Siemens, BASF Forward AM, HP, EOS & DyeMansion Announce AM Industrialization Navigator at Formnext 2023

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At Formnext 2023 (November 7-10 in Frankfurt, Germany), a group of five 3D printing powerhouses announced a collaborative effort to standardize a model for technical maturation. Called the Additive Manufacturing Industrialization Navigator (AM I Navigator) Initiative, the endeavor is being launched by Siemens, DyeMansion, BASF Forward AM, EOS, and HP.

Based on a rubric of five levels that proceed from least (Level 1- “Basic”) to most (Level 5 – “Autonomous”) mature, the AM I Navigator scale can perhaps be thought of along the lines of a holistic, purely private sector version of the Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) scales utilized by the US Federal Government. Attendees of Formnext 2023 can learn more about the AM I Navigator Initiative during a joint panel by representatives of all the companies involved, on Wednesday, November 8th from 4:15 to 4:45 PM CET, on the Technology Stage.

According to the press release announcing the new collaboration, the linchpin of AM I Navigator is the “Maturity Check”. Via this process, the AM I Navigator scale — 1 – “Basic”, 2 – “Professional”, 3 – “Advanced”, 4 – “Integrated”, and 5 – “Autonomous” — is used to assess a specific company’s overall AM competencies, by determining where those competencies fall on the scale. As the press release announcing the initiative explained, this method is based on the Siemens Digital Manufacturing Excellence framework.

As with everything Siemens does in this context, the key to that framework seems to be the digital thread, which the company defines as “a discrete, linked, traceable sequence of activities in the product or production lifecycle, that is digitized and automated.” Thus, although the details will surely be fleshed out more after the panel takes place, this is presumably the core basis upon which a specific company’s overall AM capabilities will be assessed.

That aspect also helps explain the founding participants, as each company involved constitutes a specific link in the chain of the digital thread. Siemens is the engineering and digitalization expert, BASF Forward AM is the materials specialist, HP is the end-to-end AM division within a tech giant, EOS is the pure play AM OEM, and DyeMansion rounds out the group with its post-processing platform.

Regardless of the particularities at hand with the AM I Navigator Initiative, then, the most significant angle to this development may simply be the group’s sheer makeup. In other words, whatever the practical ins-and-outs of the framework look like in their current form, it can be assumed that with such influential players involved, the AM I Navigator Initiative will soon enough have the data and operational reach necessary to follow through on its highly ambitious objectives.

That is, this announcement matters so much because it’s now an actual vehicle through which AM standardization can be realistically achieved. In this sense, it will be interesting to see how it may affect certain increasingly critical themes shaping the AM sector, especially the comprehensive digital traceability of parts. For instance, It’s easy to imagine organizations like the 3D Printing in Auto Repair Task Force — a group that HP’s Francois Minec is also a part of — getting a direct boost from the emergence of the AM I Navigator Initiative.

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