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Printing what we Preach: Xerox’s Business Case for 3D Printing

When a key supplier went out of business, Xerox found a way to print its own replacement parts.

The Business Opportunity:

While reviewing Xerox’s product delivery processes, we identified areas of our supply chain that could benefit from 3D printing capabilities. Using the Xerox® ElemX 3D Liquid Metal Printer to print machine replacement parts on demand reduced manufacturing costs and provided delivery benefits in product development, post-sale support, and inventory optimization.

The Challenge:

When Xerox learned that the supplier of a critical bracket for the iGen® 5 digital press was going out of business, it had two choices: Estimate the amount of brackets needed for the rest of the iGen’s life and purchase those up front or  look for and qualify a new supplier. The former meant a significant cash outlay and long-term storage of parts, and the latter would require moving the tool and requalifying the part. “Neither of these options were ideal, so we said to the iGen team, ‘What if there were a third option?’ And that’s how we got involved with using the ElemX to 3D print the bracket,” said Tali Rosman, Xerox Vice President and General Manager of 3D Printing.

Creating Our Own Solutions:

Shifting to a full 3D-printed strategy would not be as cost effective, so the team decided on a two-pronged approach. Using a Total Cost of Ownership Calculator, hidden costs such as inventory holding were incorporated into the calculation and Xerox developed a solution that combined traditional manufacturing with 3D Printing to uncover the lowest cost option. “We decided to purchase enough brackets for the short- to mid-term, and then redesigned the iGen bracket to print on ElemX for all future needs beyond that,” says William McCall, Xerox 3D Printing Business Consultant. “The strategy was to buy the parts the team was confident that we were going to need and then be able to keep producing it on-demand.”

The bracket for the iGen® 5 printed in aluminum 4008 using the Xerox® ElemX™ Liquid Metal Printer

The bracket for the iGen® 5 printed in aluminum 4008 using the Xerox® ElemX Liquid Metal Printer

The Business Case for 3D Printing:

This hybrid approach ensures that Xerox does not have to spend a large amount upfront and significantly reduces the expected obsolescence and warehousing costs of parts. “Ultimately, this blended approach uncovered a savings of nearly $25,000 or 21% savings over what we would have spent if 3D Printing were not an option,” says Bender Kutub, who is the ElemX Product Manager at Xerox.

The Path to Greater Benefits:

This exploration not only addressed a pressing business need for Xerox, but it also opened a promising new area to develop capabilities that could benefit customers. The Xerox data analytics team has created a list of older parts that are getting more difficult to maintain with pricing and suppliers, or that are low use. “Xerox will take what it learned during its internal review and can provide a similar review for companies to determine which parts that they use could benefit from the value proposition of 3D printing,” says Kerstin Henseleit, Xerox product delivery process lead.

Chart showing the cost differences between traditional method, 3D printing, and blended

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