It would seem that the sharing of information such as invaluable, helpful code was once only done between software engineers and programmers working together on crucial projects or together in the boys’ club, with valuable information not usually given out until a company was ready to release it and charge for it. Ironically, while one would have expected the process to have evolved even more into a marketing and eventual profiting situation, today we see the democratization of information and files becoming more and more common—from the research lab to other interested scientists and engineers, and sometimes to absolutely anyone who is interested.
Whether sharing is stemming from the treasure trove of the accomplished paleontologist’s 3D files or an international museum allowing for 3D printed replicas to be made of priceless artwork, one thing is certain: the level of accessibility is changing for nearly everyone, worldwide. If you have the interest, a computer, and access to a 3D printer, within hours you can be holding a pretty amazing relic, sculpture, or a replica to be chosen from a wide range of platforms.
But what about valuable files that concern 3D printing itself? While some may not have been so generous as to share source code like that of RMADS previously, coming from the university atmosphere, the attitude of ownership in innovation has shifted greatly to that of sharing. What goes around comes around, as we all know, and most certainly, researchers and innovators sharing with their peers and others today are being rewarded in kind.
RMADS comes to us from the UK’s Newcastle University, and Dr. Javier Munguia at their School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering. Short for ‘Rapid Manufacturing Advice System,’ RMADS is a software that is written in MATLAB, and is meant to be used as a 3D printing selection system for novices. As is typical of numerous of these more grassroots pieces of information that are shared, previously RMADS was only shared for ‘internal developments.’
As Munguia told 3DPrint.com, recently the university has had an increased amount of requests for the software, particularly from private companies ranging from small to large—and from those specializing in everything from heavy machinery to aerospace.
“These requests normally come after people read any of the already published papers related to the RMADS system, but we can’t really commit to developing working versions for every single users,” Munguia said. “Therefore, everybody can have direct access to the source code and use/modify/adapt it to their own needs straightaway.”
“I must clarify that this is not a PDM software nor an automatic quoting system for service bureaus,” Munguia told 3DPrint.com. “Instead, you can think of RMADS as a front-end piece of software that has the capacity to help non-expert users explore all the possible 3D printing options for a particular component.
“The code makes use of ‘relational databases’ which compare your component’s requirements with the 3D printing process and materials properties stored in the system.”
RMADS software is made up of these three modules that allow for built-in logic and multi-criteria ranking:
- General requirements
- Cost alternatives
This means essentially that you are able to screen the capacity of intended 3D printing processes, and then refine what you want to do ultimately as you compare both the materials and the resulting costs.
“Herein lays the complexity of making an expanded system: we don’t have access to all the 3D printers in the world!” Munguia told 3DPrint.com. “But if the code is adopted, for example, by a firm that owns a lab with a couple of EBM, SLM and FDM systems, then it’s possible to train the system and get cost estimations with an error margin below six percent.”
The research team makes it clear that while they are pleased to share the source code, it’s important for those interested to realize this is source code, which will require, and perhaps not in this order:
- A version of MATLAB or code-converting apps
- A few ‘tweaks’ to adapt the code to your version
- A decent cup of coffee!
Above is an informative and entertaining primer regarding the system, along with an informative case study below that allows you to get a further comprehensive picture of RMADS. Discuss this source code further in the RMADS 3D Printing Selection forum over at 3DPB.com.