By Mark Langlois
Boothroyd Dewhurst, Inc., a firm that started writing computer software to lower manufacturing costs in 1983, said additive manufacturing helps this process along 35 years later. The Rhode Island firm’s skills revolve around writing computer programs that improve Design for Manufacture (DFM), and, in many cases, the programs combine parts of an assembly to reduce the bill of materials and lower costs.
“We had a philosophy when we started that we have tried our best to remain true to all that time,” said Nick Dewhurst, executive vice president of Boothroyd Dewhurst, in a phone interview. “It’s called Design for Assembly (DFA). It’s a methodology we have put into software.”
The software ran originally in the Apple II Plus and in the first IBM PC. Dewhurst said the software, which it calls Assembly DFMA software, guides a customer’s design team through an analysis process of a product to get them to understand what parts are required to accomplish its core function.
“The long and short of it is it’s about parts reduction,” Dewhurst said. Combining two parts in an assembly can lower costs and cut time on the assembly line. “We’re trying to shrink the bill of materials.”
What’s the advantage? “Money,” said Dewhurst. He explained that reducing the number of parts saves money in several ways, particularly by reducing assembly labor. Fewer components to put together means less time, less labor. Fewer components generally means a lower total materials cost.
In theory, if you have three sheet metal parts for a dollar each, but then one plastic part replaces them for $1.50, that means hard costs are down by $1.50. Inventory was reduced from three parts to one part. “Now I’ve taken labor out and I’ve reduced my material content by $1.50,” Dewhurst said.
Another area where money is saved is in soft costs. If a redesigned assembly drops from 30 parts to 15 parts, “That’s 15 fewer things I have to have suppliers qualify for, I have to order, or I have quality issues with. Hard to quantify the savings, but money is saved and worry is reduced,” Dewhurst said.
It also means less worry about inventory or about the supply chain going down. Dewhurst said those soft cost reductions lower costs, avoid costs, or avoid worry. It’s hard to put a price tag on it, but it saves money.
The Design for Manufacture (DFM) software can look at a CAD model of a part and estimate the costs. Dewhurst said that with additive manufacturing, design possibilities for parts consolidation that were not possible with conventional manufacturing 15 years ago are possible today. That lowers manufacturing costs.
Fifteen years ago, the geometry of putting three parts together might have been impossible. Now with additive manufacturing (AM), there are better solutions for the design problem. “What’s happening now, they’re taking what they designed initially, and they’re adapting it for AM,” Dewhurst said. “Now you can add design for additive manufacturing [software], the consolidation technique to figure out what to combine.”