Iterating Hardware as Fast as Software: Creating the World of On-Demand Manufacturing

Infrastructure. Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

One of the more exciting opportunities offered by 3D printing technology is for the creation of a world where hardware products can be iterated and developed as quickly software products.

This may seem like an incredibly lofty goal. The physicality of hardware prototype development versus the ability to edit code instantly makes this an ambitious proposition. That being said, on-demand manufacturing has made massive strides in the past five years and is quickly closing the gap.

What is on-demand manufacturing?

On-demand manufacturing is the industry that produces one-off prototypes or small batch runs in a short amount of time. On-demand manufacturing is often carried out through 3D Printing and Rapid Machining infrastructure.

What is manufacturing lead time?

Lead time in manufacturing is the time it takes from starting a process through product creation and delivery. Historically, any manufactured good would take months at minimum. Today, the development of just-in-time manufacturing systems and on-demand manufacturing has reduced this time to just weeks or even days.

What does on-demand manufacturing look like today?

Companies like Protolabs and Xometry allow for the creation of rapid prototypes through factories with dozens or even hundreds of 3D printers. Prototypes can be produced in hours and shipped immediately to clients.

What will on-demand manufacturing look like in the near future?

Software will play a big role in the future of on-demand manufacturing. The near future ability to have artificial intelligence in computer aided design software will lead to computer systems that auto-iterate on design files, a process known as generative design.

For example, after a human creates a design for a single object using CAD software, the software suite can then take the file and make modifications. This creates multiple iterations of the prototype, testing different features and accentuating different parts.

On-demand manufacturing unlocks the ability to then concurrently produce all these prototypes at once via a scaled on-demand manufacturing infrastructure. This takes the iterative design process for any single component down from weeks at minimum to as quickly as overnight.

Where does R3 Printing fit in all this?

With the R3 Printer, we hope to address one of the core of issues with contemporary on-demand manufacturing.

Today, on-demand manufacturers keep queues low and lead times short through scaling infrastructure — having many 3D printers in-house to have high amounts of possible manufacturing-hour bandwidth.

This solution is capital intensive and requires substantial real estate, limiting the amount of companies that conduct on-demand manufacturing and inhibiting the global spread of this industry.

Today, only certain parts of the developed world have local on-demand manufacturing capability. Even in the United States, it often takes days for far flung locales to receive shipped prototypes.

Where does R3 Printing fit in all this?

Our innovation in developing a nearly 2x faster, 200%+ more efficient enterprise grade 3D printer at an effective price point means:

1. Factories with the R3 Printer have substantial additional bandwidth. More print-hours in the day.

2. The ability for on-demand manufacturing factories to be less capital intensive to start. With faster 3D printers, less printers are required initially to build a profitable infrastructure.

3. The ability for hardware design firms and companies to take the prototyping process in-house through fast, efficient, and safe 3D printers. With the right printer, designers can reduce time substantially through in-house ownership of their prototype production infrastructure.

Through our innovation, R3 Printing is aiming to increase product delivery speeds and decrease barriers-to-entry for prospective on-demand manufacturing ventures.

If you care to learn more about what R3 Printing is working on, check us out here and here.