To enable manufacturers to get the most out of each professional 3D printer, additive manufacturing solution providers have integrated the core set of Industry 4.0 technologies into their 3D printer platforms.
Here are examples of the technologies, how they augment professional 3D printers, and how they solve problems for manufacturers:
Cloud computing provides connectivity between users and every professional 3D printer operated by an organization, across disparate geographic locations. Effectively, a user can hop on their laptop and initiate printing of a repair part for a factory halfway across the globe.
With a digital inventory of parts as data items stored in the cloud, this ability confers numerous benefits: manufacturers can avoid the need to stock up on large amounts of inventory, and effectively operate with a lean manufacturing model with just-in-time (JIT) production. Furthermore, a distributed manufacturing model allows users to avoid supply chain complications and simply get parts faster, by printing parts to the exact point of need when they are needed, as opposed to submitting an order for a part to be created at one location and having it shipped to the point of need.
Software for today’s professional 3D printers also provide various data analytics for their users. Organizations can track metrics such as material usage, print job quantities per user according to time intervals, printer bandwidth per user, parts uploaded per week, and custom analytics fields. Print times and costs per print job are calculated according to variables such as part size, material, and volume of fiber used to reinforce the plastic matrix. Using these analytics can allow organizations to understand usage patterns of equipment and optimize resources accordingly.
3D printer software with automated, AI-driven part inspection.
Professional 3D printers are inherently automated by nature — simply hitting the “print” button will take you from art to part in just hours to days without the need for hands-on work, management, or human oversight. With in-house additive manufacturing, engineers do not have to worry about time-consuming procurement activities like drafting drawings, submitting purchase orders, and managing the bidding process with multiple vendors.
More recently, quality inspection of parts has been fully automated — during the fabrication process, AI-powered 3D printing software can verify that a printed part is immediately usable in the factory, automatically generating part quality and traceability reports.
Through 3D printing software APIs, professional 3D printers can also integrate with other core systems within a smart factory, such as through a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system. Print jobs can be initiated through any of these systems. If a user requests a part in one of these systems, that system can trigger an automatic print job in any specific 3D printer.