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Key Elements of 3D Printing in the Energy Transition

With globalisation in the last two to three decades, the global production and industrial chain has become highly fragmented and distributed all over the world. In general, raw materials are mainly mined from China, Russia and Africa, and China has become the main producer of raw materials for the production of all types of alloys. However, during the production of parts, China's energy consumption is significantly higher than that of the EU, which is mainly related to the way in which electricity, an energy source, is obtained.

It is worth noting that 3D printing offers significant advantages in terms of energy savings and emission reduction. These advantages mainly include saving material consumption, localised manufacturing to reduce carbon emissions, reduced assembly, on-demand manufacturing to reduce inventory, and improved product lifecycle usage efficiency through optimised product design, among others. With the increasing maturity and wide application of additive manufacturing technology, it will strongly contribute to the transformation and development of energy consumption patterns.

We invited Yang Gen, Vice General Manager of UnionTech, David Su and General Manager of Jun Chen Zhi Zhen,to discuss "Key Elements of 3D Printing in the Energy Transition".

Transcript of the dialogue

Part.1 Sharing examples of current domestic 3D printing designs that are driving energy consumption to become more low-carbon

Yang Gen: In the context of international energy transition and government policy support, manufacturing should be centred on "low carbon" and "environmental protection", both from the perspective of the current living environment and future sustainable development. At present, the transformation of new energy enterprises has greatly reduced its operating costs, which also triggered the manufacturing industry to low-carbon transformation of unlimited imagination. 3D printing technology can complete this imagination from two aspects: first, 3D printing manufacturing process is very environmentally friendly, the use of energy is cleaner and higher energy efficiency. Secondly, the 3D printing of the creation of design can better open up the imagination, the flexibility of product design and personalised to meet, making the whole process more efficient and energy-saving. This shows that 3D printing technology and the future of new energy transformation has a complementary role.

Su Dawei: 3D printing belongs to the additive manufacturing technology, compared with the subtractive and iso-materials manufacturing, the use of raw materials is more frugal, and its unique advantages of on-demand manufacturing can further optimise the enterprise's inventory management, help enterprises to achieve "small inventory" or "zero inventory The state of "small inventory" or "zero inventory". Meanwhile, in the subsequent development, 3D printing manufacturers will also work together with upstream material suppliers to realise the user's demand for biodegradable and recyclable materials.

UAV Manufacturer Case: In 2020, a UAV manufacturer that originally used the injection moulding process for manufacturing was unable to produce its parts due to the fact that the mould factory was not in operation during the epidemic. In order to complete the delivery on time, the person in charge decisively tried to use 3D printing technology for parts production. After five or six design changes by the professional team, the product not only completed the lightweight upgrade, but also better met the design of the parts of the complex structure. Eventually realised one or two million pieces of mass production, and subsequently the manufacturer has used 3D printing technology many times to produce parts.


Part.2 How 3D printing technology can bring more sustainability to the manufacturing process

Yang Gen: Many people believe that as the market expands, the precision and material limitations of 3D printing will constrain its long-term application in many fields, however, this is not the case.

In terms of materials, the early days, we mainly used photosensitive resin with good surface effect, but due to its lack of strength, it was mostly used for samples or small parts that did not require high functional strength. When I joined Luen Thai, Luen Thai established a joint lab with Evonik to develop photosensitive resin materials for functional use. In the next few years, this material will be introduced to the market, expanding the range of materials available. At the same time, with the strengthening of equipment capacity, more and more functional plastics can be produced by FDM, which also means that plastics processed by CNC can also be produced by 3D printing in the future. The same logic applies when it comes to metal 3D printing. Whereas the original metal manufacturing was mainly done using casting or machining processes, products can now be produced by simply making the metal into metal powders coupled with the technology of laser melting. This process upgrade further expands the richness of 3D printing materials, currently titanium alloys, aluminium alloys, stainless steel, tungsten alloys and many other metal materials can be produced using 3D printing technology. Thus, in terms of materials, 3D printing has demonstrated its potential for sustainable development.

In terms of precision, the previous light-curing materials are prone to chemical reactions during processing leading to thermal deformation, but with the enhancement of material functionality and the emergence of artificial intelligence software, this phenomenon has been effectively controlled, and the printing precision has been significantly improved. For example, metal 3D printing in the military, aerospace and other fields has been real use.

Su Dawei: The future of sustainable development, we are more layout in niche industries, more vertical to provide some targeted solutions. From the model, parts to the gradual upgrading of products, 3D printing technology permeates all aspects of life, such as shoe production, cultural and creative blind box production and so on. Among them, the footwear production and 3D printing is highly adaptable, 3D printing technology to meet the personalised production can bring users a more comfortable customised experience, the demand side and the supply side of the synergistic force will promote the sustainable development of 3D printing technology.


Part.3 How to build a 3D printing ecosystem through practical examples

Yang Gen: In terms of production capacity, 3D printing is characterised by high order volatility, which leads to wastage of production capacity and resources during order downturns. UnionTech advocates the construction of an industrial Internet platform, successfully connecting the dynamics of domestic and foreign 3D printing manufacturers, timely grasp of the use of 3D printers on various platforms, and production capacity synergy in this network. In order to ensure the quality of product delivery, first of all, in the order allocation will be carried out in the electronic transmission of customer demand, a detailed list of order requirements, and effectively reduce the communication of the information gap. And the system is equipped with remote quality inspection function, which can solve all the problems in production in time. At the same time, the quarterly assessment of the system will be a professional rating of the supplier, the low rating of the supplier will no longer get the order. These operations greatly guarantee the quality of product delivery, but also effectively achieve the synergistic use of production capacity.

In terms of design and modelling, it is committed to the synergy between customers and factories. The software technology currently introduced by Luen Thai Technology will help users carry out 3D printing feasibility analysis, point out modification and optimisation opinions in time, effectively reduce customer trial and error costs, and reasonably guarantee the full use of resources. The digital network connects the information of all players, so as to achieve accurate and efficient information transfer.

Su Dawei: In the future, we will be committed to the upstream and downstream synergy of the industrial chain, and provide timely feedback on the needs of users and suppliers. We will also strengthen the synergy between peers in material reduction and iso-material manufacturing, such as process supplementation and collaborative mutual assistance.

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