• Additive Manufacturing Blog, March 2021

    Digitalization and Additive Manufacturing with Shane Fox

Joining Fabian this week is Shane Fox, CEO of LINK3D, to discuss digitalization and additive manufacturing. From optimizing workflows to increasing print succes. 

This week’s podcast is very exciting. Not only is it the last in this series of Additive Snack, but we’re also joined by Shane Fox of Link3d, the company helping manufacturers across the industry optimize their additive manufacturing workflow.

Fabian Alefeld
Additive Minds Consulting Manager
EOS of North America Inc.

The additive manufacturing industry has evolved at a rapid pace over the past few years. There are many buzzwords floating around with additive manufacturing at the moment, and if you’re new to the industry and looking for a place to start, it can be rather daunting. With terms like industry 4.0, digitalization, and IoT, we asked Shane to help clarify the role that additive manufacturing will play in the new future and what you can do to enter the industry 4.0 movement.

Where are we now?

Having worked with additive manufacturing over the past ten years, Shane has watched as it’s developed from a tool used in research and development to becoming a serious contender in the production industry.

The additive manufacturing industry has done a great job pushing the boundaries of speed, processing, hardware, and software. By creating a whole new market, additive manufacturing has helped provide creative solutions to problems that traditional methods would have to work around. The next step for businesses is to scale their additive manufacturing and take full advantage of it as a practical tool in their production toolbelt. The question now isn’t if businesses should be looking at additive manufacturing, but how?

An important thought to keep in mind when considering adding additive manufacturing to your business isn’t just the benefits it will have for your ROI but the aspects of sustainability that it can bring to your production flow. The next five years in the industry should be focused on how innovators can truly optimize additive manufacturing software and hardware for players in the space. How can they interact with one another to deliver the solution that customers need to help them to scale and optimize a predictive state of manufacturing?

So what’s the current state of digital transformation, what are just buzzwords, and what is a reality for the future of additive manufacturing?

Up until now, the focus has been on the machines: What has gone into them? What has come out? However, looking forward, we need to start thinking about:

  • What environment do these machines live in?
  • How can we achieve capacity optimization?
  • How can we achieve 100% yield from an actual build?
  • How can we achieve all of the quality metrics and standards that we uphold internally and meet the metrics put forth by regulatory bodies?

The shift from looking at the physical to the broader picture has helped companies like Link3d to come in and help businesses optimize not just the output but the complete end-to-end process of their production. 

As for where the Internet of Things (IoT) fits with additive manufacturing: we believe it will simply fit with the connectivity to your machine. It won’t just focus on whether your machine is on or off, but collecting data from the production process and analyzing that data to look at predictive build failures, predictive failsafes, and other issues that can be addressed before we even begin the printing process. 

What do I need to start moving towards the digitalization of additive manufacturing in my business?

  • A long-term team that agrees on a digital strategy as the future for your business.
  • Come back to the minutia: what infrastructure is in place, and what type of environment do you want to operate within?
  • Ensure that you’re marrying the data of your assets and KPIs to create something meaningful to your business.
  • Build a solid human network. The technology is already there, but a network of problem solvers, experts, and optimizers who can revolutionize the way you look at additive manufacturing is invaluable.

In Summary…

  • Automation, industry 4.0, IoT: Look past the buzzwords to see the potential that additive manufacturing can have for your business
  • Digitalization won’t replace the human touch. The technology is already here, but without the creativity and connectivity of a network, you will be limited when actualizing your design’s full potential.

Do not hesitate to reach out to me personally,  I’d be happy to assist with any questions you might have.

Fabian Alefeld
Additive Minds Consulting Manager
EOS of North America Inc.