PTC Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, USA, EOS GmbH, Krailling, Germany, and Link3D, Boulder, Colorado, USA, have announced their collaboration to develop augmented reality (AR) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enable production quality Additive Manufacturing at scale.
In regulated industries such as aerospace, medical and automotive, the highest quality standards must be established and maintained. The Six Sigma DMAIC process, as a basis for a stable production environment, can identify potential risks and introduce mitigation actions. Often, such risk mitigations require the use of manual checklists or working procedures that operators must be trained in and follow strictly. In many cases, the documents containing these checklists are paper based, and must later be digitised and archive. As a result, there is a risk of human error or even manipulation.
Organisations can digitally streamline the process from ordering, costing and scheduling build cycles, but ensuring repeatable production quality by standardising human processes, especially when preparing Additive Manufacturing machines to produce orders, remains the missing link, explains Link3D. The new partners are reported to be configuring a way to close this gap by linking machine preparation and downstream manufacturing processes with customised fixed workflows, as well as recording the actions.
“Scalable and agile industrial use of EOS additive production systems requires skilled and knowledgeable operators for the critical steps in preparation and post processing,” stated Christoph Braeuchle, VP of Production Innovation Management at PTC. “Procedural workforce guidance based on our Vuforia AR technology helps train and guide the workforce and complements Link3D Additive MES. With a connection between Link3D and our ThingWorx industrial IoT platform, this combined solution will empower our joint customers to further scale their use of additive production capabilities.”
The EOS, PTC and Link3D collaboration will reportedly help organisations in the AM industry to:
- Increase production quality with repeatable fixed processes
- Standardise workflows with guided AR work instructions for EOS machine setup and maintenance
- Enable an end-to-end digital thread
- Validate processes to adhere to customer regulatory requirements
- Generate part certificates of conformance, other quality documentation and data analytics reports
Michael Jan Galba, Head of Global Consulting & Manufacturing Engineering at EOS, explained, “In addition to our reliable and high-quality 3D printing process and systems, this collaboration is an effective way to easily as well as properly document relevant operational procedures and checks through guided workflows. It will help organisations maintain their certifications while training the next generation of EOS system operators.”
Procedural Guidance with PTC’s AR technology provides digital work instructions in a 3D overlay on physical EOS machines, using mobile devices like iPads or head-mounted AR devices. This procedural guidance can be initiated from the Link3D MES Job Traveler and PTC. Organisations adopting this solution are said to be able to train a large number of employees in standardised workflows to prepare EOS machines for production whilst maintaining high quality standards.
The companies explain that in a manufacturing scenario, as employees complete each step using AR procedural guidance, workflow steps are automatically validated and data output is digitally recorded in real-time within Link3D. As a result, documentation, quality reports such as certificates of conformance and quality analytics are automatically generated. By standardising production processes, organisations can increase part quality at scale while removing the need for paper trails, which can often be filled out improperly or lost.
“By joining forces, we can help users implement programs to enable production quality at scale for EOS industrial 3D printers with PTC Vuforia powered by Link3D Additive MES,” explained Vishal Singh, CTO of Link3D. “The future of workforce training will be largely governed by AR / VR. MES is going to play a critical role in validating training compliance and production to meet part-related customer specifications.”