On the heels of its likely acquisition by Materialise, Link3D is continuing its development of technology for manufacturing execution systems (MES). The latest news from the company is the launch of an IoT platform that makes it possible to directly interact with 3D printers to automate quality management and gain information from sensors.
The company’s AMWatch software ties into its larger MES platform to issue real-time updates about a 3D printing system, including environmental conditions, in order to inform production management. Machine users can remotely track their builds, with the information allowing them to detect production irregularities and tendencies that can hinder the final product.
This naturally allows the operator to gain comprehension of the issues behind flaws in their parts, attempt to address them, and then improve future builds. Users can additionally perform predictive analytics based on information gathered from a variety of technologies, as well as conduct statistical process control derived from past builds. This can then be used to improve product output in subsequent builds, which not only saves time and costs, but can be particularly beneficial for businesses working under specific qualified or certified frameworks.
“At Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, 3D printer connectivity is a foundational tool enabling the real-time management of production requirements locally and across the enterprise,” Christopher Wiegman, Digital Transformation Engineering Manager at Sikorsky, said. “The ability to have real-time insight into and management of current production print queues is critical to meeting our customer objectives. The local and centralized enterprise dashboards with Lockheed Martin’s Intelligent Factory Framework and Link3D’s machine connectivity allows utilizations management of Lockheed Martin’s extensive additive investment.”
“AMWatch can improve visibility to the additive production environment and provide more robust analytics for real-time decision making – ultimately leading to improved manufacturing yield rates, quality systems and machine utilization,” added Link3D co-founder and CTO Vishal Singh. “Link3D’s new product will enable organizations to establish the foundation of a data-driven additive manufacturing ecosystem.”
Such insight into builds is essential into bringing industrial 3D printing technologies up to the quality level required in true production environments. In order for an additive manufacturing technology to achieve the proper throughput at the proper cost, it must produce quality end parts consistently and predictably.
Therefore, the ability to generate statistical process control based on previous builds and conduct predictive analytics using aggregate data makes a lot of sense. What looks to be one missing piece of this equation is true simulation of a potential build based on all of this information and then applying a variety of methods for addressing any potential errors. This is a technique that VELO3D uses in its Flow software and which ANSYS uses in its 3D printing simulation software.
Another missing piece would be the ability to communicate with the printer to address potential issues automatically, using the information picked up by AMWatch and adjusting printer parameters to ensure all processing variables are tightly controlled. This is another feature that VELO3D uses and that quality control companies are actively working on. Perhaps that’s what customers have in store for AMWatch, as well.
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