AMS Spring 2023

The 3D Printed Eternal Spare Part is a Quantum Leap in Supply Chain Management

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A new partnership has formed between one of Germany’s leading makers of gardening equipment and patio furniture, Siena Garden, and Replique, a division of BASF, based on a project to provide what the companies are whimsically referring to as the “Eternal Spare Part”.

The co-founder and CEO of Replique, Dr. Max Siebert, noted in a press release, “Offering spare parts over a longer period of time is currently hardly possible due to high minimum order quantities, storage costs and one-sided procurement strategies.”

Peter Benthues, CDO of H. Gautzsche Firmengruppe, the parent company of Siena Garden, elaborated that, “Product life cycles are thus shorter than they could be. This not only leads to immense costs, but also contradicts the ethical principle of sustainability that Siena Garden has set.”

14 spare parts for garden furniture are produced so far over Replique’s platform.

The way it works is simple: parts are stored digitally on Replique’s platform, and produced on demand. Anyone placing an order with Siena Garden for the part(s) will automatically have the order manufactured and delivered by one of Replique’s in-network producers. Storing the parts digitally means that even if the particular piece of furniture you order gets discontinued, certain parts that comprise the furniture—especially those most likely to become lost or damaged with normal use—can still be replaced. No more buying an entire replacement chair all because you lost one of the scratch-proof caps, or broke an arm rest because you were “sitting wrong” as my parents used to chastise me for doing.

The arm handle made of ASA guarantees a good grip, protects the user and covers open areas. No worries that you have to pay the whole replacement cost because you broke off the end of the arm on the chair while mindlessly playing with it!

Stories about the supply chain and 3D printing have been multiplying since the very first days of the pandemic, and as the issues have increased, so too has the focus of leaders in the industry on precisely this advantage of 3D printing . In this respect, the greatest potential for upending the old/current way of doing business involves the steps towards creating networks of local hubs for on-demand production. So while this is a small step by a single company related to just one of its product lines, it’s likely that the model Siena Garden is applying here will be watched and replicated by plenty of other companies, sooner rather than later—especially given the involvement of BASF, by way of Replique. It starts with things like replacement parts, but you can easily imagine this spreading to the design model for patio furniture in general, not to mention other, more explicitly “essential” manufactures like cars. I see no reason why, if IKEA, for instance, insists on continuing to exist, it can’t at least eventually make all of its products on-demand, entirely using the eternal spare parts.

The foot cap “Fofana”, redesigned for 3D printing, is produced out of Ultrafuse® TPU 64D, a strong and flexible filament newly introduced by Forward AM. Due to its high wear and abrasion resistance, it is ideally suited for the application.

(Images courtesy of Incus Media)

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