Jabil is a huge contract manufacturing firm that makes and develops products for the brands that you know. With over 100 factories and $22 billion in revenue and over a 200,000 employees Jabil’s interest in 3D printing can have huge ramifications for our industry. Just this one firm could broadly adopt our technology and drive adoption forward. With end-user products having to be made at high volume and low-cost Jabil is not the first firm you may think of when you look at 3D printing. After all, in highly customized industries and high-end applications such as satellites the 3D printing business case is more easily made. Jabil has been doing some fundamentally very interesting things, however. The firm has developed and is making materials which will lower its own costs, it went into the production of footwear and insoles, and set up a 3D printing network while deploying Ultimaker 3D printers and betting big on HP.
Jabil seems to be making a steadfast move in engaging the 3D printing market in a fundamental way. Moreover especially with a global network of manufacturing, a lot of volume, the expertise in making 3D printers itself and its own materials the firm may yet cement significant advantages into the fundamental economics of manufacturing and prototyping. With contract manufacturing being cutthroat and low margin anything that can give them an advantage may have significant knock-on effects. If it makes sense for an automotive manufacturer to adopt 3D printing then it will doubly so make sense for contractors in tight spots on tight deadlines to do so. This is especially true if they can accelerate prototyping, tooling or customization through 3D printing; offer more customized products at lower costs or bridge manufacture more efficiently. Any incremental move towards the ability to do mass customization at scale or to engage in profitable high mix low volume manufacturing could spell doom for competitors.
Heading up Jabil’s considerable 3D printing engagements and investments is VP John Dulchinos. 3DPrint.com spoke with him at RAPID to find out more.
What is Jabil’s strategy in 3D printing?
Our mission is to accelerate the adoption of Additive Manufacturing. We are focused on how do we take an immature solution set and turn it into a manufacturing technology. We want to produce parts in a certified environment. We want to be able to stand behind the parts that we are making.
At the core, we want to make parts. That’s the foundation. This means that we need to engineer materials because there isn’t a good solution set in materials out there for us to use. In 3D printing, you can get any material as long as it is white PA 12 (polyamide). Usually, specific materials are available for specific solutions and in AM this has not been the case. This limitation meant that we had to develop and sell our own materials
What are you doing in AM?
If we look at our clients, they are world-class companies. We work for companies such as HP and Cisco. Top brand companies. At a baseline level, we want to do programs with those companies. In order for us to do that we have to engineer the entire workflow. From the translation in the software to the design file, all of it.
We are interested in aerospace, automative, transportion in general, medical devices, orthopediccs and consumer goods.
Is this contract manufacturing of something else?
Especially for consumer-facing products in things like mass customization application you really need the whole stack to make it make sense. We can do ideation and we can take something from an idea to a solution set.
For us, it is important to understand how and if additive creates value for customers. The more value that there is for them the more possible value there is for us as well.
What are some interesting applications?
I’m an engineer. So I think of it in terms of a logic tree. For a lot of things, 3D printing doesn’t actually make sense. From a cost standpoint it does not map out well when compared to traditional manufacturing. In some low volume applications it makes sense especially in things such as aerospace and spare parts. In aerospace you can, for example, combine parts, save weight. This creates significant value. Late in life parts are also very expensive to keep and produce, here additive also is very usefull. There are many great applications in healthcare as well. Personalized medicine, but broader still also personalized products have much value. In performance, automotive people also want to pay for optimal parts. We can pay for outcomes in additive but that won’t work for all functional production parts.
With Renault F1 now. we are their on demand production partner. We can now supply parts for on the F1 car. We love this since F1 is like we are very engineering driven. This partnership aligns well with us. It fits Jabil’s manufacturing pedigree.
Are you expanding your materials and printers portfolio?
We’ve made a number of materials and want to release a material a month soon. As for printers we operate close to 300 at the moment.
Is 3D printing helping Jabil?
On the design side, for sure 3D printing is speeding up our business. With designs we can now make more iterations. With fixtures and tooling, we are also much faster. We have well documented case studies where we have gone from making a fixture in 4 to 5 weeks in five days. We can also do more quicker iterations in the fixture.
As an anecdotal piece of evidence, we had one fixture used to electrically test a part. It had a slot at the botton through which the operator had to put their hand. Every once in a while the operator’s fingers would slip and touch the circuit board, shorting it. Once this was discovered it took 3 hours to design and two hours to print a solution for this problem. Within five hours we had, thanks to 3D printing, addressed the quality issue.
We also have some really good design for additive examples on recent client projects. In one example we took an existing assembly of 39 parts and reduced it to two. Reduction in assembly processes also happened as a result of this. We used 3D printing to simplify the part and the production process.
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