OpenAdditive, a research division of Universal Technology Corporation, located in Dayton, Ohio, USA, has released an Additive Manufacturing guide called ‘The 6 Elements of an Open 3D Printing Platform’. The guide outlines the following core elements of the OpenAdditive approach to metal Additive Manufacturing:
OpenAdditive states that the choice between an open and closed architecture has a major impact on the role of the user. By definition, closed architecture implies that users cannot modify original equipment, and generally face warranty or other limitations hindering the integration of add-on technologies. These limitations hinder the creative freedom of users to enhance system capabilities for their individual needs. In particular, these limitations impact businesses, research institutes, government labs, and universities that perform R&D, and seek to disseminate or commercialise the results of such work. A closed architecture can also limit the platform’s potential as a training or education tool.
Closely related to the idea of open architecture, the company continues, is an ‘open configuration’ platform. Open configuration refers to the flexibility of the system to be configured or reconfigured based on project or application needs. This reconfiguration could be accomplished by the machine manufacturer (ideal for more complicated tasks), or the user, a third party, or combination thereof depending on the complexity. It can occur prior to or after sale.
A basic prerequisite for an open platform, OpenAdditive explains, is the ability to use feedstock of choice. An open platform should place no restrictions on materials or sources, other than conformance to any minimal specifications to ensure machine operability. Users should not be limited to buying feedstock through the machine manufacturer, or be subject to machine manufacturer’s approval for material types or sources. Users are encouraged to consult the machine manufacturer for guidance (not approval) on using any unusual materials that could be foreseen to cause issues.
The company says an open platform implies that users have the capability to dial in their own processing parameters. This is important to allow users freedom to conduct their R&D, understand effects of parameters for education, and create competitive advantages for production applications. Open parameters is more than just being able to dial in your own settings, however. It is also having insights into the preset settings for any pre-loaded materials recipes. These insights are especially important to enable fundamental and applied research, and make comparative studies for process optimisation.
Effective in-situ monitoring is becoming a growing need for quality control of metal AM processes states OpenAdditive. System manufacturers increasingly offer one or more sensors to monitor the build process, as either standard features, available options, or third-party add-ons. An open platform should not restrict the integration of third-party sensors for process monitoring. Moreover, it should provide the actual raw data output from any integrated sensors. This raw data allows users to retain and analyse (as desired) the sensor data. This is particularly important for R&D and process optimisation studies. It will become even more important in the future as OEMs and higher tier suppliers begin to assess in-situ data from their suppliers as part of quality assurance programmes.
According to the company, an open platform should be designed for easy maintenance, and empower rather than restrict users from keeping their own system up and running. Users should have the option to make their own minor repairs and replacements, or seek outside technical support, without being beholden to the system manufacturer or a manufacturer-approved service provider. Users should not have to pay exorbitant fees for service contracts or technical support to enable them to operate the system which they have already paid a substantial sum to acquire.
The full guide is available to view on OpenAdditive’s website.