Reduce factory footprint with 3D printing

Factory footprint is the total area needed for manufacturing one or more product(s). The footprint is also determined by the capacity. That is, how many of such products we will make per month.

We start with a product. For the given product, we then decide on the manufacturing technology required.  We then decide on the capaity. This, in turn, drives the equipment and machinery needed to produce the part.

The total factory or production area needed for a given capacity is often ignored. Factory space is not just so many square feet. Other factors play a part too. Here are some questions we need to answer while determining the type of factory space we need:

  • Is there a need for a clean room? What is the class of clean room we need?
  • What are the lighting requirements? How much of this will be from natural sunlight? How much electrical power will get used for the lighting?
  • How tall should the factory be? Are there overhead cranes and gantries?
  • What  is the list of equipment needed?
  • How much load will the flooring need to bear in kilonewtons?
  • Is there a need to dampen the floor to prevent vibrations?
  • What is the leveling needed on the floor?
  • What is the length of conveyor belts?
  • How many operators will be in the line per shift?
  • How much space to be there between process tools?
  • How much area will assembly facilities occupy?
  • How much area will test facilities occupy?
  • How many external roads do we need to lay to bring in goods?
  • What kind of security arrangements will we need?
  • How much area will inventory and stores occupy?
  • How much area will rest rooms and other facilities occupy?
  • What is the load of the transformer for supplying electric power?
  • Do we need backup power? How much? Will it be a diesel generator or just UPS?

In short, factory area is one of the most expensive real estate in a plant. The total area needed for all the facilities of the plant is the footprint. The primary driver for factory footprint is capacity. The more capacity we have, the larger the footprint. This can a general thumb rule.

How can we reduce factory footprint by additive manufacturing? Generally, 3D printers are compact in size and do not have special power requirements. They will run on just ordinary power lines used for lighting and such. 3D printers will also do away with the need for several process tools as well as one or more assembly steps. This will also help to reduce factory footprint. So the same factory space can cater to higher capacity with 3D printing.

Since factory space is expensive, making better use of it will help the company. An expensive resource thus will get used in a better way.

Factory footprint

Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Ca.

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