On-Demand Manufacturing Basics: How It Works and Pros & Cons

on demand manufacturing

The manufacturing industry keeps evolving at an increased pace, witnessing the inevitable shift from traditional to on-demand manufacturing. This manufacturing technique has become the contemporary phenomenon that most enterprises use to make small batches of their product. It replaces the traditional manufacturing processes in several regards, addressing the limitations of using the conventional manufacturing model.

This article explores all you need to know about on-demand manufacturing, from its definition to its emergence and the various technologies used in the product development process. We will also cover the applications of on-demand production to give you a complete overview.

What is On-Demand Manufacturing?

On-demand manufacturing is a system that allows manufacturers to produce products based on customers’ demands. The manufacturer makes a product in the required quantity and period. It is similar to cloud manufacturing or custom manufacturing. This production model differs from traditional manufacturing, which involves producing large amounts and storing them in warehouses.

The Emergence of On-Demand Manufacturing

produce on demand

The world has become where most of the things we need are provided on demand due to the development of IT and logistics frameworks. As a result, there has been a natural shift from traditional to on-demand manufacturing.

The internet and cloud-based technology, which are products of industry 4.0, are primary factors that influenced its emergence. These technologies help manufacturing partners develop advanced communication platforms that allow customers to upload design models for their projects and receive auto-generated DFM feedback alongside highly accurate quotations.

Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of functional prototypes and end-use products with on-demand manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and CNC machining contribute significantly to the emergence and growth of on-demand production worldwide.

On-Demand Manufacturing vs Traditional Manufacturing: What're the Differences?

On-demand manufacturing and traditional manufacturing are often compared, so here’s a look at what the differences are.

on demand manufacturing vs traditional manufacturing

1. Flexibility

On-demand manufacturing offers companies the flexibility to order whenever they need and the precise amount required. Therefore, companies can order a product on a small scale without increasing production costs.

In addition, CNC machining, 3D printing, and other similar technologies help to create several parts and variations to parts faster without needing to adjust or retool the machine. They enable the cost-effective production of small-scale orders. In contrast, the traditional manufacturing model does not allow companies to order small volumes.

2. Customization

On-demand manufacturing also allows customers to customize their order regardless of complexities in its specifications, an advantage that traditional manufacturing lacks. Various industries, such as the medical sector, embrace on-demand production due to it requires custom manufacturing to meet various medical needs.

3. Storage and Warehousing Costs

On-demand manufacturing offers customers the privilege of manufacturing the precise amount they need without storing excess products in a warehouse.

Traditional manufacturing operates on the principle of economies of scale, which means parts are only cost-effective if produced in high volume. Consequently, businesses are usually influenced to make high-volume orders to receive competitive pricing.

However, companies need warehousing facilities to store large-volume inventory and make accurate projections on consumer demand. As a result, a company may suffer adverse effects on its profit margin due to over-prediction of orders.

4. Greater Opportunities for Small and Medium-Scale Technologies

Due to the large number of products manufactured using traditional manufacturing, the cost of setting up its manufacturing plant is huge. However, the manufacturing on-demand model is a cost-effective process for handling small volumes that can be produced with less expensive equipment. Consequentially, it allows small and medium enterprises to establish small-scale manufacturing shops to adapt to the changing needs of the market.

on-demand production

5. Technological Advancement

The consistent interactions between on-demand manufacturing services providers and consumers, cost-effectiveness, operational transparency, and short lead times are characteristics of custom on-demand manufacturing that have boosted innovation. Inventors and innovators can quickly design and manufacture a single prototype at a considerably low cost.

Manufacturers or product designers often use this prototype to correct the product’s flaws, fast-tracking its time to market. However, traditional manufacturing does not offer the opportunities on-demand manufacturing does. Hence, traditional manufacturing contributes less to innovation than on-demand manufacturing.

Different Processes Used in On-Demand Manufacturing

An extensive list of technologies are compatible with and commonly used in on-demand manufacturing. Some of these technologies include:

cnc machining

CNC Machining

It has existed for quite a while and has influenced the progress of on-demand manufacturing with its vast advantages. CNC technology works well with many materials and offers uncompromised precision.

Various CNC machines with horizontal or vertical machining centers produce parts with high accuracy on demand. Each of these machines has its specialization and design specification. They are usually automated, enabling efficiency and faster production cycles.

3d printed part

3D Printing

3D printing is a standard manufacturing technology used by manufacturers and product designers to produce small batches of products in the prototyping stage. The process provides a cost-effective production and enables the manufacturer to test the functionality of a designed product before its custom manufacturing.

sheet metal cutting

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal technology involves manufacturing functional parts from a flat metal sheet. This process is commonly used in making end-products like brackets, panels, enclosures, and more on demand in the automotive industry. Other industries, such as robotics and aerospace, also use this process often. The standard metal used in this process includes copper, zinc, stainless steel, and aluminum, with a thickness range of 0.006 and 0.25 inches.

injection molding process

Injection Molding

Injection molding is another standard manufacturing process suitable for high-volume production. It involves injecting plastic-based resin into a mold to form a preferred part shape. Although injection molding is a cheap manufacturing technique to practice, it offers a relatively low precision.

Advantages of On-Demand Manufacturing

1. Low-Volume Manufacturing and Customization

Customers often reach out to manufacturers with varying demands and preferences. This method helps manufacturers to offer products according to customers’ desired specifications and quantity.

Traditional manufacturing plants have a fixed hardware model, making it nearly impossible for customers to request custom products. The hardware in conventional manufacturing setup plants is expensive to change. However, on-demand manufacturing can provide a single prototype to customers regardless of its complexities. So, low volume and custom manufacturing are essential in different industries.

2. Cost-Effective Production

The fast turnaround times and small-batch orders help businesses save warehousing and logistics costs. These businesses often have minimal inventory at hand. As a result, they do not have to store excess machined products in warehouses. Whenever goods are manufactured, they are delivered directly to the customers. Also, it reduces machining costs that come with excess stock disposal and waste.

3. Faster Turnaround

On-demand production provides a dependable overall turnaround time, and this is due to the single point of production and reduced time in quotations and lead times. On-demand manufacturers can receive and deliver orders within a few days due to the ability to offer instant quotes on CAD models. However, it takes traditional manufacturers several weeks or months to approve a quotation.

4. Rapid Prototyping

One of the many benefits of on-demand manufacturing is rapid prototyping. When manufacturers produce on demand, it enables the fast and cost-effective creation and shipping of single parts. Likewise, you can create variations of the same product easily, as the technologies involved do not require retooling. Rapid prototyping helps companies or business owners present their ideas to market quickly to meet customers’ demands.

design for manufacturing

5. DFM Feedback

The Design for Manufacturing (DFM) feedback helps to determine the manufacturability of your design, letting you know the errors or flaws of your CAD model. For example, a design for metal parts should include a minimum wall thickness else it can collapse. At WayKen, we offer its customers instant feedback when they turn in their CAD models, fast-tracking the product development process.

6. Drives Innovation

Several factors, such as low cost of production, flexibility, customer and manufacturer relation, and reduced lead times, which are common in custom production, have significantly influenced the rate of technical innovations in various sectors. Product designers and engineers now design products and have prototypes produced within hours or days at minimal costs.

7. Market Testing

Manufacturers benefit from on-demand manufacturing as they can take consumer feedback and effect changes in the next production batch. Market testing remains a significant advantage, making it the ideal production process for consumer-centered businesses.

Limitations of On-Demand Manufacturing

Although this manufacturing model has enormous advantages, some drawbacks are worth considering. Here are some of them:

1. High Production Volume Cannot Be Met in A Short Time

On-demand manufacturing offers an ideal solution for low-volume production needed in situations such as new product introduction. However, it fails to provide sustained production when consumers increase their demand. As a result, traditional manufacturing is the better choice in cases like this to reduce production costs and for better feasibility.

2. Intellectual Property Theft

Intellectual property theft is one of the common drawbacks of on-demand manufacturing. This is because it involves giving the service provider your part’s model design, blueprint, and CAD files. As a result, there is a potential risk of intellectual property theft when dealing with a no reliable service provider.

3. Supply Chain Dependency

Traditional manufacturers indulge in large-volume production of products purposely to avoid disruptions in case of any crisis in the supply chain. However, on-demand manufacturing relies on the supply chain to fulfill the orders promised to customers. As a result, if any disruption occurs in the supply chain, the manufacturers find it challenging to deliver the ordered products to customers making them seem unreliable.

4. Quality Challenge

Some on-demand manufacturers finalize the details of a manufacturing project with a client and then outsource the production stage to some small-scale third-party manufacturing company. Consequentially, it leads to significant flaws in the quality of the product.

Applications of On-Demand Manufacturing Services

Most global manufacturing industries now manufacture on demand due to the optimization it offers their businesses. Here are some of the applications of on-demand manufacturing services:

1. Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry usually requires components with high accuracy and tighter tolerances and manufacturing components in small batches. However, on-demand manufacturing offers the best solutions for these demands.

The aerospace industry benefits from a vast array of technologies, including 3D printing and CNC machining. Furthermore, the aerospace industry uses on-demand manufacturing technology to save costs and quickly create innovative designs. Parts produced on demand in the aerospace sector include wind tunnel and UAV components, surrogate parts, and composite layups.

automotive plastic parts

2. Automotive Industry

Parts manufactured in the automotive industry are usually various, necessitating switching to on-demand production. This switch helps to reduce the cost of production as it prevents making excess components. The automotive industry manufactures high-quality parts to test them in extreme environments to ensure they are safe for use.

It requires manufacturing lightweight parts on demand to create more efficient vehicles. Custom interiors, grilles, and models with elastomeric materials are examples of components manufactured on demand.

3. Healthcare

Most of the products used in the healthcare industry require quick order fulfillment and requirement that traditional manufacturing fails to fulfill. As a result, on-demand manufacturing fills the required product inventory. Parts are produced on demand enabling breakthrough solutions for research institutions, doctors, and patients.

The healthcare sector uses technologies such as urethane casting, injection molding, and 3D printing using biocompatible materials to make low-volume true-to-life models. Examples of components the healthcare industry produces on demand are medical carts, surgical tools, and anatomical models.

4. Robotics Industry

The robotics sector is in a preliminary stage and is driven by the full force of innovation. As a result, manufacturers cannot produce parts in high volume as there are consistent improvements and preferable technologies. On-demand manufacturing provides the ideal means to meet the demands of these innovation-based fields.

5. E-Commerce

E-commerce is one of the leading sectors that promoted the growth of on-demand production in the manufacturing industry. Big companies with a significant portion of customers adopt this model because it allows them to provide their customers’ demands without operating a warehouse for every item they produce.

Start with WayKen for Your On-Demand Manufacturing Services

WayKen is a reliable on-demand manufacturing provider. We offer extensive on-demand manufacturing services such as CNC machining, 3D printing, rapid injection molding, low-volume extrusion, and more.

As a one-stop on-demand manufacturing company, we are committed to bringing customers’ ideas to life. We can offer instant quotes for any design ideas that you may present. And our engineers provide reliable DFM feedback that inspects and analyses every possible error in the CAD model you submit. Contact WayKen today to get your project started!

Conclusion

On-demand manufacturing is fast revolutionizing the manufacturing industry with an increasing rate of innovation, making manufacturing flexible and accessible to companies and individuals. It has become the desired manufacturing technology that enterprises turn to when they need to produce parts in a small volume. Medium-scale and large-scale manufacturers now practice on-demand production due to the efficiency it offers their businesses. 

FAQs

What are common challenges in traditional manufacturing?

Longer production time, difficulty machining undercuts, uniformity of thickness, and draft angles are common challenges manufacturers face using traditional manufacturing processes.

What are the 3 types of manufacturing?

The three types of manufacturing methods include make-to-assemble (MTA), make-to-stock (MTS), and make-to-order (MTO).

Is traditional manufacturing expensive?

Traditional manufacturing uses processes that require building molds, increasing product machining costs. As a result, the methods involve investing a massive amount in production, warehousing, and logistics, affecting the final price.

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