A tool crib may be the secret power source of a successful manufacturing business. Whether a few well-organized shelves in a locked cabinet or a dedicated, secure room of fixtures, gages and repair tools, a responsively managed tool crib can make or break production-line efficiency. So what more can be done to improve inventory control, tracking of gages, and even custom tooling production?
Production Services Management Inc. (PSMI) helps its customers focus on part production by handling a myriad of manufacturing support tasks, especially across global customers. Its engineering and management expertise includes tooling design and production via traditional metal removal work, aka subtractive manufacturing, as well as metrology, purchasing and inventory management. But the company has recognized that additive manufacturing (AM), if based on the right technology, could boost indirect (support) supply chain efficiency.
To transform its supply chains, PSMI is fully embracing digital on-demand manufacturing, recently announcing its plan to install RIZE equipment directly at customer sites. RIZE, manufacturers of a hybrid 3D printer, and Azoth, PSMI’s newly formed division dedicated to AM, have created the first industry partnership that identifies and assimilates the business value of on-the-spot additive manufacturing.
New Technology for Age-Old Challenges
PSMI is an integrated supply management company that provides services to more than 250 plants across multiple countries. Founded in 2005, its sole objective is to increase manufacturing operational effectiveness by reducing spending for different indirect categories. From tooling, chemicals and gaging to maintenance/repair/operations (MRO), PSMI drives cost savings through new technology. Tracking, understanding and improving the tangible and intangible items that comprise the indirect supply chain are critical to its competitive business operations.
Scott Burk, PSMI co-president, says his vision is to drive a digital transformation firmly based on AM at the company’s customers, including such OEMs as John Deere, General Motors, Eaton Corporation, Woodward Aerospace and Paragon Medical. PSMI’s growth is thanks its team’s ability to introduce the latest and greatest technology to its customers. This ability comes from partnerships with global manufacturers whose products are on the cutting edge. However, a large portion of each plant’s spending is on procuring low-volume and/or obsolete parts.
These small details can range from an old machine’s spare parts to a small set of gripper fingers, and for PSMI they add up to millions. The overhead for locating the manufacturers, the high cost to produce small quantities, or the lead times associated with one-off parts are all opportunities for an AM solution. These parts will all be produced on-site, in what Burk calls an Additive Indirect Supplies Crib: “We intend to have each and every one of those locations deliver innovative additive manufacturing products and services to our customers.”
Already using sophisticated inventory management systems such as QR codes, Azoth sees the increased tracking reliability offered through RIZE’s technology. RIZE hybrid printers let users build durable parts that stand up to rugged use, with contrasting-color bar-codes, QR codes, part numbers, labels and other key information simultaneously formed on the 3D printed piece. Since the color is created at the level of voxels, it can go as deep into a part as desired; unlike a label that be torn, rubbed off or faded, the embedded information is always available and secure.
Through use of digital part files, Azoth customers can print out new or replacement parts where and when needed. The printed-in labeling builds in trust, makings parts easy to check out, track, and log back in as part of the AM supplies crib, directly connecting the part to the digital value stream.
High Strength Fixtures and Prototypes
RIZE printing technology is termed Augmented Polymer Deposition. It combines multi-material printing with minimal post-processing and operates safely in both office and manufacturing environments. “RIZE is a future-proof technology in the fast-moving additive space,” says Andy Kalambi, RIZE president and CEO. “This partnership further demonstrates RIZE’s vision and leadership to enable ‘additive at scale.’”
RIZE’ main print material, Rizium One, a proprietary compound of engineering-grade thermoplastic, offers parts with strength that is twice that of ABSPlus. Along with this build material, the system jets functional inks such as Marking Ink for labeling and a Release One ink that creates the easy-release interface between a part and any necessary support material. Kalambi says more inks, such as conductive inks, are coming.
Burk notes that production line staff are always “trying to put out a fire” when a line goes down for want of a new fixture or repair part. Having RIZE printers on-site can mean the difference between having a one-off or low-volume part available in eight hours instead of eight weeks, as can be the case with machined aluminum. He says his company will be rolling out the additive indirect supply cribs by the dozen over the coming months.”The RIZE printer has already been so helpful,” he adds, “We’ve been finding a lot more uses we didn’t even think about. We will be ahead of the curve, proving the concept with this.”
Azoth is based in Ann Arbor, MI. The name comes from a mythical material pursued through the centuries by ancient alchemists and is a nod to the company’s focus of creating products of high value through AM. RIZE authorized reseller, Dynamic Detroit, will provide sales and services support for the new on-site business model.