3D Printing ROI: Pharmaceutical Company Sees 95% Part Cost Reduction, 70% Weight Reduction


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In a new case study, global 3D printing leader Stratasys, which will soon introduce its new metal 3D printer, has explained how a top French pharmaceutical company was able to achieve a full return on investment (ROI) within just one year of purchasing and installing one of its production FDM 3D printers.

Bristol-Myers Squibb subsidiary UPSA determined that additive manufacturing would be a good way to attract new technicians, along with putting some life back into its in-house workshop. The company also realized that 3D printing would be able to help it find innovative solutions to production-line challenges, which were limiting the amount of machine parts it could make with traditional methods of manufacturing.

We identified 3D printing as a possible solution to our needs and made an estimate of all the parts we could 3D print to see if we could save manufacturing costs and reduce our stock of parts. We quickly realized that by using 3D printed parts, we could reduce part weight by 70 percent, which reduces machine wear-and-tear, and has a big impact on productivity and machine longevity,” explained Mathieu Dumora, the Project Manager in UPSA’s Technical and Infrastructure Department.

So the company decided it would be a good idea to invest in a Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer from Stratasys. This particular additive manufacturing system is a popular choice for the creation of machine parts, like a hook-shaped component for a machine that packages chocolates, as well as assembly tools for the automotive production line, jigs and fixtures, and customized aviation production tools.

Andy Middleton, President of Stratasys, EMEA, said, “We continue to see an increasing demand for 3D printed tooling, production parts and replacement parts for industrial machinery. The speed at which UPSA has successfully integrated our 3D printer within production and realized such a huge quantifiable ROI, is testament to the way this technology can quickly and cost-effectively overcome production-line challenges for manufacturers in most industry sectors.”

Almost immediately, the 3D printer began proving its value and providing major efficiency and cost savings in many areas, including critical parts replacement.

Dumora said, “One machine in our manufacturing and packaging line is a heavy cast steel arm, used as part of the operation to grip and suction open a folding carton, so that blister packs can be inserted. These arms are heavy, can become distorted, and sometimes fail and break the machine, but using a 3D printed arm is safer. The ABS-M30i biocompatible 3D printing material can recover if it distorts, but if it breaks, it’s a minimal cost and a short printing time to replace. That’s a huge improvement over a costly steel one. In one year alone, we produced 55 of these parts and made a 95 percent cost reduction on each.”

UPSA has achieved 95% cost reduction on one part alone by replacing cast steel arms with high-performance 3D printed arms made using ABS-M30i 3D printing material.

Safety also comes into play with 3D printing being put to work for UPSA. Some closure caps for the company’s Efferalgan (paracetamol) for children came in from a supplier with particles that could have risked the medication getting contaminated. So the Fortus 450mc was also put to work building a device that would improve the safety of these closure caps; the newly 3D printed device proved effective in practice.

We developed a system that sucks and blows air to remove any particles. We test the air suctioned, and even sometimes place particles in caps to test efficacy,” Dumora said of the system replacing the previous costly, long visual inspection method. “Thanks to additive manufacturing, we are able to make this solution ourselves and evolve it through development iterations quickly and cost-effectively.”

Frédéric Tremoulet, 3D Printer Manager and Mathieu Dumora, UPSA Project Manager, holding 3D printed production tools for the camera mounts.

In addition, UPSA has seen significant cost savings since it started using Stratasys’ 3D printing technology to produce camera mounts for its manufacturing line. Using the in-house 3D printer allowed the company to consolidate parts for the mount – taking a previously 27-component assembly down to just two parts, saving on time and cost in production.

We apply track-and-trace coding to our packaging, and to ensure these are being properly printed, a camera is mounted above each one. One of our design engineers used the Fortus 450mc to create the shape he needed, before using it to make 22 units – one for each machine,” Dumora said.

All of these projects contributed to major savings in the first year that the company integrated the 3D printer into production. UPSA has been able to replace metal parts and reverse engineer components for other replacements using the Stratasys 3D printer and biocompatible material, as well as decrease the weight of certain parts by 70%. This weight loss can extend a machine’s longevity and productivity by lowering wear-and-tear.

Dumora stated, “Needless to say, for those of us who use it, the Fortus 450mc is an absolute work-horse, but its immediate and positive impact is ultimately underscored by the fact that in the first year of integrating the machine, we more than made a return on our investment.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images: Stratasys]


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