Senvol-Determining Cost-Effectiveness of Additive Manufacturing (AM)

 

The additive manufacturing industry is rapidly evolving. In early January 2015 a company named Senvol, based in New York City, launched the Senvol Database. The Senvol Database is reported to be the first and only searchable database for industrial additive manufacturing machines and materials. The company also offers a service utilizing the Senvol Algorithm to help determine whether the use of additive technologies is cost effective. Senvol is managed by co-founders and Co-Presidents Zach Simkin and Annie Wang.

We caught up with Zach Simkin and Annie Wang, Co-Presidents, to learn about the company and Senvol Database in an exclusive AMazing® conversation.

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AMazing®Zach and Annie, thank you for your participation. I imagine it has been a busy time since launching the Senvol Database. Tell us about Senvol. What inspired you to start the business?

Annie: We met while getting our MBAs at Wharton Business School in Philadelphia several years ago. We were in a class titled “Innovations”, and there was an assignment on additive manufacturing. Zach and I both shared a passion for the technology. My prior background was in operations consulting, and I had worked with several manufacturers that could have benefited greatly from additive manufacturing.

Zach: Similarly, I recognized the technology’s ability to solve many of the supply chain challenges that I had experienced first-hand at my previous manufacturing company, and I was inspired to help manufacturers benefit from the implementation of additive manufacturing.

AMazing®: Both of you are members of the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. How has being on the committee helped you better understand the needs of the additive manufacturing industry?

Annie: As a member of F42 we’re able to see the industry from a very broad lens. This means being able to see the various ways in which the industry can advance – for example, through the establishment of standardized terminology or testing methods, or through sharing best practices and manufacturing guidelines. As members, we’re excited to help bring about those necessary advancements.

AMazing®As we understand, the Senvol Database is a searchable database for industrial additive manufacturing (AM) machines and materials. How comprehensive is the database in terms of machines and materials from an industry perspective? 

Zach: The database contains virtually every industrial additive manufacturing machine and material that is on the market. Not only does it include all of the industrial machines and materials from the more well-known manufacturers (e.g. 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS, ExOne), but it also includes machines and materials from the less well-known manufacturers (e.g. Sciaky, Shaanxi Hengtong, Fabrisonic, Lithoz).

Image courtesy of Senvol

Image courtesy of Senvol

Annie: Also, the information contained on each machine and material in the database is extremely thorough. In fact, users can search the database by over 30 fields, such as machine build size, material type, or material tensile strength.

AMazing®: The Senvol Database was recently expanded and now includes over 350 machines and over 500 materials. How often is the database updated? Who provides the machine and material specifications?

Annie: The database is updated continually, and it contains the specs published by the machine and material manufacturers. We have a close working relationship with the machine and material manufacturers, and so we are often the first to hear about updates. Additionally, we have an extremely active user base. We very much value input and feedback from our user community.  Anytime users have a comment, suggestion, or idea, they are encouraged to email us at database@senvol.com. It’s through the power of our user community that we are able to continuously improve and update the Senvol Database.

Image courtesy of Senvol

Image courtesy of Senvol

AMazing®: As a solutions provider, what has surprised you most when working with clients to determine whether use of additive technologies is an appropriate manufacturing option over conventional manufacturing practices?

Zach: Their eagerness to learn and ability to quickly digest information. Large companies are generally considered to be slow movers, which in some respects is true. However, we’ve found that most manufacturers recognize that additive manufacturing is a disruptive technology, and they are quickly moving to develop a strategy to assess the technology and implement it where appropriate.

AMazing®: In a CCTV America interview presented on your website, Annie you mentioned that the use of additive technologies often represents a more expensive option over conventional manufacturing practices. However, when parts are properly evaluated and found appropriate for additive manufacturing, substantial cost savings can be realized. How important is it to utilize cost-benefit analysis, when considering additive technologies, toward developing a successful long-term business strategy? (To see the full interview press here.)

Annie: It’s critical. Just because something can be made with additive manufacturing does not mean that it should be made with additive manufacturing. Conducting a detailed, quantifiable cost-benefit analysis is paramount to determine where and when the technology is cost-effective to implement.

AMazing®: On your website you list seven supply chain scenarios to help identify whether a part will benefit from additive manufacturing. Would you please talk about these seven scenarios?   

Zach: It’s important to recognize that additive manufacturing is not simply a manufacturing solution, but rather is a supply chain solution. We have conducted a wide variety of quantitative additive manufacturing analyses, and based on this work, we have identified 7 supply chain scenarios that tend to lend themselves well to additive manufacturing. The 7 scenarios include supply chain situations such as long lead-times, high inventory costs, and remote locations.

Annie: For the full list of the 7 scenarios, you can visit our website, www.senvol.com. Each of the 7 scenarios is explained there.

AMazing
®: There are two fascinating case studies on your website. In one case study the engineering specifications for the conventionally manufactured GE part can be satisfied by polymer additive processes, as well as metal additive processes. Does this occur often whereby a conventionally manufactured part can be additively manufactured in polymers and metals and satisfy all engineering specifications? (To read the case studies press here.)

Annie: It does happen, and in these cases, the design engineers have specifically designed (or re-designed) a part for additive manufacturing. Using complex geometries, it is possible for a metal part to be re-designed such that a polymer additive manufacturing process will meet all of the required engineering specs. This does not occur in the majority of cases, but again, it is possible.

AMazing®In the same case study a “wave pattern” is noted on the two additive manufacturing cost curves, related to the effect of inefficient print batches. How do inefficient print batches affect the cost-benefit analysis?

Zach: It usually depends on whether or not a manufacturer batches orders together. Having a full print bed (i.e. having as little “empty”, or wasted, space as possible) is most efficient. Therefore, where feasible, it is most cost-effective to batch orders together in order to fill up the print bed as much as possible.

Video courtesy of Senvol

AMazing®As stated on your website, the most impactful additive manufacturing (AM) variables (on total AM cost) are often material cost, part volume, AM machine cost and AM machine throughput. Based upon your experience of these variables, and from a product lifecycle standpoint, which single variable is most likely to present a major obstacle to overcome for an average business?

Annie: All of these variables, and others, need to be quantifiably analyzed and taken into consideration. Each company and each supply chain is different, and whether or not additive manufacturing is cost-effective can vary greatly depending upon the specifics of the case at hand.

Zach: Absolutely. For instance, other variables, such as qualification costs, can be equally (or more) impactful. For example, qualification costs in the aerospace industry can be tremendous, and this can often tip the balance against additive manufacturing being cost-effective.

AMazing®: Based upon the users that have used the Senvol Database, have you noticed any trends in machine or material interests?

Annie: There is a general trend towards data consumption. Users want more data points to assess. For materials, this means reporting more thorough and detailed material properties.

Zach: The additive manufacturing landscape is changing so quickly. New machines and materials are constantly being brought to market. The Senvol Database helps companies and individuals to track the industry and to find the right machines and materials for their specific application.

AMazing®As the additive manufacturing industry is rapidly evolving, what trends have you noticed?

Annie: There are currently three major challenges that we anticipate the industry will tackle. First, there needs to be a crystal clear and well-defined process to fabricate parts with a closed loop feedback system to ensure that parts are high in quality and repeatable. Second, we expect to see a lot of material and process innovation in the future that will begin to solve the problems of limited material choices and low throughput. Third, we expect to see more automation in the fabrication process and post-processing, which will eventually decrease the cost of additive manufacturing.

AMazing®As the industry evolves over the next several years, what’s next on the horizon for Senvol? What do you hope to see?

Zach: This is an exciting time to be in the additive manufacturing industry.  Additive manufacturing has a wide reach, and its reach is only growing as the technology continues to rapidly advance. For us at Senvol, we’re very excited to continue the roll-out of tools and services that will help to meet the needs of the many stakeholders in the industry.

This concludes our interview. Thank you very much Zach and Annie for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to learn about Senvol and the Senvol Database.

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Zach Simkin_Senvol_Headshot15About Zach:
Zach is passionate about business strategy and educating business leaders on additive manufacturing. He is published in top industry journals, has presented at numerous conferences, and has written papers and business cases on how companies can incorporate additive manufacturing into their long term business strategy.

Zach is also a member of the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Prior to co-founding Senvol, Zach was the Director of Corporate Development at HYSO, a manufacturer of public health and hygiene products. Zach received a BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and an MBA in Operations & Information Management from the Wharton Business School.

Annie Wang_Senvol_Headshot15About Annie:
Annie’s particular area of expertise is supply chain process engineering and financial analysis for the additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D printing) industry. She helps companies understand how specific choices along the product lifecycle (e.g. design, manufacturing, supply chain) impact the company’s bottom line.

Annie is a member of the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Prior to co-founding Senvol, Annie worked for an operations consulting firm where she assisted clients in the manufacturing, finance, telecom, and healthcare industries. Annie received a BA in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated Cum Laude, and an MBA from the Wharton Business School and an MA in International Studies from The Lauder Institute.

About Senvol
Senvol is a services firm that conducts analytics exclusively for the additive manufacturing industry. Senvol has worked with a variety of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies in industries such as aerospace, oil & gas, consumer products, and automotive. Senvol also provides the Senvol Database, the industry’s first and only free, searchable database for additive manufacturing machines & materials.

To check out the Senvol Database and start your search, visit http://www.senvol.com/database.

To learn more about Senvol, visit http://www.senvol.com, or follow @Senvol on Twitter.

For media inquiries, please contact: info(at)senvol(dot)com.

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Republication or redistribution of AMazing content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of AMazing. AMazing® is a registered trademark of Amazing AM, LLC.

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