Jabil has established a name for itself in the additive manufacturing industry over the last several years as the technology has become an important strategic focus for the product solutions company. At RAPID + TCT, the Jabil Additive Manufacturing Network was introduced as manufacturing speed and agility take a step forward. Calling it a “major milestone in Jabil’s digital transformation journey,” the company’s new cloud network was designed to empower users to localize manufacturing operations, bringing workloads into markets that make more sense from a business perspective.

HP simultaneously announced new agreements with Jabil and Forecast 3D to bring Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to bear in driving the future of distributed design, manufacturing, and digital supply chains.

Ahead of the announcement and an in-person discussion at RAPID, I caught up with John Dulchinos, Vice President of Digital Manufacturing at Jabil, to discuss this launch as well as the company’s expansion in Singapore and partnership with HP Inc. We focused on Jabil’s building up of additive manufacturing capacity, expanding capabilities, and bringing automated print management to market.

What we’re excited about at this point is really a few points that I think are noteworthy. One is that we’re finally putting capacity down around HP printers, we’re doing this in Singapore and we’re doing this because we’re qualified now for more than 140 part numbers for production for the 300/500 series,” Dulchinos explained, as these 140 parts are certified for use in production to make the popular new series of 3D printers; “the printer that prints itself,” as he’s called this application before.

In Singapore, Jabil is bringing its Jet Fusion capacity close to bear for its team, as the capacity is co-located with end-use production for HP 3D printers and other products. As the team at Jabil have become more comfortable with and confident in the capabilities of Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) 3D printing, particularly regarding repeatability and quality requirements, Dulchinos noted that they are thinking of 3D printing along the same lines as injection molding “or any other process you would use to make a part.” While he is transparent that 3D printing is “still a very immature technology,” and that there is “still a lot of work to take it to a point where you feel like you can produce with machine-to-machine and location-to-location same quality,” Dulchinos is confident that this direction represents a future-looking strategic advantage.

Six HP Jet Fusion 4210 3D printers at Jabil’s Singapore facility being used for high-volume production, including making functional parts for HP’s 300/500 printers [Image provided by Jabil]

Of the Singapore capacity, with six HP Jet Fusion 4210 printers recently installed, he explained that the location is “less about the benefits of a low-cost region and more about locating production and component closer to the ultimate user, which in this case is other manufacturing locations where we’ll produce the printers.” The co-location benefit here is that they are printing parts for the HP 3D printers on the third floor of the Singapore location and are immediately able to put these parts on a cart, take the elevator down to the first floor, and install them — a true illlustration of a just-in-time solution for manufacturing.

“Now we’re really running a just-in-time operation. We’re ready for the production line, without storing the inventory. Now we’ve got this operation where we’re not paying shipping costs, not paying tariffs, not paying storage,” Dulchinos told me. “It’s really a just-in-time operation that’s really working out.”

The importance of cutting shipping costs out from operations cannot be underscored enough. Removing the need for shipping materials, the costs and environmental impacts of global transportation via air or ship, and the need for receiving and ground transportation to end-use location is a massive advantage in terms of time, cost, and environmental footprint enabled by agile digital manufacturing.

Jabil now operates more than 100 3D printers at facilities in Singapore, the US, China, Hungary, Mexico, and Spain. Operating high-speed sintering, FFF, and polymer and metal laser sintering, among other 3D printing processes, the company offers soluitons in the footwear, industrial machines, transporation, aerospace, and healthcare industries.

Another aspect of Jabil’s work that we discussed came down to its Silicon Valley operations.

“What’s really powerful is that we’ve developed this Additive Manufacturing Network,” Dulchinos said, introducing the 3D printer-agnostic network. “It allows for the creation of a workflow that can qualify and produce parts in a variety of different locations. In this particular case, we’ve been doing this in Silicon Valley. What it takes to move production from Silicon Valley to Singapore is really just putting machines down. If it makes sense to run production in Singapore, we will; if it makes sense to run production in Silicon Valley, we will. It’s a turn of the digital dial… and all that is able to be done in a truly digital way.

“We characterize it as printer-agnostic… We run HP, but also others — filament, SLA, powder bed — and all are connected on the same Additive Manufacturing Network. There’s a powerful ability to move production to other areas, but also focus production on different capabilities. A solution that works best on FFF 3D printers, we can send to those. We store in the digital thread not only the process requirements, but the material requirements and more, all in a very qualified way, to move that production around. I think that’s a very powerful capability. The digital thread that comes from a printing company tends to be built very narrowly around a specific printer; in our case we do all this in a much more generalized fashion.”

To provide deeper context to the latest, Dulchinos noted that his team has been expanding over the last year or so to include more individuals with backgrounds in aerospace. The expertise added through this background has helped to build a comprehensive approach to certify and qualify manufacturing solutions “that can satisfy the rigor that an industry like aerospace requires.” These solutions can then trickle down to less demanding applications, such as consumer goods, held to less stringent regulatory structures and benefiting from the experience of those demanding approaches.

“This is a really powerful framework to build into our Additive Manufacturing Network that gives us the confidence that we can build parts on what’s still a rudimentary technology, 3D printing, and have to be repeatable, produce a high-level yield, and have us confident we’re producing repeatable parts on some volulme,” he said. “That’s really critical if we’re going to start distributing our manufacturing around… Process, material, machine capability: how we put those together to be able to do that over and over again as required in manufacturing. That certification has been a really good enabling capability. Without that, the rest of this stuff looks good, but you don’t really have the confidence you can do it over and over again as needed. Manufacturing is about really how to dial in a process at a level you have confidence you can do it repeatably, with as little scrap as possible.”

In speaking with Dulchinos ahead of the event, he highlighted three primary takeaways for what Jabil would be highlighting at RAPID + TCT:

  1. Starting to put down first capacity now with HP that’s really allowing Jabil to be co-locating in a manufacturing facility to do just-in-time manufacturing in a distributed basis.
  2. The new Additive Manufacturing Network that allows Jabil to connect all these printers in the company in a network and give them the ability to manage our distributed manufacturing footprint.
  3. Certification, qualification process is really amazing to watch Jabil’s experts have conversations with aerospace, transportation, industrial companies and talk about this: “Probably the most exciting thing people latch on to. Most of these companies haven’t figured out a way to have confidence in dependability and repeatability, ability to produce consistently at a high yield — I think we’ve figured that out and it’s very powerful.”

He noted these as important building blocks to Jabil’s forward progress and focus on additive manufacturing as a global digital manufacturing solution. A powerful aspect he touched on was the capability enabled for operating at a smaller scale while maintaining efficiency.

This, and a discussion of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), translated directly to the conversation we continued on the show floor in Fort Worth, Texas, where we were joined by Scott Schiller, Global Head of Customer and Market Development, 3D Printing, and David Tucker, 3D Print Market Development, Plastics Engineering and Design, both of HP.

(L-R) David Tucker, John Dulchinos, Scott Schiller

“A big innovation has been making a kit of parts that has the ability to have any parts you want,” Tucker, who has great experience and expertise in DfAM with HP, told me.

“We can optimize the economics of that kit of products. That’s how we got to 140 parts. Whereas traditional manufacturing is like a spreadsheet, where you produce one line at a time, additive manufacturing is doing the whole spreadsheet at once.”

For one example of streamlined production, Dulchinos had highlighted that DfAM enabled a redesign of a 39-piece assembly down to two parts.

“We could design all that into two parts, to take advantage of the design flexibility that additive allows us. This is not necessarily a requirement of what we’re trying to do, but in the future this is part of the value we’re working to unlock with additive. When you eliminate 30-some-odd assembly steps, every one of those has costs and time involved that could be eliminated, and produces a much better solution for the customer,” Dulchinos said.

The kit and just-in-time thinking enabled by 3D printing allow for a rethinking not only of design, but of the steps involved in manufacturing.

“Everyone is used to molds for individual parts, and now we’re thinking of families of parts. We can also learn more in the field, how this opens up unique opportunities, how to manage more,” Schiller continued.

“There was a journey we had to go on to get a population of engineers to think differently — there are a lot of facets to that. We are definitely still on that journey. To the best of our knowledge, we are not aware of other machines on the market today with 140 unique parts created this way. There’s a snowball effect, a pull from the engineering community.”

Each of those 140 parts “makes business sense,” HP 3D Printing President Stephen Nigro affirmed from the keynote state on Thursday morning as well; while highlighting the benefits of additive manfuacturing, HP is certainly not using this use case just as a look at what could be possible. Each of the redesigned components has been created because it makes sense to have done so, whether by reducing assemblies or through a reduction in time/cost of manufacture.

Stephen Nigro speaking during the keynote session

The agility allowed for in engaging engineers to rethink design for just-in-time manufacturing also allows for on-the-go thinking and adopting lessons learned along the way as experience continues to build. In traditional manufacturing, and particularly for injection molding, such agility is severely limited as once a mold is made, it is made and any changes would require an expensive and time-consuming process to redesign and build a new mold.

“In a traditional molding operation, once a design is locked down, any changes are exceptionally painful. It’s cutting steel,” Dulchinos said. “Here, there is no lockdown. We can incorporate learning right into production. If recutting steel, you need to make sure it’s worth it; with MJF, the change is allowed. Looking at what creates inefficiencies can change the design, and we could never do it so fast before.”

Tucker noted as well that learning on the go has been a major part of the process with HP. Awareness of learning management has allowed for enhanced agility and regular revisiting of solutions.

“There was a mindset before that there could be no change once a design was locked down. Now, 3D printing allows us to integrate learning, which is very valuable to manufacturing, to create a better finished part. This has been a powerful journey. We do development and supply of parts for HP in Silicon Valley, and now in Singapore; now we can do this by moving a digital file. For two sites, maybe this is nothing special; take it up to ten sites, and it becomes very powerful,” Dulchinos told me.

“There was a tremendous amount of learning that HP engineers did from the first to second generation. With all this in just one product evolution, comopound that over two, three, four, five evolutions and it will be really powerful how far capabilities are pushed.”

Catching up with Jabil and HP is always enlightening, as the teams continually push forward for a new, agile, realizable future of digital manufacturing. Rethinking not only design and distribution, but the entire ecosystem of global manufacturing, is paving the way to real solutions setting up the next evolution of this industrial revolution.

No official updates are available as yet on HP’s announcement of its future metal 3D printing technology.

Read more about Jabil Additive here.

Discuss Jabil, distributed manufacturing, and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[Slides/Singapore installation image: Jabil / RAPID + TCT photos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

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