Are CIOs Ready To Enter The World Of 3D Printed Metal Objects?

As companies start to print 3D metal objects, the CIO is going to be involved
As companies start to print 3D metal objects, the CIO is going to be involved
Image Credit: gillyan9

Just in case you missed it, the world around us is changing. Although CIOs like to surround themselves with things like servers, software, clouds, and secure networks, we need to keep in mind that our company employs us for a reason. They understand the importance of information technology and they want us to help them to harness it so that they can do what they do better. For a lot of firms this means that they want to make things quicker, better, faster. Manufacturing may seem like it’s old school, but it’s often the reason that our company exists in the first place.

What Is 3D Metal Printing

I’m hoping that we are all familiar with so-called “3D printing” by now. The proper term for this type of product creation is called “additive manufacturing”. If you go out to just about any mall these days you’ll come across some store that is using 3D printing to make small, customized, plastic figures. However, when we start to talk about the type of things that most companies make, everything changes.

Printing plastic objects using 3D printing is quickly turning into a mature technology. However, when it comes to printing metal objects using this technology, the field is still in its infancy. The way that metal objects are made today requires molds and machine tools to shape the metal into the desired form. Because of the limitations of these tools, the engineers who design parts have to limit their designs based on what can actually be manufactured. The most important thing to note here is that the metal product created by the company is generally less than the ideal product that they would like to be able to make.

All of this changes when you introduce 3D metal printing. What the person with the CIO job needs to understand is that when you are 3D printing metal objects, you now have to go back and rethink the entire product design process. The new printing technology along with the advanced design software that comes along with it has the potential to transform industries. Changing to this new way of doing things is going to require companies to abandon their long-held preconceptions of how to do engineering, design, and management of the manufacturing process.

What Role Will CIOs Play In Introducing 3D Metal Printing?

The person in the CIO position is going to be playing a key role in the transformation as the company moves from the old way of doing things to the new way. The new way will start with the advanced design software that will allow engineers to analyze a part that they are creating based on the likely forces and stresses that it will experience. Based on this analysis, the software will then create the ideal shape using the minimum structures necessary. This will result in a part that is generally lighter and more complex than anything that can be created using current techniques. However, this part can be created using 3D metal printing.

The CIO is going to have to play a key role in transforming how the company creates its products. The company’s technical team is going to have to get over the idea of making small, incremental changes to their existing products. Instead, they are going to have to open their minds to redesigning the company’s products in ways that simply were never possible before. If 3D metal printing is used to simply make the company’s existing products the way that they are being made today will result in the company missing out on the big gains that are possible.

The need to transform how your company makes its metal products is increasing. Competitive pressure to adopt this new technology is starting to grow and the use of 3D metal printing is starting to become more common. Sales of 3D metal printing machines which often cost more than US$1M have increased from 100 in 2005 to over 800 last year. One of the biggest improvements that 3D metal printing can provide is that traditional metal products often have a lengthy supply chain that is required to supply a firm with all of the individual components that need to come together to create a finished product. With a 3D metal printer the need for this supply chain goes away and everything that is needed for the product can be printed all at once.

What All Of This Means For You

CIOs of companies that create metal products need to understand that their industry is getting ready to undergo a significant transformation. The arrival of 3D metal printing, although still in its infancy, holds out the promise of changing everything. The way that metal products are designed and built today is due to the limitations of the existing manufacturing process which is based on molds and machine tools.

The new world of 3D metal printing is going to change everything. Currently engineers have to limit how they design parts in order to meet the restrictions of how metal objects can be manufactured. The arrival of 3D metal printing is going to cause the company to have to rethink their entire design process. The CIO is going to be playing an important role in helping the company change from how it currently does manufacturing to how it will be doing manufacturing. The CIO will be responsible for opening people’s minds to the new possibilities that this technology can provide them with.

These are exciting times that we are living in. As your company’s CIO you are going to have to step up and help lead the charge as the company start to make fundamental changes to how the company performs its core manufacturing activities. This may be a new area for you; however, the company is going to need your leadership. You are going to have to be the one who helps them to understand just what a new world with 3D metal printing can look like.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What will be the best way to get the company to throw away how they used to design products?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we think about what it takes to make a CIO successful, what comes to your mind? Is it technical knowledge: clouds, network security, virtualization, etc.? Is it understanding the importance of information technology? Is it superior people management skills? I’m more than willing to agree that all of these are important things for the person with the CIO job to have. However, I think that there is one thing that may be more important for a CIO to have than everything else all taken together. What is this magical thing you ask? Simple. It’s called hope.