Shapeways introduced a purpose-built software platform that empowers traditional manufacturers to benefit from a faster, simpler path to 3D printing. The debut of Otto Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is expected to mitigate current limitations with tools and applications used to navigate end-to-end manufacturing steps while accelerating the shift to digital manufacturing.
As one of the leading global digital manufacturing marketplaces, Shapeways realized that there’s one common problem among manufacturers—they face countless challenges with current applications and tools, including limited integration and excessive manual steps to move between tools, not to mention high software costs and inconsistent interfaces. A recent Shapeways survey reinforces the need for end-to-end software. According to Shapeways’ “State of 3D Printing” study, commissioned in July 2021, 88% of manufacturers face challenges with their 3D printing software and applications.
Of those surveyed, 72% use six or more tools or applications to manage all the manufacturing steps needed to make a typical product. However, only 29% of respondents reported using applications with integrated and cohesive workflow management. In addition, when citing the top three challenges with current 3D printing applications, almost half of survey respondents identified the manual effort required to move between tools, followed by the high cost of purchasing and maintaining all needed software and inconsistent interfaces that increase learning curves.
Significantly, the majority of survey participants agree that better software would accelerate their adoption of 3D printing. Some of the ideal software capabilities include real-time tracking and traceability, a single interface to manage internal workflows and external supply chain, the ability to attain data needed for industry-specific certifications, vendor-agnostic hardware or materials, and a single view into the end-to-end manufacturing process.
Even though software developers and suppliers stand to benefit from the increased adoption of 3D printing technologies and the inherent demand for 3D modeling software needed to create printable designs, it has taken a while for software to catch up with the advances in hardware and materials. However, companies like Shapeways are closing the gap by developing next-generation software tools that will drive industrialization, automation, and further additive manufacturing (AM) adoption, while disrupting the traditional manufacturing ecosystem.
In the software development industry for AM, creating a product that will resonate with the demands of traditional manufacturing is not easy. The sector is highly focused on mass production, typically driven by manual and cumbersome processes that do not adapt easily or cost-effectively to changing customer demands or market dynamics. Yet Shapeways hopes that by using Otto, manufacturers can respond with speed and agility by taking full advantage of 3D printing to produce high-quality, low-volume, complex parts and products.
Otto is ideally suited for a diverse customer base, says Shapeways, including individual engineers, small businesses, large enterprises, and global manufacturers across various markets with rigorous applications requiring high levels of customization, such as aerospace, automotive, healthcare, and industrial. In addition, the Dutch company believes that by giving manufacturers free access to powerful 3D printing manufacturing services, they will adopt the technology.
In fact, Shapeways CEO Greg Kress remarked that the goal with Otto is to make it incredibly easy and fast for any manufacturer anywhere to benefit from 3D printing. “Enabling seamless access to world-class digital manufacturing removes the required capex and hassles of setting up dedicated production capabilities. Manufacturers can sign up for Otto free of charge and start using our services right away.”
The new product offering is expected to expedite each 3D printing phase without requiring major capital expenditures or different software tools to navigate the end-to-end journey. Moreover, Shapeways describes Otto’s intuitive front-end as user-friendly and ideally suited to simplify initial digital file uploads, product configurations, file analysis, and optimization with instant auto-correction for trouble-free manufacturability.
One of the significant advantages of using Otto has to do with ensuring supply chain readiness through access to Shapeways’ supply chain network of more than 50 manufacturing partners, 11 vendor-agnostic printing technologies, and over 90 materials and finishes. In addition, complex manufacturing with complete traceability is enhanced by pre- and post-production capabilities that can deliver high-quality, finished products to more than 160 countries.
The ordering capability is available now, and supports seamless digital file uploads, part configurations, instant price quotes, and access to a digital inventory of materials, finishes, and technologies. Additionally, several companies are already accelerating their shift to digital manufacturing through Otto, including the Dutch global science-based multinational Royal DSM, German chemical and consumer goods firm Henkel, and multinational chemical company BASF. Another great advantage of Otto SaaS is that traditional manufacturers can leverage its strength by deploying it as a white-label solution to expand current production capabilities with the addition of on-demand 3D printing.
With its newly revealed software, Shapeways plans to remove many of the hurdles identified by manufacturers in its poll earlier this year, and in turn, fuel its digital manufacturing services. This win-win situation is part of the company’s plan to fully digitize the end-to-end manufacturing process to deliver high-quality, low-volume, high-mix production. As a result, even though Shapeways considers that the digital transformation in manufacturing is still in its infancy, it is well-positioned to participate and contribute to the industry’s growth.
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