Automation in 3D Printing Software: Authentise & CASTOR at formnext 2023

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AM workflow software provider Authentise attended the recent formnext 2023 in Frankfurt, and I spoke to CEO Andre Wegner at the event about the company’s newest product, an engineering collaboration tool called Threads. He said to “think of it like Jira and Slack in one tool.”

“Basically, when you’re coming up with a new design, there are hundreds of different problems to solve: material selection, design problems, et cetera. You’re having conversations with your team members and clients and materials experts and whatever in one channel,” he explained. “And while you’re doing that, you’re coming up with a project plan as you’re defining.”

When you’re developing this plan, problems will inevitably pop up, but instead of starting out the design journey by listing the necessary steps to fix the problems, Wegner says that Threads is “much more natural,” and efficient, as it it will automatically detect that a user is trying to make a decision to fix a part problem.

“It will understand this is the decision that you have to track against. Then, there’s a design and you can annotate the 3D design in space and be like, we might want to change something about this form. It’s just a much more natural way to come up with a process that typically is reflected just in the emails, the whiteboards, the meetings, you know? That’s typically how these decisions are being made. So, we come up with that part of it.”

Authentise’s Goldberg Machine. (Image courtesy of Authentise)

Threads is also traceable, which is helpful for engineering and R&D, which Wegner called “inherently a kind of confused process.” He explained that Threads “reflects that confusion, but also allows you to track it at the same time.” As an example, he said the company is currently involved in a project to remanufacture a wind tunnel blade.

“If we knew what the designers had decided 40 years ago when the first blades were manufactured, we would be twice as fast. But we don’t. No information was recorded other than the geometry, and even that poorly,” he said. “So, now you have a tool where you can track the conversations and the decisions that are being made. And ultimately maybe we can provide a kind of objective view of ‘This is how it all happened.'”

There’s also a permissions-based system for Threads so certain people can have access to certain design and plan aspects, while others don’t.

Authentise’s formnext booth. (Image courtesy of Sarah Saunders)

Wegner also told me about the latest features of the company’s workflow automation platform, Flows. This management system takes you all the way from the initial idea to shipping the completed part, while also tracking the entire process.

“Really, what we’ve managed to do over the last year, the big news is that Authentise is end-to-end,” Wegner said. “It used to be that Flows was limited from the design to the part, and now it’s a much broader mandate. The DoD and others are using it for that reason.”

The name of the game here is efficiency and traceability, and Flows achieves both through a number of helpful features, including production planning and scheduling, real-time machine monitoring, quality assurance and reporting, and more. It features materials management, which allows you to track a powder’s full genealogy, and also integrates a variety of third party tools, such as orientation support, part file assessment, and nesting, into a single thread, which results in a fully traceable part that’s ready to be shipped out.

Speaking of this, users of the end-to-end connected workflow system can manage orders internally, through a third party, or across multiple locations with centralized order intake and outsourcing. Plus, the Digital Design Warehouse allows users to decide what designs to share internally, and gives them the ability to assess different design options as well.

This warehouse integrates digital manufacturing solutions from Zverse for 2D to 3D conversions, and from CASTOR for additive opportunity assessment. The latter, an industrial 3D printing software company, was also at formnext 2023, and officially launched a new feature that enables the automatic creation of a 3D simulation from 2D drawings with just the push of a button.

Image courtesy of CASTOR

Work towards this new feature began last summer, when CASTOR announced its ability to automatically analyze 2D drawings for 3D printability. Now, when you upload a 2D drawing, the software allows you to simulate a 3D view of every part in the file, which can improve estimates of printability, cost, lead time, sustainability, and supply chain advantages. This will be especially helpful for companies that currently rely heavily on 2D drawings during the manufacturing process.

“The new capability introduced by CASTOR will be a game-changer for engineers, significantly reducing the time and effort required to qualify AM parts,” Omer Blaier, Co-Founder & CEO of CASTOR, said in a press release. “This tool will eventually enable engineers to expedite the identification of parts suitable for 3D printing and allocate their valuable skills to more strategic tasks. With this innovation, we aim to transform the landscape of Additive Manufacturing and make it even more accessible for companies relying on 2D PDF drawings in their manufacturing processes.”

Using a rapid Geometric Analysis, CASTOR’s new capability looks at cost-effectiveness, material properties, and digital supply chain benefits to quickly make an informed decision on a part’s printability, which makes the decision-making process faster and easier. The software also automatically extracts product manufacturing information, or PMI, out of the PDF files of 2D drawings, and calculates the size, complexity, and volume of a part to create a 3D simulation. This information is also used to make material and technology recommendations, such as part consolidation, and to perform a financial analysis comparing traditional to additive manufacturing, as well as the part’s likelihood to fail. Useful information is exported as both a raw data Excel sheet and a formal PDF report.

This isn’t to say you won’t still need a 3D file; rather, CASTOR’s new process allows users to quickly determine whether a part is suited for additive manufacturing or not, saving them time and money in the long run.

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