Vendor Managed Inventory for 3D Printing Introduced by Authentise

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While additive manufacturing (AM) hardware continues to advance, much of the technology is already mature enough for large batch production. With AM Researcher’s “Opportunities in Additive Manufacturing Software Markets 2023” report predicting $6.2 billion in revenues by 2031, the true driver of industry progress now is software, with a few firms leading the charge in integrating digital manufacturing into existing workflows. Among them is Authentise, which is steadily developing advanced software solutions for 3D printing and beyond.

In 2024, the UK-US startup Authentise has made several significant announcements promising advancements for digital manufacturing. One notable update is the addition of artificial intelligence (AI) to its collaboration tool, Threads. Additionally, Authentise unveiled the AM industry’s first Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) solution in partnership with United Performance Materials (UPM). To gain more insight, we spoke with CEO Andre Wegner.

Weaving AI into Authentise Threads

Authentise offers a range of solutions, including Materials Management for tracking material history and use, and RFQ Responder for instant price generation. At the core of Authentise’s offerings is Flows, which manages production workflows from order intake to production planning, digital parts library, monitoring, quality assurance, and reporting.

Last year Authentise introduced Threads, a collaboration tool for project managers and cross-functional teams. Threads digitizes, automates, and tracks industrial engineering and manufacturing operations, consolidating discussions, document management, and even 3D model annotations into a single repository.

“What we realized is that Flows covered the design-to-part process really well, but Threads is helping us cover the idea-to-design process,” Wegner said. “Now we really are full gamut, from idea all the way to part. This approach helps us manage individual components and even deliver overall products that might include multiple components and assemblies.”

This year, Threads received an AI boost based on feedback from clients like the US Department of Defense and Boeing. The tool now includes 3D model annotation, AI-generated milestone capture suggestions, and AI-powered summaries, all aimed at deepening collaboration and improving R&D project tracking.

Authentise collected three months of data from the U.S. government, including around 200 conversations and thousands of comments. Using AI, Threads identified the biggest risk factors for those projects. Wegner explained, “In the Air Force, the way they do it is with model-based systems engineering, which is very manual. With Threads, we complement that approach with a bottoms-up strategy, automating the identification and management of risk factors.”

Further enhancements include integrations with Plyable and the Google Docs Suite. The Google Docs integration facilitates real-time document collaboration, mirroring 3D model annotation functionalities. The Plyable integration streamlines composite mold development within Threads, allowing engineers to design, quote, and order molds online within seconds, significantly reducing lead times and enhancing design process efficiency.

“If you’re having all of these conversations in one space, you’re soon going to identify what the bottlenecks are,” Wegner said. “We’ve integrated Plyable, which designs, quotes, and outsources the delivery of molds for composite parts. This process would usually take a week, but now you can get a quote within 30 seconds inside the tool where you’re already having the conversation.”

Later this year, Authentise plans to release a technical data package generator, which will automate the creation of production recipes based on conversations and documents in Threads. This feature is expected to further streamline workflows by reducing the time required to generate technical data packages.

Vendor Managed Inventory

As exciting as the incorporation of AI into product development and management may be, news announced by Authentise ahead of RAPID + TCT may be even more significant. The company has partnered with UPM, a leading provider of products and services for the AM industry and metalworking at large, to introduce the AM sector’s “first” Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) solution.

VMI is a supply chain practice where the supplier is responsible for maintaining the inventory levels of their products at the buyer’s location. Traditionally, VMI involves the supplier monitoring the buyer’s inventory data and making restocking decisions to ensure optimal inventory levels, reducing the buyer’s burden of inventory management and improving supply chain efficiency. This practice is common in various industries, such as retail and automotive, where maintaining a smooth and uninterrupted supply of materials is crucial.

In the case of Authentise’s partnership with UPM, the solution advances material management by providing comprehensive traceability for critical components like metal build plates and powders. Leveraging Authentise’s technology, the VMI solution ensures quality, streamlines production, adheres to stringent industry standards, and automates inventory management to guarantee the availability of essential materials, reducing manual intervention.

Financially, the VMI solution offers significant benefits by allowing consignment stock in the buyer’s warehouse, reducing capital requirements and enhancing cash flow. This flexibility enables manufacturers to respond swiftly to market changes and scale operations efficiently. Beta customers, such as I3D MFG (recently acquired by ERA Industries), are using the tool to implement traceability, automate inventory management, and provide the agility needed for rapid production scaling.

“We always had a supplier management portal where suppliers could log in and provide a quote for a sub-process, like heat treatment or for the delivery of a full part. But now we’ve expanded that to also manage people’s inventory. Your materials, your build plates, whatever.” Wegner explained. “Now there’s a portal where the supplier can log on and see the level of inventory that the client has, fill that inventory up, and see if there are any, like in the case of build plates, you may have to recycle. This optimization strips a lot of costs out of the system.”

The introduction of VMI and AI into the Authentise ecosystem represents the company’s broader vision of integrating digital manufacturing from idea to part. By combining operational efficiency with deep data transparency, Authentise aims to reduce the time it takes to turn an idea into a part from weeks or months into seconds, leveraging digital power to deliver parts faster.

Wegner concluded, “The UPM story indicates how mature the AM industry is becoming. The fact that industry stakeholders are investing in a vendor-managed inventory system unique to additive manufacturing shows a commitment to creating sustainable value and transparency in the process.”

These most recent developments from Authentise are clearly just the tip of the iceberg, providing a hint at what’s to come. One can imagine the company ultimately adding real-time video conferencing to Threads, similar to CADchat, but allowing AI to automatically collect data from calls. As more firms adopt VMI via 3D printing, we can also picture how it would complement digital inventories for spare parts 3D printing, resulting in an entire, connected ecosystem.

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