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The research network ‘AM 4 Industry’ published a cost-benefit tool to identify possible business cases with additive manufacturing.

 

In the course of the CORNET project ‘AM 4 Industry’, researchers at RWTH Aachen University developed a practical cost-benefit tool that helps companies identify components suitable for additive manufacturing.

 

Deciding on the use of additive manufacturing (AM) processes in a company can be very challenging. Therefore, it is often based on incomplete information and time-consuming trial-and-error tests. Practice shows that competitive advantage is often created only through deep integration of AM into the value chain. For example, the cost advantages of lightweight components manufactured using AM are achieved through reduced fuel consumption over the part’s whole lifetime. Thus, a classic comparison of manufacturing costs is often insufficient for obtaining a realistic assessment of the economic advantage. What is needed is a holistic model that can compare not only the costs but also the technological advantages at a very early stage to help identify new benefits and accelerate decision-making processes.

 

With this goal in mind, Tobias Schröer and Sören Münker from the Research Institute for Rationalization (FIR) at RWTH Aachen University developed an advanced cost-benefit tool. The two ambitious researchers are part of the Collective Research Network (CORNET) project ‘AM 4 Industry’, which is led by ecoplus Plastics and Mechatronics Clusters in lower Austria. Within this project, eight renowned research partners and fifty-one companies from Austria, Germany and Belgium spent two years researching the successful industrial use of additive manufacturing processes. The primary goal of the project was to develop models to support companies in successfully integrating 3D printing in production technologies. In contrast to existing approaches, the newly developed cost-benefit model allows the identification and evaluation of AM not only in terms of costs but also of generated benefits. 

 

Capturing the potential of additive manufacturing and exploiting it is a major practical challenge. The cost-benefit tool clearly shows how to identify possible business cases by comparing costs and benefits at an early stage,’ says Tobias Schröer, Head of Production Management at the RWTH Aachen and co-developer of the cost-benefit model.

 

The model helps to assess the individual cost-benefit ratio in a structured way by acknowledging specific product characteristics and already known advantages of the AM technologies. It takes into account the entire life cycle of product design/engineering, production/quality and service/after-sales in order to determine the most economically-promising applications out of the totality of the potential applications. As a result, the practicable model enables industrial users to compare different production methods for specific parts and supports well-founded and accelerated decision-making.