Digital Rail Maintenance Center Demonstrates The Increasing Influence Of 3D Printing On Modern-Day Manufacturing

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According to press reports, Siemens Mobility GmbH opened a digital rail maintenance center in Germany that will utilize three-dimensional (3D) printing, also referred to as “additive manufacturing.” The rail center will service approximately 100 trains every month. According to Michael Kuczmik, Siemens Mobility’s head of Additive Manufacturing, the use of 3D printing will “rapidly and cost-effectively produce one-off, customized production parts.”

According to sources, the shift to 3D printing at the digital rail maintenance center eliminates “the need for inventory of selected spare parts” and “reduce{s} the manufacturing time of these parts by up to 95%.” Historically, replacement parts were procured through traditional manufacturing methods such as casting, with lead times of up to six weeks. Such procurement methods also typically required high volume orders to be cost effective, which led to unnecessarily higher inventory levels. By using the digital rail maintenance center’s technology, the same parts may now be 3D printed in 13 hours, reducing the need to maintain a significant inventory.

Mr. Kuczmik added, “the ability to 3D print customized tools and spare parts whenever we need them, with no minimum quantity, has transformed our supply chain. We have reduced our dependency on outsourcing tools via suppliers and reduced cost per part, while also opening up more revenue streams by being able to service more low-volume jobs cost-effectively and efficiently.”

As we reported previously, 3D printing continues to reshape manufacturing across a broad segment of industries. The deployment of 3D printing technology to facilitate digital rail maintenance is just another example of this emerging trend.

As with many other technological transformations, the increasing use of 3D printing in manufacturing raises novel legal and policy questions. For example, a 3D-printed replacement part may be covered by an entirely different tariff classification than a comparable part manufactured by traditional methods. Similarly, 3D printing raises issues relating to the classification of a product as an import and about its country or origin. These and similar issues will become more pressing in the future as 3D printing becomes an increasingly important part of the economy.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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