Industry 4.0 Foundations: Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing


3d-printing.jpgIn our ongoing Industry 4.0 Foundations blog series, we’ve been walking through the many applications and improvements Industry 4.0 technologies provide to manufacturers of all sizes.

As manufacturers continue their Industry 4.0 journeys and gain a deeper understanding of their business needs and challenges, some may discover opportunities to improve their prototyping and repair processes. In situations such as these, Additive Manufacturing could be the solution.

How often does your facility throw away more material than was used to create a part? Has your business designed, developed and built a new product, only to discover the design is faulty after investing much time and money into its production? Have repairs been neglected on a part on a machine due to a lack of replacement for it? In each of these cases, the problem can be solved with Additive Manufacturing.

Commonly known as 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing is the practice of adding layers of material, such as plastic, metal, concrete or wood, on top of each other to create a product. Due to the many benefits and applications this practice provides, which includes rapid prototyping, repairs, waste reduction and more flexible innovation, Additive Manufacturing is quickly growing in popularity in the manufacturing world.

Is your business: Looking to minimize waste material? Struggling to produce functioning prototypes? Interested in innovating your production process?

Additive Manufacturing can help by:

  • Providing tooling opportunities. 3D printing enables manufacturers to create tools that would otherwise be impossible, or too expensive, to create using traditional manufacturing methods. Due to the layering process involved in 3D printing, parts can be made with higher strength and durability, making for a higher quality part overall. This process also minimizes waste created, with material only being used when it is needed, rather than removing all excess material with subtractive manufacturing.
  • Allowing for quicker repairs. The speed and flexibility associated with Additive Manufacturing allows manufacturers to efficiently replace old or broken parts in machinery. Rather than going to an outside distributor for repairs, all parts can be created in house for quicker and easier replacements. This flexibility also gives manufacturers the power to add to existing parts to extend their lives or create new use cases.
  • Improving the prototype process. 3D printing provides manufacturers with the opportunity to test the functionality of a design, without having to wait weeks for it to be produced using traditional methods. In the past, long lead times have largely held manufacturers back from investing in innovation. With 3D printing that is no longer the case. Most printers are capable of printing parts within just hours or days, rather than weeks or months. This allows manufacturers to efficiently test new products and make changes where they are needed prior to committing to one design, enabling greater flexibility and innovation in production.

With Additive Manufacturing, many roadblocks to innovation are eliminated. Learn more about how to take the first step towards innovation with 3D printing by contacting us at and stay tuned for next week’s blog where we will explore Simulation.

Whether your company is well into its Industry 4.0 journey or just getting started, The Center’s experts can help ensure you achieve the maximum return on all investments. To assist Michigan’s manufacturers with understanding and adopting Industry 4.0 technologies, The Center has partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Automation Alley to drive awareness of the many uses and benefits of these innovations. From conducting an initial Technology Opportunity Assessment to identifying and applying relevant technologies, The Center guides manufacturers through technological implementations in a way that makes sense for their businesses.

Learn more about how The Center can support your company’s Industry 4.0 journey by contacting or visit




Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at


Categories: Advanced Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Innovation, Technology