Formlabs announced a new product offering they call “Factory Solutions”.
I think we should have seen this one coming: Formlabs’ new Factory Solutions offering is a way to rapidly construct an agile manufacturing center. They explain the concept:
“Formlabs Factory Solutions is 3D printing reimagined to build the factory of the future for demanding industrial applications.
Build your factory the way you want it with intuitive tools, transparent pricing, and proven processes. Take control of your production infrastructure with additive manufacturing for high-throughput applications. With scalable hardware, world-class materials development, and a team of interdisciplinary experts, Formlabs is here to help you make the factory of the future an immediate reality.”
Formlabs Factory Solutions
What is it, exactly? It appears to be a combination of consulting engagement and equipment provision, all focused on delivering a functional additive manufacturing “factory” to the buyer.
It seems that Formlabs has a dedicated consulting team that, with proper engagement, can design a “tailored 3D printing factory” for you. This includes not only the equipment, but the workflow, materials and even product designs if required.
The company says they have already performed Factory Solution deliveries for New Balance and Gillette, and there’s likely others they haven’t mentioned. Perhaps one of them could be Precision ADM?
I find this development unsurprising as it is yet another outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Formlabs, like several 3D printer manufacturers, suddenly found themselves with a lack of buyers in the initial stages of the event. Having a mountain of 3D printers, they realized they could put them to work by producing PPE and other COVID-19 paraphernalia, such as nasopharyngeal test swabs.
They suddenly found themselves not only a manufacturer of 3D printers, but also a general purpose manufacturer producing swabs. This required them to set up and operate a factory on their own premises.
I find this scenario quite amusing because most of the time those setting up a 3D print factory are new to the technology and must be assisted by experts from the equipment vendor. Here it was utterly different because the folks from Formlabs knew intimately how to operate their own equipment correctly and efficiently.
It seems that as a result of their experience setting up their own factory they have bottled up that knowledge and are now marketing it as their Factory Solutions package. This makes a great deal of sense, as they now have the practical know-how to do this work, having done it for themselves, and it’s very beneficial to clients who may be looking for this type of solution.
And indeed there will be many clients, as there has been a massive shift in priority in manufacturing from a focus on financial efficiency to agility and flexibility. These new goals are best served by 3D printing technology, which can very rapidly adjust to the production of new products merely by using different design files. There’s little need for lengthy “tooling up” phases as is required in traditional manufacturing.
Evidently Formlabs is smartly attempting to capitalize on this situation by leveraging their new-found knowledge and the emerging customer need for agile factories.
3D Printing For Manufacturing
To me this is a significant step forward for the industry, as it very firmly establishes the notion of a “3D print factory”: there’s now an official product for such a thing. Companies can buy it, use it and expand it.
Years ago the idea of using 3D printers for “production” was mere fantasy. Now we see whole 3D printer factories being sold as products themselves.
It’s a new world.