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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/1741-038X.htm

Agility through rapid prototyping technology in a manufacturing environment using a 3D printer

S. Vinodh

Department of Production Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, India

G. Sundararaj

Department of Mechanical Engineering, PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India

S.R. Devadasan and D. Kuttalingam

Department of Production Engineering, PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India, and

D. Rajanayagam

Salzer Electronics Limited, Coimbatore, India

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the adoption of rapid prototyping (RP) technology using three dimensional (3D) printer for infusing agility in traditional manufacturing environment. Design/methodology/approach – The computer aided design (CAD) model of a knob of an electronics switch is developed using Pro/E software. Keeping this model as a reference, CAD models of new six knobs are developed. A 3D printer is used to build the prototypes of five of those CAD models. The receptivity of the practitioners over adopting CAD models and 3D printer for achieving agility is investigated. Findings – The sensitisation of the industry captains and employees of traditional manufacturing sector is the imperative for exploiting the power of 3D printer and achieving mass customisation. Originality/value – The paper reports an original research in which the practicality of using 3D printer is investigated with the objective of enabling the traditional manufacturing companies to imbibe agile characteristics.

Keywords Printing industry, Agile production, Rapid prototypes, Computer aided design, Computer aided manufacturing

Paper type Research paper

Agility through RP technology

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Received April 2008 Revised January 2009 Accepted March 2009

Received April 2008 Revised January 2009 Accepted March 2009 The research reported in this paper has

The research reported in this paper has been funded by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), New Delhi, India under the National Doctoral Fellowship (NDF) offered to the first author of this paper. AICTE is thanked in this regard. The generous support extended by Mr Prabahar Annamalai, Director, VectraFORM Engineering & Solutions Private Limited, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India towards using the 3D printer for developing the prototypes is gratefully acknowledged.

Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management Vol. 20 No. 7, 2009 pp. 1023-1041 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited

1741-038X

DOI 10.1108/17410380910984267

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1. Introduction

The ever increasing competition has been compelling the contemporary organisations to evolve products quickly but without compromising profitability, innovativeness and quality (Saisse and Wilding, 1997; Maskell, 2001). As a result of this emphasis, modern

organisations are required to be agile. This means that today’s organisations are required

to evolve products within a quick period of time to satisfy a mass of customers (Zhang et al.,

2009). This capability is called as mass customisation and the issues concerning it are addressed in literature under the topic “agile manufacturing” (AM; Vazquez-Bustelo and Avella, 2006). Researchers working in AM arena have been indicating the power of advanced manufacturing technologies like computer numerical control (CNC), computer aided design (CAD) and computer aided manufacturing (CAM) on infusing agile characteristics in manufacturing organisations (Maskell, 2001; Bhandarkar and Nagi, 2000; Wang et al., 1996). Despite the increasing usage of these technologies, manufacturing time could not be compressed significantly. This is due to the reason that, till 1990s, the manufacturing community had to spend considerably a long time to develop prototypes of the products and components and test their performance. Amidst this situation, the rapid prototyping (RP) technology emerged in the world to support the manufacturing community (Zhang et al., 2009; Mansour et al., 2007; Buswell et al., 2007). The growth of rapid manufacturing (RM) and RP field has been tremendous during

the last one decade (Horii et al. , 2009; Miranda et al., 2008; Rochus et al. , 2007; Campbell and de Beer, 2005; Furrens, 1999). However, RP technology still struggles to enter into the organisations due to various reasons which include difficulty in management and implementation and high cost of machines, processes and materials (Ruffo et al. , 2007; Hopkinson and Dickens, 2001). This is a concerning situation since RP technology has the ability to infuse agility in organisations through the compression of time for developing and testing prototypes and thereby assuring high quality and innovativeness of products and profitability to the organisation (Onuh et al. , 2006). Hence, the need of the hour is to explore the possibility of adopting RP technology in traditional manufacturing environments with the orientation of imparting agility. In order to fulfil this imperative, this paper reports a research in which the three dimensional (3D) printing device of RP technology was utilized to investigate its potential to infuse agility in traditional manufacturing organisations. The experiences

of this research are reported in this paper with the aim of instigating the traditional

manufacturing organisations to imbibe RP technology for becoming AM companies and thereby achieving competitiveness.

2. Literature review

A review of articles indicates that the formal scientific birth of AM was marked by the

formation of agile forum at Iacocca Institute in the year 1991 (Gunasekaran, 1998;

Meredith and Francis, 2000; Yusuf et al. , 1999). Thereafter, many researchers have worked on AM in different contexts. Hence, various researchers have brought out the definitions of AM. The summary of those definitions are enumerated by Jin-Hai et al. (2003) and Dowlatshahi and Cao (2006). A careful study of these definitions indicates that the researchers mean AM as the capability of an organisation to respond quickly

in accordance with the customers’ dynamic demands without compromising quality

and profitability (Vokurka and Fliedner, 1998). Besides, exploring its meaning, a section of the researchers has worked on identifying the enablers of AM (Gunasekaran,

1999). Few of them have mentioned RP technology as an enabler of infusing agility in organisations (Gunasekaran, 1998; Onuh and Hon, 2001). However, the practical research on RP technology, as an enabler of agility is reported only to a very little extent. Meanwhile it was interesting to note that RP and RM are interchangeably used in literature to mean the same family of processes (Buswell et al., 2007; Zarringhalam et al. , 2006). In this context, a review conducted in this research on both RP/RM and AM literature was useful in finding the capabilities of RP technology and the requirements of AM. The unique benefit of applying RP technology in real time situations is the reduction of lead time in manufacturing and time to market (Buswell et al. , 2008). These benefits fulfil the major criteria of AM (Mansour et al. , 2007; Hopkinson and Dickens, 2000, 2001; Ruffo et al. , 2007). Despite this fact, only few researchers have espoused the adoptability of RP technology for achieving agility. The commonly used techniques of RP/RM are stereo-lithography (Hopkinson and Dickens, 1999), selective laser sintering (Ajoku et al. , 2006; Hopkinson and Dickens, 2001; Zarringhalam et al. , 2006), fused deposition modelling, laser engineered net shaping (Yang et al. , 2008; Paul et al. , 2007), 3D micro welding (Horii et al. , 2009) and 3D printing (Mansour et al. , 2007; Buswell et al. , 2007; Rochus et al., 2007; Suwanprateeb, 2007; Dimitrov et al., 2006, 2007; Zarringhalam et al., 2006; Saleh et al., 2004). Zhang et al. (2009) have described about the issues related to the concept of product and prototype flexibility as the drivers for achieving customer satisfaction. Horii et al. (2009) have attempted the application of RP technique for manufacturing metal parts. Miranda et al. (2008) have presented the applications of integrating high power laser fibers with RP technology. While the adoptability of RP technology for achieving agility is espoused by few researchers (Onuh and Hon, 2001; Onuh et al. , 2006), the emanation of researches advocating 3D printing as the state of the art technology in RP technology field is noticed with interest (Buswell et al. , 2007; Suwanprateeb, 2007). The contributions of few papers which support this claim are illustrated here. Dimitrov et al. (2007) have pointed out that 3D printing process has emerged during the recent years as a competitive process leading to the saving of time and cost in producing prototypes quicker than any other conventional RP technologies. They have indicated that the sales of 3D printing machines have been increasing during the recent years. Similar trend with regard to the sale of 3D printers in South Africa is indicated by Campbell and de Beer (2005). Dimitrov et al. (2007) have also pointed out that high scope exists to carry out researches involving 3D printing. They have presented the prototypes that they developed using 3D printing machine and reported its performance using factors like accuracy, surface finish and cost issues. Buswell et al. (2007) have described their research which they conducted to investigate the application of 3D printing process in construction industry. The unique feature of their contributions in this paper is the lucid description about the 3D printing process. They have also established that the 3D printing process and the materials used in it shall be exploited to develop the prototype of the components used in construction industry. In their research, they have developed the prototypes of two panel designs using the Z corporation 3D Printing process. Dimitrov et al. (2006) have presented a case study involving the development of patterns using 3D printing process. They have shown a number of prototypes developed using 3D printing machine. They have exclaimed the provision for correcting the mistake while building the prototype development using the 3D printer.

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They have also enumerated the strengths of 3D printing technology in comparison to other RP technologies. Suwanprateeb (2007) has claimed that 3D printing is a fast and low cost RP system. He has pointed out that 3D printing does not require support structure. He has enumerated the superiority of the materials used in 3D printing. One important advantage is its capability in producing prototypes of slightly complex shaped objects. The modern researchers have been successful in modifying the 3D printing system to produce even highly complex shaped prototypes. In this line, it is interesting to note the research reported by Lee et al. (2005). They have shown the method of producing highly complex shaped scaffold using indirect 3D printing approach. On the whole, the findings of the literature review conducted during this research favour the adoption of 3D printer for acquiring agility. This observation is espoused in Bak (2003) who has hinted that 3D printer would be a feasible machine for achieving agility. In this background, this research was further navigated by investigating the suitability of adopting 3D printing technology to acquire agility in a traditional manufacturing environment.

3. RP technology through 3D printing

The working principle of the 3D printer used during this research is briefly described in this section. The photograph of this 3D printer can be viewed by visiting www.sol ido3d.com. This 3D printer is made by Solido, Israel and its model name is SD300. The price of the SD300 3D printer in Indian National Rupees (INR) is 1.5 millions approximately, whose equivalence in US$ is 37,500 (INR 40 ¼ 1 US$). According to Solido, the benefits of this printer are affordability, ease of operation, improved design communication, confidentiality and production of durable models (www.solido3d.com). This machine uses additive process of RP. This machine builds prototypes by laying sheets of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and stacking them together in succession. SD300 is incorporated with a software called SD view. SD view imports and checks the correctness of the STL file of the CAD model. If any error found in the STL file, then it is displayed by SD view. The reason for the error on the STL file is also indicated by SD view. In order to ensure optimum stacking of the PVC material, SD view orients the position of the model by aligning the smallest dimension in Z -axis. For example, if a model with longest dimension is kept in Z position, it may have to be stacked with relatively more layers. This aspect is taken care of by SD view. SD view allows the generation of the peeling cuts which are required for easy removal of the excess support from the end prototype upon its completion. During the time of building the model, SD view displays the progress made and the layers stacked. Even before the building of the prototype, SD view displays the material required, total build time as well as its price in money value. In this research, the software was set to display the value of material in INR. Thus, both hardware and software of SD300 work in tandem to produce prototypes in a rapid manner with high precision and accuracy.

4. Investigation

The practical implications of adopting 3D printing as a RP technology were investigated using SD300 in a traditional company manufacturing electronic switches.

The name of this company is Salzer Electronics Limited (hereafter referred to as

Salzer). Salzer is located in Coimbatore city of India and was started in the year 1986 with the collaboration of Saelzer Scaltgeratefabrik, Germany. Salzer’s main product is cam operated rotary electronic switches. Other products manufactured include direct current switches, relays, starters and modular switches. Currently 350 employees are working in Salzer. At the time of inception in the year 1986, Salzer’s turnover was less than 10 lakhs INR (equivalent to 25,000 US dollars). The current turnover of Salzer is 18 crores INR (equivalent to 4,500,000 US dollars). Further, Salzer’s products are also accredited by Conformite Europene, Underwriters’ Laboratories Inc, USA and Canadian Standards Association. These accreditations are prerequisites for selling these products in international market. Today Salzer’s products are sold in 45 countries. Because of its internationalisation of activities, Salzer is aggressively journeying towards world class manufacturing ports through ISO 9001 certification and adopting concepts like Kaizen and total productive maintenance (Jin-Hai et al., 2003). Thus, the culture prevailing in Salzer is conducive for learning and developing knowledge. Even Salzer management is permitting the students studying in engineering colleges to use their premises for carrying out applied research. The research being reported in this paper itself has been carried out because of the conducive culture prevailing at Salzer. Even though the Salzer management is not currently having any plan to adopt RP/RM technologies, the first author of this paper was allowed to examine the way of achieving agility using these technologies in Salzer’s working premise.

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4.1 About the product

Salzer’s main product namely cam operated switch was considered during the research being reported here. As the name implies, the cam operated rotary switch is incorporated with a cam mechanism to allow different and desired sequence of operations. Four types of cam operated rotary switches are manufactured in Salzer. They are known in Salzer’s environment as S, TP, RT and PS types. During this research, “S” type switch (hereafter referred to as simply “switch”) was chosen. The important operations carried out by this switch are making and breaking the power circuits and diverting the power line to auxiliary circuits. The design of the switch is so flexible that according to the customers’ varied requirements of operating sequence, the cam can be positioned and the required operations pertaining to each switch can be made. The aesthetics of the switch is appealing to the international customers.

4.2 CAD modelling

A section of the researchers have either implicitly or explicitly reported that advanced manufacturing technologies like CAD and RP are yet to find their authentic position in companies located in various parts of the world (Mansour et al., 2007; Sambasivarao

and Deshmukh, 1995). In this background, it was not surprising to observe the absence of intensive usage of CAD packages in Salzer in spite of its aggressive voyage towards reaching world class manufacturing ports. Hence, this work was started by CAD modelling of the switch using Pro/E software. For this purpose, the 2D drawings of the switch furnished by the design engineer were given as inputs in Pro/E software. The exploded view of the CAD model of the switch thus developed is shown in Figure 1. It was desired to analyse the CAD model of switch with respect to all its features. However, the Salzer management did not allow conducting analysis pertaining to the

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Figure 1. Exploded view of CAD model of “S” type switch

Figure 1. Exploded view of CAD model of “S” type switch electrical circuits of the switch.

electrical circuits of the switch. The Salzer management granted permission to analyse only the three components namely knob, front assembly and mounting plate using their CAD models. This research subsequently proceeded to develop new CAD models of these components of the switch were developed using Pro/E. In this paper, the procedure followed to adopt the new CAD models of the knob is presented. Quiet interestingly, Ruffo et al. (2007) have also used the knob of a switch for studying the make or buy comparison for rapid manufacturing. Creative thinking process was applied by visualising the CAD model of the switch to evolve new models of the knob. The features of the newly evolved CAD models were exposed to the executives of Salzer. Their views were also taken into consideration while evolving the new CAD models of the knob. Thus, the ideas generated through these interactive discussions were pooled which were exploited to develop CAD models using Pro/E software. Finally, six such CAD models were developed. Those models are shown in Figures 2 and 3. Subsequently, a questionnaire was given to the executives for expressing their views on the new CAD models being proposed. The overall view of the executives indicated that they are appreciative of the new CAD models of the knob. The detailed discussion on this feedback is presented in a later section of this paper.

4.3 Rapid prototyping After ensuring the favourable receptivity of the executives towards the new CAD models of the knob, five of them were subjected to investigation for exploring the application of 3D printing technology and thus achieving agility through RP technology. For this purpose, generous knowledge and technological support of a company situated in Coimbatore city of India which is selling SD300 were availed. The name of this company is VectraFORM Engineering & Solutions Private Limited (hereafter referred to as VectraFORM). This research was also financially supported to

Agility through RP technology 1029 Figure 2. Window showing new CAD models coded as M
Agility through RP technology 1029 Figure 2. Window showing new CAD models coded as M

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Figure 2. Window showing new CAD models coded as M 1 , M 2 and M 3

Figure 3. Window showing CAD models coded as M 4 , M 5 and M 6

a partial extent by VectraFORM. The customers of VectraFORM are major Indian companies like Ashok Leyland, Premier Instruments and Controls Limited, Royal Enfield and Hero Honda Motors. Two days were spent by the first author for discussing with the director of VectraFORM regarding the feasibility of building prototypes using SD300. During this discussion, attempts were made to study the feasibility of building the prototypes for

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all the six models of the knob. In order to avoid excessive expenditure, it was decided to run SD300 for one set-up only. It was found that in one set-up, only a maximum of five models could be accommodated. Hence, it was decided to drop a model with low receptivity from building the prototypes. Accordingly, a model named as M 2 was dropped from the study of building the prototype using SD300. The cost of building these prototypes was indicated by SD view. Since this work was being pursued for research purpose, the Director of VectraFORM was gracious enough to waive the running cost of the SD300. Only the material cost which amounted to INR 1500 (US$ 37.5) was charged by the Director of VectraFORM. Once the preliminary discussions and proposals were completed, the five CAD models of knob were loaded into the computer interfaced with SD300. Then the SD300 was run. There were 107 layers which took the SD300 to build the prototypes in four hours. Once the building of prototypes was completed, the SD300 prompted it by making a beep noise. At that point of time, the magnetic tray containing “build stack” of knob models was removed. This was followed by “post processing” during which time the excessive support material was peeled off. The “post processing” involving the removal of excessive support material was carried out within an hour. Finally, the photograph shown in Figure 4 was taken which displays the prototypes of the new knob models. Thus, the new CAD models developed by referring to the existing model of knobs were finally converted into prototypes within a short period of time by making use of SD300.

4.4 Analysis A drawback of RP technologies including 3D printing technology is that the prototypes are not built using the actual materials (Dimitrov et al. , 2006). Hence, the mechanical properties of the prototypes cannot be subjected to physical tests. Hence, during this research, the ANSYS software was used to test the two mechanical engineering properties namely stress and strain. The CAD models of both the existing and new

Figure 4.

Prototypes built

using SD300

properties namely stress and strain. The CAD models of both the existing and new Figure 4.

models were subjected to analysis. The results displayed by the ANSYS indicated that both the existing and proposed models of knob are mechanically safe to operate. One of such results displaying screens pertaining to a model whose code name is M 4 , displayed by ANSYS is shown in Figure 5. As shown, the values displayed are within the safer limits. Hence, it is interpreted that the knob is mechanically safe.

5. Results and discussions The process of developing prototypes of knobs in a rapid manner to investigate the practical implications of the 3D printing technology as a RP technology for promoting agility was carried out in Salzer which is a typical traditional company. Though this research proceeded smoothly, its practical receptivity had to be investigated in two different directions. In the first direction, the mindset of the practitioners towards adopting RP technology like 3D printing technology for achieving agility had to be investigated. For this purpose, the receptivity of both CAD and the prototypes built using the SD300 was investigated by giving a questionnaire to the executives of Salzer. Each questionnaire contained three questions against each CAD model and the corresponding prototype. The respondents had to respond by ticking the value in the Likert’s scale of range 0-10. The questions asked and the summary of the responses of the respondents are shown in Tables I and II. Besides, an open ended question against all CAD models and the prototypes built using SD300 was asked. The reactions of the executives against this question are shown in Tables III and IV. As shown, the executives’ reactions were positive towards the development of CAD models and the prototypes built using SD300. Despite the feedback indicating the favourable receptivity of CAD modelling and 3D printing technology for achieving agility, the cost factor involved had to be closely studied for investigating the practical implications. As mentioned earlier, the material cost for building the prototype incurred during this research was INR 1,500 (equivalent to 37.5 US dollars). This amount is so negligible

to 37.5 US dollars). This amount is so negligible Agility through RP technology 1031 Figure 5.

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Figure 5. Window depicting the first principal stress observed in the knob using ANSYS

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that no traditional manufacturing company would find it unaffordable. The knowledge input into the development of CAD models and the running cost of the 3D printer were not exactly accounted. However, according to an approximate estimate, the cost of the knowledge input into the process of developing CAD models and the running cost of SD300 would be INR 10,000 (equivalent to 250 US dollars). Even if this cost is considered, the total amount is still affordable to a traditional manufacturing company. Hence, the cost factor would not be a sensitive factor and what is required at this

Mean response in Likert’s scale of range 0-10

 

Question number

Question

M 1

M 2

M 3

M 4

M 5

M 6

I

To what extent do you think that the development of this model is technically feasible at Salzer?

8.4

6.4

7.0

7.4

7.8

7.2

Table I. Responses gathered after developing new CAD models of the knob

II

To what extent do you believe that this model is aesthetically appealing?

8.4

6.0

7.0

6.6

7.6

7.2

III

To what extent do you believe that this model can be manufactured?

8.4

6.4

7.6

6.4

7.8

7.2

 

Mean response in Likert’s scale of range 0-10

 

Question number

Question

M 1 M 3

M 4

M 5

M 6

I

To what extent do you think that the building of this prototype using SD300 is technically feasible at Salzer?

9.0

8.2

8.6

8.0

8.6

Table II. Responses gathered after building prototypes using

II

To what extent do you think that the building of this prototype using SD300 is economically feasible at Salzer?

8.8

8.2

8.2

7.8

8.4

III

To what extent do you believe that the prototype built using SD300 is aesthetically appealing?

 

SD300

8.8

7.8

7.6

7.0

8.4

Question IV Designation of personnel

What is your overall opinion about the new CAD models of the knob? Opinion

Table III. Overall opinions gathered after developing CAD models

Manager – Standards & Systems

Deputy Manager (works)

Senior Engineer – Machine Shop Senior Engineer – Quality Control Application Engineer

The evolution of new models before prototype manufacturing helps to satisfy the customer with the supply of different kinds of knob to meet the varying user requirements and continuously changing points of application The evolution of new models before prototype manufacturing will be very much useful in deciding the design based on the aesthetics, technical and manufacturing feasibility The evolution of new models before prototype manufacturing will be very useful for product development All the models are technically as well as aesthetically feasible

Models are aesthetically good and manufacturable

moment is to sensitise the industry captains of traditional manufacturing companies to nourish the benefits offered by the 3D printing technology for achieving agility in manufacturing organisations.

5.1 Statistical validation

In order to further statistically analyse the feedback of the executives, the quantified values were entered into Software Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The SPSS was used to conduct t -test and examine the acceptance of “contribution of RP technology using 3D printer for enabling agility”. In the first case, the test value was given as nine which would mean that “90 per cent of the opinions are in favour of successful contribution of RP technology using 3D printer for enabling agility in practice at 95 per cent confidence interval”. As the sig. (two-tailed) values for some cases are less than 0.05, this null hypothesis is rejected. In the second case, the null hypothesis was set as “80 per cent of the opinions are in favour of successful contribution of RP technology using 3D printer for enabling agility in practice at 95 per cent confidence interval”. In this case, the significance (two-tailed) values are greater than 0.05. Hence, this null hypothesis is accepted. The screen displayed by SPSS package pertaining to this null hypothesis is shown in Table V. On the whole, this validation study indicated the feasibility of RP technology’s contribution using 3D printer towards enabling agility in practice with the success rate of 80 per cent.

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5.2 Testing the reliability of the questionnaire

In order to check the reliability of the questionnaire, SPSS was used to determine the value of a. The purpose of this study was to check whether the questions truly reflected the intention for which they were designed. The data displayed by SPSS in this regard are shown in Table VI. If the correlation value is more than 0.5 for all questions as well as a is more than 0.7 for the entire questionnaire, then it should be construed that the questionnaire truly reflects the intention for which it is designed and thereby it indicates its reliability in drawing inference (Flynn et al. , 1997). As shown in Table VI, the correlation value is more than 0.5 against all questions and a value is also more than 0.7. Hence, it reveals that the questionnaire is reliable enough to gather the feedback data and draw inferences with regard to applying RP technology using 3D printer for propelling a company towards achieving agility in manufacturing.

Question IV Designation of personnel

What is your overall opinion about the prototypes of knobs? Opinion

Manager – Standards & Systems

The prototypes are made accurately and neatly. They depict the contour of the knobs perfectly and the evaluator could easily feel the actuating mechanism to the satisfactory extent Fine and economic models; design aspects are accurate Modifications could be done by aesthetic viewing; improvements can also be made

Senior Engineer – Machine Shop Senior Engineer – Quality Control

Engineer – Design Customers will get satisfied and aesthetically good

Application Engineer Aesthetically good and feasible

Table IV. Overall opinions gathered after building prototypes using SD300

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One-sample test (test value ¼ 8)

95 Percent confidence interval of the difference

 

t

df

Sig. (two-tailed)

Mean difference

Lower

Upper

1034

A1

2 0.884

5

0.454

1.17

21.13

2.20

A2

0.552

5

0.661

1.00

21.06

1.94

 

A3

0.017

5

1.021

1.00

21.34

1.66

B1

0.000

5

1.000

0.00

21.15

1.15

B2

0.000

5

1.000

0.00

21.33

1.33

B3

2 0.791

5

0.465

20.33

21.42

0.75

C1

1.581

5

0.175

0.67

20.42

1.75

C2

0.000

5

1.000

0.00

20.94

0.94

C3

2 1.000

5

0.363

20.33

21.19

0.52

D1

0.542

5

0.611

0.17

20.62

0.96

D2

2 0.791

5

0.465

20.33

21.42

0.75

Table V. Output of the SPSS package pertaining to the test value 8

D3

2 1.581

5

0.175

21.00

22.63

0.63

E1

1.581

5

0.175

0.67

20.42

1.75

E2

1.581

5

0.175

0.33

20.21

0.88

E3

0.791

5

0.465

0.33

20.75

1.42

 

Reliability analysis – scale ( a) Item total statistics

 
 

Scale mean if item deleted

 

Scale variance if item deleted

Corrected item-total

Alpha if item deleted

correlation

 

Al

114.1667

51.3667

0.3926

0.7827

A2

114.3333

55.8687

0.0897

0.8032

A3

114.3333

55.8667

0.1692

0.7955

B1

115.3333

48.6667

0.5234

0.7715

B2

115.3333

42.2667

0.8512

0.7355

B3

115.6667

51.8667

0.3316

0.7876

C1

114.6667

53.4667

0.2207

0.7963

C2

115.3333

48.6667

0.6731

0.7627

C3

115.6667

54.6667

0.2438

0.7925

D1

115.1667

56.5667

0.0648

0.8021

D2

115.6667

49.8667

0.4753

0.7760

D3

116.3333

56.2667

2 0.0344

0.8358

E1

114.6667

46. 6667

0.7181

0.7554

E2

115.0000

50.8000

0.9238

0.7646

Table VI. Output of the SPSS package pertaining to the alpha value

E3

115.0000

44.8000

0.8650

0.7420

Reliability coefficients No. of cases ¼ 6.0 a ¼ 0.7937

 

No. of items ¼ 15

6. Managerial implications and roadmap The experiences of conducting this research indicated that managerial implications of applying RP technology were found to play a key role in achieving agility. Particularly, the managerial personnel shall be appreciative of adopting RP technology for

achieving agility. This is due to the reason that RP technology is not widespread in many developing countries. Hence, the mindset of managerial personnel in this direction should be tuned to favour RP technology applications for achieving agility. In order to achieve the appreciation of the managerial personnel, a company has to proceed through a roadmap consisting of activities that would trigger the managerial personnel to adopt RP technology for achieving agility. In this context, the experiences of pursuing this research were used to propose a roadmap for applying 3D printer as a RP technology device to acquire agile characteristics by traditional manufacturing companies. This roadmap is shown in Figure 6.

Develop the culture for absorbing advanced technologies

6. Develop the culture for absorbing advanced technologies Spread the literacy on digitalisation of design, prototyping

Spread the literacy on digitalisation of design, prototyping and manufacturing functions

of design, prototyping and manufacturing functions Educate the managerial employees on CAD, CAM and RP

Educate the managerial employees on CAD, CAM and RP technology

the managerial employees on CAD, CAM and RP technology Train the non-managerial employees on CAD, CAM

Train the non-managerial employees on CAD, CAM and RP technology

the non-managerial employees on CAD, CAM and RP technology Develop the habit of discussing the details

Develop the habit of discussing the details using CAD models in programmes like quality circles and kaizen

CAD models in programmes like quality circles and kaizen Take steps to interface CAD with CAM

Take steps to interface CAD with CAM

circles and kaizen Take steps to interface CAD with CAM Develop new models using CAD Hire

Develop new models using CAD

steps to interface CAD with CAM Develop new models using CAD Hire the hardware and software

Hire the hardware and software facilities for developing prototypes using 3D printer

facilities for developing prototypes using 3D printer Investigate the role of CAD/CAM and 3D printer in

Investigate the role of CAD/CAM and 3D printer in achieving agility

the role of CAD/CAM and 3D printer in achieving agility Refine the steps if necessaryto achieve

Refine the steps if necessaryto achieve agility in reality

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Figure 6. Proposed roadmap enabling the traditional manufacturing companies to acquire agility using 3D printer

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The rationale behind these steps is described in this section. Majority of the smaller companies, particularly those are located in rural areas, are yet to fully apply automation in their manufacturing environments (Tennyson et al. , 2006). Hence, educational programmes are to be conducted in organisations to expose the features of advanced manufacturing technologies to the management, executives and employees. This kind of exercise has been successful in the field of TQM wherein the large volume of education on ISO 9001 series standards has led to the widespread dissemination of knowledge on quality systems in organisations of all types and sizes (Tari and Sabater, 2004). Similar to this exercise, the educational and training programmes on adopting the design, prototyping and manufacturing solutions need to be conducted in the organisation. Once this nature of literacy level improves, education and training programmes on CAD, CAM and RP technology are required to be conducted among both managerial and non-managerial level employees. For this purpose, the services of various professional associations may be sought. As part of programmes like TQM and TPM, the employee participative programmes like quality circles and kaizen are being conducted in the organisations which are aspiring to achieve world class status (Jin-Hai et al., 2003). These programmes may be utilized as a vehicle to disseminate CAD. During these programmes, discussions may be held with reference to the products and components using their CAD models. Subsequently, these CAD models may be input into a CAM package to develop codes required for manufacturing (Chang et al., 1997). Currently, most of the digitally compatible machine tools like machining centre and CNC machines are fed by the codes which are developed separately. This practice may be slowly stopped by interfacing CAD and CAM (Chen and Wu, 1994). These steps indicated in the roadmap will help the organisation to develop the roots of CAD and CAM. Subsequently, the creative ideas of the employees and management may be utilized to develop CAD models. Since at this stage, literacy on CAD would be prevailing in the organisation, both the employees and managerial level personnel would be in a position to develop CAD models and assimilate its features. If the organisation feels that purchasing a 3D printer would be uneconomical, then the software and hardware associated with it may be hired. At this stage, the company may adopt one or few models by visualising the prototypes developed using 3D printer and launch the same into the market based upon the customers’ reactions. Finally, the role of bringing out the prototypes within a short period of time using the 3D printer and making it to happen in production environment for achieving agility need to be investigated. For this purpose, appropriate agile measurement indices or formulas may be used (Kumar and Motwani, 1995; Lin et al. , 2006). If the agility is not very effective, the steps followed to bring out prototypes in a rapid manner and facilitate rapid production with the purpose of achieving agility need to be investigated and refined. Thus, given the existing illiteracy level on advanced technologies like CAD, CAM and RP technology, a traditional manufacturing organisation can achieve agility by adopting 3D printing technology, albeit only after carrying out the foundational activities specified in this roadmap.

7. Conclusions The ever increasing competition has been spontaneously making the companies to become agile (Yusuf and Adeleye, 2002; Jin-Hai et al., 2003). On realising this trend, the researchers are working under the umbrella name AM to contribute the characteristics

that are required to be imbibed by the traditional organisations to acquire agility. At the same time, AM is imbibed in certain fields like software development, electronics and automobile which is largely reflected in the form of shrinking time of product

development (Helo, 2006; Hooper et al. , 2001; Mondragon et al. , 2004). A unique feature

of AM is the adoption of both technology and management for quickly responding to

the customers’ dynamic demands (Brown and Bessant, 2003). Yet the researchers are highly biased towards adopting managerial principles for achieving agility (Gunasekaran, 1999, Brown and Bessant, 2003). A literature search would indicate that very few researchers have been working on the adoption of advanced technologies for achieving agility in organisations (Gunasekaran, 1999; Maskell, 2001). This is a surprising deficiency in AM research arena where there has been significant thrust on adopting technologies like CAD, CAM and RP (Yusuf and Adeleye, 2002). On realising

this deficiency, this paper has reported a research in which efforts were made to investigate the infusing of CAD and RP technology in a traditional manufacturing organisation for achieving agility. During this research, six new CAD models of knobs

of electronics switches could be designed using Pro/E software within twelve hours.

Subsequently, the prototypes of five of those new models could be developed using SD300 in just four hours. Thus, the product development with variety, innovation, and quality occurred through these technologies to portray their capabilities in achieving agility. These capabilities enabled through the application of 3D printing technology will result in business benefits like acquisition of broader customer domain, higher profitability and enhanced competitiveness. In other words, the tactical adoption of 3D printing technology will aid the contemporary organisations to achieve business prosperity and thereby, corporate success. The experiences of this research indicated that the journey of adopting CAD and RP

technologies for achieving agility would be smooth in traditional manufacturing companies. Yet the culture and mindset of the captains and employees of those companies will have to be tuned to voyage through this journey. Similar view is expressed by Tennyson et al. (2006) with reference to applying RP and RM in smaller companies. Even though Salzer is aggressively journeying towards reaching the world class manufacturing ports, its management is content with the existing products being produced. Hence, the management of Salzer is not willing to adopt CAD and 3D printing technology, though the executives are appreciative of them. However, the management has agreed to adopt in future the new models of knob proposed during this research. Still, the management is yet to agree on developing a knowledge force exclusively to

develop CAD models and build prototypes using 3D printing technology. This situation indicates that, sensitisation of the management and employees are vital requirement to infuse agility through the adoption of technologies like CAD and RP. In order to provide

a solution in this direction, a roadmap has been proposed in this paper. Future

researches may be pursued by following the steps suggested in this roadmap in several traditional organisations which would yield valuable and interesting findings. The limitation of the research reported in this paper is the conduct of implementation study

in only one company. However, this limitation would not affect the generalisation of the

findings of this research as the culture prevailing in Salzer mimics the characteristics of

world class companies reported in literature (Jin-Hai et al. , 2003). Hence, these findings would make the captains of traditional industries to realise the importance of adopting CAD and 3D printer for achieving agility and thereby acquiring global competitiveness.

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About the authors S. Vinodh is a Lecturer in Production Engineering, Department of National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India. He has been awarded PhD in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at Anna University, Chennai, India during February 2009. He pursued his Master’s degree in Production Engineering at PSG College of Technology and obtained this degree recently from Anna University, Chennai, India. He studied at Government College of Technology, Coimbatore and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Bharathiar University, India in 2004. He was a gold medalist in his undergraduate study. He has been awarded Best Outgoing Student by PSG College of Technology. He has published 13 papers in international journals. He has published 32 papers in the proceedings of the leading national and international conferences. His research interests include total quality management, agile manufacturing, innovation management and computer aided design. S. Vinodh is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: vinodh_sekar82@yahoo.com G. Sundararaj is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Department of PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering. He received his PhD degree for his work on Risk Management in the year 1999. He has worked in a public sector steel plant for

about 12 years. He has been teaching and involved in research and development for about 12 years. His areas of research interest include safety management, agile manufacturing and total quality management. S.R. Devadasan is a Professor in Production Engineering, Department of PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering. He received his PhD degree for his work on Strategic Quality Management in the year 1996. He obtained all his degrees from Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India. He has 15 years of teaching and research experience. He has published over 180 papers in the proceedings of the leading national and international conferences. He has published 22 papers international journals like Production Planning & Control , International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management , International Journal of Operations & Production Management . He is an editorial board member of the European Journal of Innovation Management , UK. His areas of research interest include, strategic quality management, agile manufacturing and total quality management. D. Kuttalingam is currently a fourth year Bachelor of Engineering Student of Production Engineering sandwich course of PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, India. His areas of research interests include agile manufacturing, computer aided design and total quality management. D. Rajanayagam is currently working as Manager – Standards & Systems at Salzer Electronics, Coimbatore, India. He studied at Coimbatore Institute of Technology, Coimbatore and obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering branch from Bharathiar University, India in the year 1988. He has 18 years of industrial experience. His areas of interest include total quality management, quality and reliability engineering and alternate energy resources.

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