Combining Blockchain and Additive Manufacturing : The Next step of evolution in On demand manufacturing

Moog’s Online Parts Marketplace- VeriPart

Earlier this week, I came across a news article in WSJ that highlighted an excellent use case of applying Blockchain in conjunction with 3D printing to create a Digital online spare parts marketplace. A pic of that news article is below. So what exactly is Moog’s VeriPart, how does that work and why this model can be game changing ?

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Image from news article in WSJ (11/27). All copyrights to the article held by WSJ

Simply defined, VeriPart is a Point of Use, need based cloud Supply Chain solution that also provides Digital asset provenance and traceability . It is a step beyond 3D printing based on demand Manufacturing or Manufacturing as Service.

Don’t panic if you think there are two many buzzwords in that definition. We will simplify it and also illustrate why it is significant in the subsequent sections.

VeriPart architecture

The article illustrates an actual scenario where an Air New Zealand plane orders a spare part while the plane is in Auckland, NZ and the part is delivered and installed in the plane a day later in Los Angeles, a day after the order was placed. General turnaround time in aviation for spare parts like these is 10+ days so you can imagine the significant impact of this architecture. I have created an illustration of the process below.



How does it work ?

At a high level, the infrastructure and the process, as shown in the illustration above is simple. Suppliers who list their part on VeriPart, the online marketplace, also upload their part final computer models. Blockchain enabled network  reduces the potential for counterfeit, ensures the original manufacturer retains design ownership, and can aggregate and reward intellectual property from all the stakeholders. End items are guaranteed authentic and hold traceable certification pedigrees for all requirements, intellectual property, processes, and materials used to produce them.

In the specific example in the news article, the airlines purchases the part before the flight is to take off from Auckland in New Zealand. After verifying the authenticity and certifications, a 3D printing facility in Los Angeles prints the part even before the flight touches down in Los Angeles. The part is rushed from the printing location to the airport and technicians then replace the part during maintenance.

Why is this model game changing ?

Authenticity and Tractability have always been a big challenge in today’s sourcing environment where sourcing is Global and parts mostly originate in low cost countries. Establishing their own 3D printing location is a path many manufacturers are still not comfortable with.

This model combines the flexibility of need based, point of use sourcing AND authenticity guarantee, thereby eliminating a major bottleneck on the path to scaled 3D printing usage.

Another aspect is that it can address the high cost/part that is making manufacturers hesitant to embrace Additive Manufacturing on scale. This can give rise to third part manufacturing locations (marketplaces), just like Moog that can pool orders for some fast moving parts for multiple clients- minimizing material waste and providing economies of scale.

One of the biggest value I see is that this same model can be used to create other innovative solutions that I will not be able to discuss on the blog site but we will see them popping up soon- maybe within a year or two.

View my Own.

Moog example based on News article in WSJ (11/27).

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