AMS Spring 2023

3D Printing Quality Control and MES Combine in Sigma Labs-AMFG Partnership

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As additive manufacturing (AM) enters the industrial era, we’re seeing the emergence of new auxiliary tools and maturation of existing ones to aid in the technology’s maturation. The latest news sees a combination of both, as Sigma Labs, Inc. (NASDAQ: SGLB) partners with AMFG to combine their respective technologies.

PrintRite3D 7.0: 3D Volume Workspace; Anomalies shown in red. Image courtesy of Sigma Labs.

Sigma Labs has been in the industry for some time, having worked with such large military contractors as Honeywell. The firm established a quality assurance package called PrintRite3D that leverages a series of sensors to collect data that can be used to improve process parameters for higher quality printing. The software was originally available for metals, but has since expanded to polymers.

AMFG, in contrast, is a comparatively new company that develops manufacturing execution systems (MES) software for AM. The startup, backed by Innovate UK, has created an MES tool that uses machine learning to aid in the management of 3D printers in a production environment. A variety of modules aid in everything from order management, post-processing, and quality control to inventory, planning, and analytics. Because this is done with the assistance of machine learning, much of this work can be increasingly automated. In turn, such large companies as L’Oreal and Henkel are streamlining their 3D printing operations with AMFG.

The two firms will combine their respective tools so that users can automate their workflows while incorporating in-situ process monitoring. This would eventually make it possible to completely automate part and process qualification. Naturally, AMFG’s tools would be able to learn from the data collected by PrintRite3D, to further enhance their own operations.

Sven Hinrichs, AMFG’s Global Head of Technical Consulting, said, “While there are point solutions that solve specific challenges, everyone benefits when data between systems flows freely and is used to optimize the entire process. We’ve been great admirers of the tremendous strides Sigma Labs has made in ensuring part quality and qualification and are very happy to partner with their team to integrate for customers into an optimized end-to-end solution.”

Jacob Brunsberg, President of Sigma Labs, said, “We chose to partner with AMFG because of their solid reputation in the manufacturing execution space. Like Sigma Labs, AMFG is committed to deep collaboration that benefits individual customers as well as the additive manufacturing industry as a whole. The focus has shifted in the past several years from developing technology for technology’s sake, to solving the end user’s business problem. Both of our companies are industry leaders in embracing this trend.”

The MES space is an extremely small one, made up of about six or seven startups. Three of those have already been acquired: Oqton, Link3D, and 3DTrust. Another, 3YOURMIND, is at least closely aligned with EOS, as it has been invested in by AM Ventures, which is run by the same family. That leaves firms like AMFG, Authentise, and 3D Control Systems.

Increasingly, the tools of all of these businesses will be incorporated into other platforms. This won’t only occur with 3D printers and larger manufacturing operations, but they will also be paired with auxiliary tools like PrintRite3D, AM-FLOW, SmartParts, and others. Altogether, we may see entire workflows emerge that altogether streamline the process from design to print to ship. By then, we’ll know that this AM is not just an industrial production tool, but close to true lights-out manufacturing.

The combined tools will be presented at the upcoming Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) conference, held in Chicago. In a session titled “Connected AM Workflow: Powder-to-Part”,  Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 3:00 pm, the speakers will discuss how their tools work together and what can be gained from the joint solution.

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