Despite its rapid growth in recent years, the Additive Manufacturing User Group is still just that: A user group of amazingly talented individuals with long experience with every aspect of the technology. It’s the reason we love being there.
So while we showed off our Manufacturing Execution System and 3Diax Modular Platforms in the Exhibits, we were keen to build on the ethos of AMUG during the sessions. The result was a roundtable on the challenges companies are experiencing while they seek to scale up their additive manufacturing operations. We act as organizers – the audience are the real star.
I do a lot of public speaking, and frankly – complete control via a prepared speech is a LOT less nerve-wracking than hoping that people participate. But we were not disappointed by the User Group; the collaborative nature of the event showed up in full force and thanks to the excellent moderation of Additive Manufacturing Media’s Editor-in-Chief, Pete Zelinski, came to highly productive uses.
So what were some of the topics people came up with?
Challenge: Multi-material, for example ABS infused with carbon, is becoming more prevalent, but the file definitions remain a major barrier. Line drawings certainly don’t do the trick anymore, especially as the complexity grows with deviations, infill requirements, orientation and more.
Comments: One participant suggested using XML structures attached to the geometry, while others referred to Model Based Design efforts that help to go beyond simple geometries and address scalability issues with the first suggestion through NIST-sponsored standardization.
Challenge: Despite the digital nature of AM, there are still significant challenges even in basic operations: How do we know when something is down? How do we include expected, predicted or current downtime in our schedules? How do we maintain throughput in a failure scenario?
Comments: This one was close to our own heart, Authentise’s MES was mentioned not just once in this context. In addition, participants pointed out that solutions go beyond data-driven scheduling software – they include additional sensors, machine learning to better predict run times, standarizing machine data access, furthering the use of augmented reality for machine maintainance and more.
Challenge: Lack of fully documented testing knowledge means we might be spending too much time and money testing, documenting, standardizing and more. How much testing is really necessary to make sure a part can fly.
Comments: Naturally, answers here differ by industry. They range from dozens of successful builds to just two. Standard practice seems to be freezing particular machine and locking in orientation, build plate setting and support.
There was a vigorous exchange on these and other topics. Certainly, there were a lot of things we could have done better (like adding interactive voting tools, such as PollEverywhere), but the audience really took up the mantle; AMUG participants are collectively smarter than any speaker they could put up. Encouraging conversations about challenges and solutions is the best way to learn – for ourselves and for participants. We’ll certainly be back next year and build on this success.