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Can composite manufacturing SMEs grow through Network Driven Scaling?

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Network Driven Scaling

In this instance, Network Driven Scaling refers to a connected network of suppliers providing goods and services at scale. The goal of NDS is to achieve collective cost advantages due to an increase in the overall output.

How SMEs leverage Network Driven Scaling: 3D Hubs

Nowadays, most rapid production methods boast of having on-demand production, thanks to the vast network of connected manufacturers providing their services. 3D Hubs is a great example of this, where you can upload a drawing and get an instant quote. However, such a business model relies heavily on the SME network and collaboration with readily accessible CNC manufacturing facilities nearby. Collectively, as a whole, they are able to provide low-cost on-demand production.

SMEs leverage Network Driven Scaling: 3Dhubs

An attempt to leverage Network Driven Scaling for SMEs in composites

Airborne has initiated similar efforts in the composites industry through its Digital Client Portal. The assumption that needs to be made, when increasing accessibility, is that all the SME manufacturing facilities will collectively be able to provide manufacturing services through the digital portal at a lower cost. This hinges heavily on assuming a high scale of production throughout the supply chain. In theory, this would also be able to help reduce the cost to the end-user; thereby increasing the adoption of composites in many other application areas. However, in order to achieve high predictability and scale, the model assumes that SMEs in the network would have access to highly automated production facilities. Sadly, more than 70% of composite manufacturing SMEs lack automation capabilities in their own facility and rely heavily on the craftsmanship of their employees' labor.

Airborne Digital Client Portal

The Missing Piece

In order for Network Driven Scaling to work in the future, most of the SMEs will have to invest in implementing automation in order to achieve high predictability and lower costs through scale. There are systems available that can help move Network Driven Scaling the right direction, but they are currently extremely difficult for SMEs to implement, due to the high price tag. Currently available options are starting from €500k to €2-3Mn for the functional production cell. A list of these systems is below.

Key automation system providers

This does not mean that Network Driven Scaling of composites can't be achieved. If we assume a new innovation can bring down the acquisition and operational costs of such a system, somewhere in line with industrial 3D printers (€50k-€60k), the Network Driven Scaling should be possible to achieve. We believe that the missing piece is here!

Providing SMEs with cost-effective, robotic composites manufacturing systems: Addcomposites

Addcomposites has created a plug & play toolhead that easily mounts onto any standard industrial robotic arm. The available monthly subscription of this tool package brings the capabilities of the aforementioned systems to SMEs, without their price tag. Available for only €2000 per month, this helps in solving the puzzle to achieve Network Driven Scaling for SMEs, lowering the barrier of entry to i4.0, and enabling more growth in many application areas.

Are you an Innovation-driven SME?

For early adopters of the AFP-XS system, we are running a special offer while supplies last. See if you are eligible here.


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