How Can You Scale to Serial Additive Production with Additive MES?

15 January 2021
serial additive production

As the adoption of AM is growing, your organisation has decided to invest in the AM facility to be at the forefront of serial additive manufacturing. However, scaling and expanding additive manufacturing volumes effectively requires more than simply investing in AM machines and materials alone. 

Creating scalable AM processes needs a high level of control and transparency over machines, teams and AM production operations. 

It also requires an understanding of the performance of your AM operations, so you can optimise the production efficiency, plan budget and grow revenue. 

Achieving these goals, however, is challenging, without the right digital infrastructure in place.

Operational challenges to scaling serial additive manufacturing

Many companies are establishing such an infrastructure by using off-the-shelf IT solutions. In many cases, these solutions have been developed with the requirements of traditional manufacturing in mind and are often not optimised for additive manufacturing workflows. 

Another challenge lies in a lack of machine integration and visibility across the workflow.

Without operational transparency, you’ll ultimately get in a tight spot, where you can’t track and analyse the performance of your machines and processes to the level that you need to efficiently plan production. 

At some point, coordinating with suppliers will present another challenge. Serial AM production will require not only synchronisation of all internal processes, but also traceability throughout the supply chain. 

How you can solve these challenges and scale AM with Additive MES software

Additive MES software provides the foundation for serial additive manufacturing, offering advanced levels of data analytics, visibility and automation. 

1. Streamlining AM production planning and scheduling 

3d printing production planning
Advanced MES software allows you easily select and assign parts to a machine, streamlining build preparation [Image credit: AMFG]

Additive MES software provides a complete overview of all your machines and builds and helps to schedule production jobs according to machine availability and build parameters.   

One way you can benefit from this is by better understanding machine utilisation and capacity. 

Another benefit is a reduced chance of mistakes. When creating a build, the MES platform enables operators to assign parts based on the build platform requirements. This means that you can’t assign, let’s say, polymer parts to the build using a metal material. 

In this way, optimised build scheduling helps you to save time and money while facilitating greater repeatability

Related: How Bowman Additive Production Uses AMFG to Automate Production of End Use Bearings

2. Monitoring machines to optimise production 

machine connectivity and integration in additive manufacturing
MES helps to streamline AM system monitoring by providing an easy-to-navigate dashboard [Image credit: AMFG]

Connecting directly with AM machines through additive MES software can advance your facility in multiple ways. 

Imagine a situation where machine operators can see the AM machines’ performance in a real-time dashboard. 

Equipped with the ability to see what’s happening in real-time, the manager can work with the operators to identify underperforming equipment and take proactive actions and keep up the overall equipment efficiency.

This knowledge also feeds into production planning, as production managers can better schedule machine use, and therefore better prepare machines to yield more in less time

Integrating machine data into MES software provides not only live but also historic machine data, including printing parameters and outcome of each build. It’s this information that gives your AM production team a clear view of which parameters resulted in the highest-quality builds. 

This is the way machine monitoring through additive MES can provide insights into performance and quality, enabling continuous improvement and optimisation. 

Related: 3 Ways Connectivity Will Enhance Your Additive Manufacturing Operations

3. Coordinating the post-processing and quality management workflow

AMFG post processing module
AM shop floor workers can use MES software to conduct QA checks [Image credit: AMFG]

When adopting additive manufacturing for serial production, considering the strategy for managing the post-processing and quality management is crucial.

Digitalisation through MES software offers a valuable way to streamline this process. 

MES software ensures a seamless flow of data between the production and post-production stages. It allows you to establish a sequence of post-processing operations and adhere to it, so post-processing operators know what step needs to be done and when. 

When it comes to QA management, MES software can help to digitise this process as well. For example, AMFG’s MES software has a 3D viewer that allows operators to inspect the part and its properties more accurately.

AMFG’s MES software also allows for the import of reports from external data sources, like sensors and barcodes, offering a faster way to ensure that parts meet the required specifications.

Ultimately, MES software is useful not only for tracking post-processing steps but also for connecting this critical stage to the rest of the AM workflow – supporting scalable end-to-end operations. 

Related: How Digitisation Can Help Transform AM Post-Processing and QA Management

4. Improving visibility along the production process

The complexity and the digital nature of AM demand
real-time visibility and flexible control.

Without knowing and, more importantly, tracing what happens with your 3D files, machines and materials, you’ll be faced with blind spots that impact operations and profitability. 

A good production visibility system, like MES, eliminates blind spots and enables you to log and track each step in the AM process. 

MES software provides a centralised platform with which stakeholders can gain complete visibility into the organisation’s AM operations.

It offers a “single version of truth” that facilitates collaboration between stakeholders, regardless of function, to optimise operations and reduce costs.

Related: 5 Ways Real-Time Production Visibility Advances Your AM Operations

5. Facilitating communication with your suppliers

After automating internal production processes, the next logical step is to automate production across the manufacturing supply chain. 

Advanced MES software like AMFG helps to link manufacturing partners and suppliers and establish a smooth outsourcing workflow

For example, you can easily outsource production or post-processing activities to your existing suppliers using the supplier integration network. 

In this instance, if your facility doesn’t have a certain post-processing capability in-house, the project can be outsourced to an external partner directly through the platform – thereby maintaining a streamlined, centralised workflow.

Scale your AM operations for the future with MES software

Optimising the efficiency of your AM operations starts with investing in the right digital infrastructure that enables traceability, machine connectivity and data-driven insights. 

Additive manufacturing MES software is becoming one of the key solutions needed to create the digital infrastructure for AM production. 

It makes day-to-day business processes more efficient, by coordinating tasks between people. And it also helps to synchronise data between systems, making the integration of AM into a digital manufacturing environment much simpler.

With day-to-day operations running reliably, requiring less manual labour and creating more consistent products, the journey to increasing production will be faster and easier.

Ultimately, with additive MES, you can build a solid production management strategy – and successfully scale serial additive manufacturing for the future. 

See how you can improve efficiency and traceability to scale your AM production


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