A hallmark of quality is that it is built on a strong foundation, which in itself requires a level of implicit trust. Only on a strong foundation can a sturdy structure be built. A builder who wouldn’t enter a structure they’ve erected is a sure sign to any potential occupant that this might not be the best quality; one who lives in a house she built, though, shows a strong level of trust in her own skills and serves as a strong endorsement to the quality of structures built. Sculpteo is living in a house it has built, as it were, with its recently released Fabpilot software.
Fabpilot, introduced in October and launched during the recent formnext event, was built for Sculpteo’s complex internal needs, using familiar tools. Realizing the adaptability of a more complete software solution for production 3D printing, the company rolled its tools together into a neat package that could be applied externally, and has made its own approach available for use. During formnext, I had the opportunity to check out Fabpilot in action as company co-founder and CEO Clément Moreau and Fabpilot Product Owner Alex Gryson led me through a demo showcasing just what makes Fabpilot a viable, usable solution.
“Fabpilot incorporates the same tools users are familiar with, repackaged to use,” Gryson explained. “The approach is to make this work for everyone, with their own machines. Creators can make, review, hollow, and thicken designs.”
The cloud-based software allows for transparent, collaborative usage shared among members of a team. Transparency is important in tracking any adjustments throughout a given process, and it was indeed easy to look at who had accessed which parts when, including comments left, with notifications for important updates among users. The software allows for full control over who has access to which parts of a given project, and there are no limits imposed for users or projects.
“This is a collaboration between the designer and customer,” Moreau added.
The point, Gryson said, is “to make it work for your workflow.”
“It will work with your machines, your materials — your workflow,” he told me. “These are your materials, not Sculpteo’s; your machines, not Sculpteo’s.”
Building the solution out beyond Sculpteo’s own needs demonstrates a keen understanding of workflows beyond the company’s; while users can certainly hook up to the machines and materials Sculpteo offers, they are not handcuffed to built-in solutions. Adaptability is important in making this a more universal soluiton that can fit into any number of operations. To create a user-friendly experience, Fabpilot offers various options for customization; for example, machines can be added through a catalog selection or a user can choose to input data sheet information for their 3D printer. The same goes for materials, with a catalog selection or adding parameters. Quotes can be worked up in under a minute — and, again, these are quotes where Sculpteo is not tying a user to their services, but allowing users to create their own model.
“Data can be exported at any time, you’re not locked in with Sculpteo,” Gryson said.
Once machine and material selections are made, the software will automatically check the backlog to ensure that all chosen settings are available in real time. This type of real-time checking is invaluable in a production environment to ensure accountability and availability of resources throughout the supply chain — and, when applicable, throughout different physical locations. Sculpteo, for its part, is based in Paris and San Francisco. With factories on two different continents in very different time zones, being able to communicate with each location is critical to smooth operations. Fabpilot additionally allows for contextual filtering; that is, if using PA for a given job, a user will only see the relevant, PA, backlog.
Next in the demo, Gryson showed the item checklist, where a user is able to look into preparation, solidity, setting up packing, checking slices, and more. Here, he pointed to the inherent “transparent traceability in each step,” in which a user can check off tasks, add/respond to comments, and lock or unlock settings. From here, job preparation takes care of part nesting to ensure an optimized build. This is all offloaded to the server, keeping loads light on the client’s end. A job can then be exported as an .stl file, loaded — and started.
“At the moment, Fabpilot doesn’t connect directly to machines,” Gryson added. “A user can create their own system steps, as well. With the drag and drop in the Admin setting, you can move process steps. This adds flexibility to each step; it’s fully adaptable to any system, and flexible for any workflow. You can validate, reject, or comment at every step, and you can see why any rejected parts were rejected. Fabpilot balances quality, speed, and keeping you informed.”
The user friendliness of the cloud-based system is key to its realistic use in production environments for additive manufacturing, as Sculpteo continues to focus on removing barriers for users.
“You might need one or two tutorials, but you can start producing with this in less than one hour for sure,” Moreau underscored. “Any big brands of software still need full training.”
Gryson noted that the company is “fairly confident you can get started quickly” as a new user of Fabpilot. This quick adoption and small learning curve is available to test as well, as Sculpteo offers a 15-day free trial. The company is additionally offering a special rate on licensing, available through mid-December.
Sculpteo is placing a lot of emphasis on Fabpilot, as it’s a tried-and-tested tool they trust internally and see as a solution for production as 3D printing continues to industrialize.
“This software was built to survive what we see every day,” Moreau said, as the company’s internal use encompasses “new people, many people, working in two factories on two different continents, able to share tools.”
He continued, “This is bulletproof, what we have. It has taken some bullets.”
Discuss Sculpteo, formnext 2017, and other 3D printing topics, at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.[formnext photos: Sarah Goehrke / Fabpilot images: Sculpteo]