Durability usually isn’t an issue with food machinery, but age and downtime can spell an end to its useful life. Studies suggest compounded costs of 18 to 25 percent per year are incurred when inventorying replacement parts. That’s a big disincentive for both OEMs and distributors to stock replacement parts and components, particularly for older machinery. As a consequence, food manufacturers can be forced to retire otherwise functional machinery because needed components are unavailable.
The solution lies with 3D printing, believes Peer Munck, founder and CEO of 3Discovered, a Chicago start-up that bills itself as an “online exchange platform to facilitate the buying, selling and fabricating of commercial-grade, 3D printed parts.” Munck’s firm is stitching together a global network of 200 print shops that can execute 3D designs for needed components.
Once considered exotic, 3D printing is on the brink of mainstream, with costs plummeting and material options expanding. Thermoplastics, stainless steel, titanium and more than 100 other materials can be used as the materials of construction. United Parcel Service plans on installing polymer 3D printers in 100 locations, and Munck’s firm hopes to include them in its fabrication network. “Think of it as 3D Kinkos,” he jokes.