical ingredients, citric acid, etc. To protect health, and sensitive skin, detergents are dermatologically tested.
These improvements and innovations are mostly due to the application of so-called KETs, -key enabled technologies-, including nanotechnology, biotechnology, photonics, the Internet of Things, automation, and robotics, etc. when applied to detergents, new textiles, and appliances.
The combination of improvements provided by these technologies, in the three pillars, can lead to disruptive innovations.
6.-How will clothes be washed in 2050?
Fifteen years ago, when working at the Eduard Soler Foundation in Ripoll, I made a video where I explained how additive manufacturing managed to obtain, by printing sand molds, in a short time and with little economic effort, 30 blocks of electric motors – six motor models and five copies of each. The video ended with Alan Key’s sentence, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” to which I added: “And the best way to shape it is to start designing it… and build it.” At that time, the application of 3D-printing to sand molds was quite innovative, nowadays it is quite common, and in ten years it will be a fully-extended and established process.
I don’t know how the clothes will be washed in 30 years, but I’m pretty sure it will largely depend on the research and development we’re doing today.
Digital technologies, increasingly present in our products —specifically photonics, electronics, product connectivity, artificial intelligence and robotics— will be the vectors that will drive the changes in how we treat the “clothes” thirty years from now.
And, as I said before, it will depend not only on the progress of the appliance, but also on the evolution of textiles and cleaning products. It will be more and more necessary to bring the three pillars together in the same environment of innovation, as each of them will advance along with the others.