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The second day of formnext 2018 has wrapped up in Frankfurt, but the announcements of new 3D printing hardware, software, materials, and partnerships keep rolling in. GE Additive has already issued more than one announcement from the show floor, and is demonstrating the digital workflow software solution it’s been working on. The company also announced that it intends to offer a full suite of secure build preparation services, which will be commercially available in May 2019 at the RAPID + TCT show in Detroit.

Many build preparation tools, interfaces, technologies, and licenses already exist in the industry, but lack of interoperability due to poor user experiences and different file types and interfaces can cause delays and mistakes for design engineers and machine operators. GE Additive’s new software strategy makes the process easier with an intuitive, secure tool that helps create a common experience by speeding up print time and lowering design iterations.

GE Additive combined several elements in its software strategy to improve the build preparation workflow for additive manufacturing, such as mixing GeonX’s accurate, fast simulation with iterative thermal compensation, making interoperable build prep services available to CAD providers, and improving the slicing performance.

During its ongoing interactive demonstrations at formnext, the company is looking for feedback from customers and end-users, as well as recruiting interested parties, through its Software Advisory and Technical Preview program, to participate in beta testing to inform product development for the software solution.

“Feedback is a critical activity in the development of any software system, which is why we are demonstrating our current capabilities in Frankfurt,” explained Lars Bruns, software leader, GE Additive. “Over the next eight months, we’re seeking customer input from our users to help us inspect, adapt and iterate ahead of our commercial launch.”

This feedback from end-users and customers will help expand on continuing internal GE user research.

L-R: Jason Oliver, President & CEO, GE Additive; Karsten Heuser, Vice President Additive Manufacturing; Andreas Saar, Vice President, Manufacturing Engineering, Siemens PLM Software; and Lars Bruns, software leader, GE Additive.

In addition to showcasing its digital workflow software solution, GE Additive has also announced several partnership agreements with some of the industry’s top software vendors at formnext. The company is working with Vera Security, Siemens PLM Software, PTC, and Autodesk to offer secure, simplified, and interoperable digital workflows for a more streamlined user experience, and also initiated a collaboration agreement with Dassault Systèmes.

Bruns said, “We acknowledge that the industry needs to improve overall interoperability for design engineers.”

Partnerships like these help GE Additive embed build preparation services right into design engineers’ tools of choice, which decreases errors for more accurate builds, saves time, and increases 3D printing adoption.

While the terms of these agreements were not disclosed, we have learned a little more information about the partnership between GE Additive and Autodesk, which has a goal of simplifying metal 3D printing with a more streamlined, integrated design-to-print workflow for GE Additive 3D printers.

“Working with Autodesk will provide a powerful design-to-print environment for our customers, helping lower the barriers of additive adoption while accelerating a customer’s time to first good part,” Bruns explained.

The proposed workflow, based on both GE Additive Build Preparation interfaces and the Autodesk Fusion 360 platform, will connect each phase of additive manufacturing, and use specialized data models, interfaces, and software algorithms to provide predictive insights. The additive workflow will be able to provide cost and timeline projections in early design stages, which will help designers make important business and engineering decisions without needing to physically fabricate parts. Additionally, with the use of a secure file transfer, final build data will be sent back to Fusion 360, which will give a full history of the part to help with informed decision making.

This new agreement highlights how manufacturing and design truly meet in the middle with an integrated offering that uses modern technologies, like 3D printing and generative design, to automate the user experience so it’s more seamless.

“We share a common goal with GE Additive to help our customers bring better products to market faster,” said Greg Fallon, VP of Business Strategy for Autodesk. “Smoother, more efficient workflows will enable designers and engineers to take full advantage of GE Additive’s machines and other advanced technologies such as generative design.”

The integration will also allow GE Additive customers to use Autodesk Fusion 360’s generative design technology, in addition to parameters like cost constraints, manufacturing methods, and materials, to explore the various solution permutations. Then, designs can be easily validated, prepared, and sent for 3D printing through the integrated services resulting from the collaboration.

To learn more, visit GE Additive at formnext 2018 at booth D30 in Hall 3.

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