Last week, global manufacturing company Jabil announced the launch of Jabil Engineered Materials as well as the opening of its new Materials Innovation Center, which will address the development of new industrial materials for additive manufacturing. The announcement shows how Jabil, a $22 billion company with nearly 200,000 employees, is committed to not only the adoption, but also the advancement, of industrial-scale 3D printing.
The company launched its AM division, Jabil Additive, four years ago with the goal of developing solutions for additive manufacturing and to find specific ways to industrialize and leverage the technology to help clients with product development and production. The recent step ahead with AM materials is a turning point in realizing this goal, as Jabil now offers an end-to-end Materials, Processes and Machines (MPM) solution.
To learn more about the launch of Jabil Engineered Materials and the Materials Innovation Center, we recently caught up with two key executives who are driving materials development and AM within the company: John Dulchinos, Vice President, Digital Manufacturing, and Matt Torosian, Director of Product Management, Jabil Additive.
The materials challenge
“Jabil comes with the pedigree of a very deep manufacturing company,” Dulchinos begins by saying. “Jabil also isn’t a single-industry kind of company; we build solutions across a wide range of industries, from consumer, automotive, aerospace, medical, industrial and so forth. That gives us a really wide perspective on the market, which is important as we think about what we’re trying to accomplish with additive manufacturing.”
Since it launched four years ago, the team at Jabil Additive (which now consists of about 80 people) has been working to systematically address existing constraints associated with 3D printing. One of the biggest limitations, Dulchinos explains, was materials.
“If you think about it, over the last 100 years, materials have been at the forefront of much of the innovation in manufacturing,” he elaborates. “In many cases, new manufacturing processes and new products have been driven by advances in materials science. It’s been an important part of manufacturing.
“When you get to 3D printing, we need to largely recreate much of the work that’s been done in traditional manufacturing processes. To date, there has been a limited amount of work done on materials in large part because 3D printing is still a relatively small industry. So what Jabil is doing is we’ve opened a materials center in Minnesota, a 50,000-square-foot facility whose full charter is to develop engineered materials for additive manufacturing applications.”
50,000 square feet of innovation
The multi-million-dollar facility houses an end-to-end solution for developing, certifying and producing engineered materials for 3D printing. Presently, the facility is operated by a team of about 40 and has received ISO 9001 certification.
“When you look at what it takes to deliver a solution for additive manufacturing, it takes the integration of materials, processes and machines,” Dulchinos continues. “We’ve really been working on this problem for the last four years, and materials is the final piece of the puzzle. You can’t deliver materials adequately without a deep understanding of machines and processes.
“One of the things that is really important to us is working with open platforms. When we think of what constrains the industry, it’s proprietary, closed systems that don’t allow innovation to occur. So our strategy is centered on open platforms and the intersection of materials, machines and processes.”
The launch of the Materials Innovative Facility is expected to spark significant growth for Jabil’s additive manufacturing division. Dulchinos expects it will easily double its business on an annual basis. “Materials have been a huge constraint,” he adds.”The center now gives us the ability to solve problems we couldn’t. We think it will lead to really fast growth in additive for Jabil.”
Engineered materials, customized for you
Matt Torosian, an expert in engineered materials, joined Jabil 18 months ago to help develop new engineered materials for AM and bring them to market. His main mission with the company is to work with customers to develop custom engineered materials for a range of applications.
“What we’re doing is taking basic polymers and adding attributes through fillers, reinforcements and additives, which give the materials new properties like conductivity, higher strength, etc.,” he tells us. “We’re really trying to add customization to the material based on the customer’s requirements without any limitations. Right now, we’re mainly focused on filaments and powders, but we can work with anything in the polymer chain that can be reinforced, made conductive, flame retardant or lubricated.”
Though customer names have not been disclosed, Jabil is already working with a number of partners to develop new material for specific applications in a number of industries. Torosian adds that there are about 300 OEMs that Jabil makes products for in the mobility, automotive, aerospace and medical markets, to name but a few.
The first additive manufacturing materials Jabil has launched are PETg, PETg ESD, TPU 90 A and TPU 90 A ESD—which Torosian refers to as portfolio fillers. The long term goal, of course, is to offer customized materials, and the company expects to launch many more materials over the course of the year.
The first materials will be aimed primarily at jig, fixture and tooling applications. As Torosian explains: “We use a lot of those materials in-house for those applications. We also have several materials that are in various stages of development with customer engagement for applications in aerospace, automotive and medical. We aim to generate a lot of product in the next months and years.”
Emphasizing the rate of material development, Dulchinos adds: “When we get into a steady state, we’ll be introducing dozens of materials a year to market. We’re starting with half a dozen, but there’s a long pipeline of materials behind that will be introduced and tuned to customer requirements.”
Conductive, UV stable, flame retardant
In terms of properties customers are looking for in engineered materials, Jabil Additive has identified a number of trends.
“If you look at the applications side, Matt already mentioned conductive materials, but we also have a number of aerospace and automotive customers looking for flame retardant materials,” Dulchinos says. “Electronics and automotive customers have also been asking for UV stability so that parts can be used in the sun. We have customers looking for lubrication and a number of applications that need reinforcement—whether its glass fiber, carbon fiber or glass-filled.
“That’s really what it takes to make these applications work for our customers. We’ve also had clients who want specific colours. If you’re a world-class brand and you’ve got a shade of green or blue or red that’s your branded colour, we can work to make sure the material really matches it.”
Torosian adds: “I think the biggest trend is that we have OEMs telling us they would like to commercialize and use serial production but they don’t have a material that has the properties and the level of certification and manufacturing rigour and documentation that they need to produce parts in a highly regulated market. That’s a big gap that we plan on filling with the capability to develop and produce materials that are certified and capable of regulatory rigour.”
Onto the open market
“To move the industry forward, Jabil is keenly focused on the need for a proper set of materials.,” Dulchinos concludes. “Having grown up as a manufacturing company, we know that our customers demand open platforms and open systems so that they can get a range of solutions to their problems. Our materials business will provide materials to Jabil’s part factories and will also provide materials to the open market so that our customers have multiple sources of supply for parts. It runs as a very flexible and open business structure.”
Indeed, Jabil’s newly launched materials (and upcoming ones) will be offered to the open market and to the company’s internal customers. Customers can order materials through Jabil Engineered Materials’ distribution partners, including Chase Plastics and Channel Prime Alliance. The company has also partnered with Ultimaker to provide print profiles for the new materials in Cura.