Digital Spare Parts

Research output: Working paperProfessional

Researchers

Research units

  • VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Abstract

Digital spare parts is a concept where the spare parts and the related manufacturing data are stored and transferred in digital form. The spare parts are manufactured using 3D printing according to need, usually close to the end user’s premises. The digitalisation of spare parts aims for a better, more flexible and quicker availability of spare parts, and lower storage, manufacturing and transport costs. The quicker delivery of spare parts can also reduce downtime, which can mean significant cost savings.

It is essential in the digitalisation of the companies' spare parts to find the parts in the spare part libraries that bring the greatest benefit when they are stored in digital form and manufactured by 3D printing. Such parts include, in particular, parts of old equipment and machines and slowly circulating parts with complex geometries. Today, 3D printing can be used to manufacture high-performance pieces, and the method is excellently suited to the manufacturing of individual pieces or short-run batches; it also allows the improvement of the spare parts, with updated and intelligent spare parts as examples.

Information on a company's spare parts is scattered between multiple systems, and manufacturing data in particular may be difficult to find. At the initial stage, it is important to identify the 3D printable parts in the spare part libraries and digitalise them, not only with regard to 3D models but all other manufacturing data from materials and tolerances to the required post-processing data. The digitalisation of spare parts requires 3D design competence, knowledge of the 3D printing processes, and familiarisation with the printable materials.

Spare parts are rarely designed to be manufactured by 3D printing; on the other hand, the selection of 3D printable materials remains reasonably limited, due to which situations where a part is manufactured from a replacement material will likely occur. 3D printing processes produce their own kind of a structure and surface finish, due to which the post-processing of 3D printable parts, such as heat treatments and finishing, must be carefully chosen. The goal is that the properties of parts manufactured by 3D printing are at least as good as those of conventionally manufactured parts.

The vision of the roadmap for digital spare parts presented in the report is that after ten years or so, 10% of spare parts are digital, and the manufacturing technology is reliable and is of a high quality. In other words, quality verification, the extension of the related material selection and the automation of processes are required of the 3D printing technologies.

3D printing creates new possibilities for the development of the operation of parts, equipment or entire processes. IDs and sensors can be embedded into 3D printed parts, allowing the tracking of their movement in the supply network and anticipatory condition monitoring. A spare part of the future will be able to automatically order a new part from a digital spare part library so that it can be replaced by the new part just at the right time before the machine breaks down or the process stops.

Details

Original languageEnglish
PublisherAalto University
Number of pages67
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-60-3746-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

    Research areas

  • rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, rapid manufacturing

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ID: 18094132