#3DStartup: Replique on 3D Printing Secure Spare Parts
As 3D printing becomes more and more popular, large companies are trying to find ways to test the technologies. However, investing in machines can be expensive, especially when your workforce is not trained in additive manufacturing. Luckily, there are other solutions, like our 3D printing startup of the month for July, Replique. The 3D printing platform is designed for end-to-end industrial 3D printing and hopes to make 3D printing more accessible to companies worldwide. And the demand is clear, already the company has worked with large OEMs such as Miele and Siena Garden, among others. To learn more about how the platform works, we sat down with Henrike Wonneberger, one of the founders and the COO of Replique.
3DN: Could you introduce yourself and Replique?
Sure. My name is Henrike Wonneberger, and I am one of the founders and the COO of Replique, the end-to-end 3D printing platform that offers OEMs a secure and efficient way of providing parts anytime, anywhere. My academical and professional background lies in chemistry and business administration, and I previously worked in different positions in BASF ranging from R&D to business build-up to digital business model innovation. In fact, my connection and fascination for 3D printing came through the idea of being able to shift spare parts from a physical to a digital inventory and being able to rethink supply chain for these parts. 3D printing with the freedom to build all kinds of geometry in different materials purely from data is very powerful!
Replique was founded during my time in the digitization department of BASF. We saw the need for a new solution in spare part business that solves typical problems such as long lead times, high minimum order quantities and supply chain disruptions. Our idea was to digitize and produce spare parts on demand so that they are available anytime and anywhere. To realize this vision, Replique started its journey in Chemovator GmbH, the internal venture builder of BASF, in early 2020. Replique helps OEMs to shift parts from a physical to a digital inventory and thereby build a flexible and robust supply chain for those parts. As an end-to-end solution, we support our customers along the entire value chain, including design, technology and material selection, digital warehousing, and secure decentralized manufacturing.
3DN: Replique provides what you consider to be the first fully encrypted 3D printed platform. Could you tell us about how it works?
Following our interviews with OEMs and customers, we know that data security, and quality assurance, are two primary areas for anyone who wants to produce with external partners. That is why the encryption of all data on our platform is a key feature of our business model. For us, the process starts with the qualification of 3D printable parts, as this is the first requirement for high quality printouts. This includes material and technology selection, as well as the determination of production parameters according to the part’s requirements. We then store the qualified part designs with secured production parameters in our digital inventory.
This is where our encryption enters the game: once a part is ordered by a customer, the locked production information, including the requested ordering amount is sent to the right print farm partner in our global network. This way, parts are only printed in the required amount and quality. As part of our quality assurance, we further include an automated quality documentation process, where the final production information, including a certificate of analysis, is linked to the produced part, and stored in the Replique platform.
3DN: What is the importance of having this kind of end-to-end solution in industrial 3D printing?
To secure the high quality of 3D printed parts, companies working with service bureaus have to know about the best partners at each manufacturing location and for each material-technology combination. If you think about all the different options in 3D printing it becomes obvious that this becomes a nearly impossible task. Just think of this equation: The amount of different AM options = The amount of printer manufacturers x technologies x materials x locations. The options seem endless.
As a platform we know more about the different materials, printers, partners and use cases than one alone can. We know who the best suppliers and specialists are and can provide our customers with fast access to all common additive manufacturing technologies and materials over our worldwide network. Our qualification services make sure that designs are converted into high-quality printed parts. Here, we benefit from our background at BASF in manufacturing and supplying OEMs in various businesses. Moreover, we have just recently launched our trusted material partner network to further accelerate industrial 3D printing with tailored and best-in-class material solutions. Our digital inventory can be seen as the interface between production partners and customers. Especially when connected to business processes such as ERP and web shops, it enables a more convenient ordering process.
3DN: You are focused especially on the creation of spare parts, why? How is 3D printing useful for the creation of spare parts?
Every spare part manager knows the challenge. With each new product line, the amount of different spare parts rises over the years – especially within sectors, where machines are used for more than 15 years, e. g. machinery, transportation, agriculture, and construction. Ensuring spare part availability becomes complex. Stocking all parts leads to huge inventory costs, as well as the risk of obsolescence. If a part is not available however, this leads to high costs in procurement due to factors such as high minimum order quantities and express shipments. For critical spare parts even worse: Lead times can be huge.
Decentralized 3D printing combined with a digital inventory can solve those challenges. Spare parts are available anytime and can be produced on-demand, wherever they are needed. This reduces costs, while increasing customer satisfaction – a win-win for both OEMs and end-customers.
3DN: Are there other applications you are targeting? Which ones?
It is not just existing parts that can be produced with 3D printing, the technologies also enable more innovation in the industry. Right now, we see a rising interest in the industrial production of new parts using 3D printing, for example for the launch of new accessories. In traditional manufacturing, the production of small series is connected to high costs and risk, e. g. due to the need for expensive tools and molds. Using 3D printing, we’re enabling OEMs to cost-efficiently produce parts from a batch size of just one, with close to zero fixed costs as there is no tooling or minimum order quantities required.
One of our customers, the German home appliances manufacturer, Miele, is a good example from the consumer goods sector. The company uses our platform to provide new accessories quickly and cost-efficiently to customers. The full integration of our platform into their online shop made the shift to distributed manufacturing possible.
3DN: Any last words for our readers?
Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of different service bureaus and technology-material combinations in the 3D printing market. Start small and then scale fast. Do you have a part where you think 3D printing could be a solution? Come to us and we can help you transform your idea into reality. Once the first step is done, you get a feeling for the technology and many more parts can follow. Your journey to a fully digitized supply chain using 3D printing has started. You can find out more in the video below or at our website HERE.
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*All Photo Credits: Replique