Additive manufacturing has been gradually gaining ground, but the road to widespread mass customization, on-demand and serial production has been bumpy. Manufacturers eager to embrace this technology are held back by workflow inefficiencies and production costs. Oqton’s Manufacturing OS is removing these limitations and accelerating the adoption of additive with state-of-the-art AI techniques and automation.
A major obstacle is the ever-growing number of software and hardware solutions. While immense progress has been made in terms of machine capabilities and output quality, from a usability perspective the complexity typically requires an expert technician to operate.
But to successfully make a part, you need more than an operator who knows how to use a machine. Printing is just one step in a series of processes. After a build is complete, the parts usually go through a series of post-processing actions such as material removal, support removal, and surface finishing. Applying the right post-processing techniques requires deep mechanical knowledge.
These processes are all interdependent and must be planned and scheduled, including the development of any required Standard Operating Procedure, tooling, safety procedures for handling or disposing of materials, and of course the machine time, setup, cleaning, and technician’s time.
Finally, managing the whole production chain – including planning, execution and monitoring – involves significant documentation and reports which result in siloed information, and lack of visibility into and across the entire process. The more mature production environments typically deploy a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Unfortunately, most commercially available MES options were not developed for additive manufacturing and are clunky, difficult to configure, and ill-suited for the high-mix, low-volume production volumes common to additive.
End-to-end solutions developed for advanced manufacturing technology are turning this around. Oqton’s Manufacturing Operating System has been instrumental in helping businesses big and small by automating the complete workflow, from scheduling to build preparation, to creating reports, and tracking every step in manufacturing. It also provides visibility across the entire process, allows full traceability, drives increased utilization of machines and workforce, and allows businesses to scale with reduced dependency on a skilled workforce. Ultimately this helps reduce cost and lead time.
Underpinning these benefits is the ability to capture and use expert knowledge. The Manufacturing OS comes with industry-leading simulation for metal additive processes allowing operators to print right the first time. Artificial Intelligence is used to automate file preparation, a traditionally time-consuming series of tasks normally performed by trained technicians. Part identification, segmentation, orientation and nesting can all be carried out without human intervention.
Traceability of the complete solution — machines, maintenance, materials, and operators – is important for many productions, and in highly regulated industries such as medical and aerospace, it is paramount. As digital transformation is not instantaneous, many businesses still rely on manual paper travelers, spreadsheets, dry-erase boards or post-it notes. Oqton’s software allows them to bring all this information, digital or physical, into a singular system of record, and have complete visibility into production.
In addition, the Oqton Manufacturing OS is an open platform with an ever-expanding network of partners spanning simulation and design functions from the likes of Hexagon, to channel partners like Altair, to tight machine integrations with EOS, SLM, Stratasys, HP, Trumpf, 3D Systems and more. Collaborations with solution providers like Digifabster, Castor and others are resulting in comprehensive manufacturing eco-systems where quoting, order and payment are automated too.
The powerful combination of automation, tracking and data analysis in a single, easy-to-configure platform is having a monumental impact on manufacturing. The time savings and productivity gains that the Manufacturing OS is delivering are key to making additive technology accessible to a wider range of businesses, and making the long-awaited manufacturing revolution real.
Oqton is participating at Additive Manufacturing Strategies, taking place in New York City from February 7-9, 2023. Mark McGarry, Senior Sales Director of Additive Manufacturing at Oqton, will be taking part in Session 2, Panel 2: Workflow and Software for AM on February 9. Register for your ticket to attend here.
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