How can a 3D Printing Service Bureau get started with Digital Manufacturing? 

News/Update
October 6, 2023
How can a 3D Printing Service Bureau get started with Digital Manufacturing? 

Our last article talked about Digital manufacturing and how it has evolved. In this one, we will go over how a step by step process for a 3D printing or Additive Manufacturing Service Bureau can get started with Digital manufacturing. 

Step 1: Assess your Current State

First, you need to assess the 3D printing processes and capabilities you have in your facility. The assessment includes all your different 3D printing technologies, materials, and post-processing services. Then, identify your challenges, such as longer print time, occasional print failures, or high material wastage. 

Step 2: Define Clear Objectives

Once you have identified your challenges, define clear objectives on what you want to achieve. For example, do you want to reduce print time by 30%, minimize material waste by 20%, or achieve better parts quality since you plan to go after larger B2B customers. Setting this as your objective helps you scope and define how you will conduct the digital transformation of your facility.  

Step 3: Invest in Employee Training  

One of the critical challenges in the current market is ensuring that your employees are well-equipped for this new company direction. This means you must train them on advanced 3D printing techniques like the design for Additive Manufacturing and topology optimization using tools like Ansys, Fusion 360, and nTop. Online training like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning can help the team get the correct resources and upskill in these niche techniques. 

Step 4: Start with Small Pilots

With the objectives set for your digital transformation, the goal is to start with a small pilot with these objectives in mind. In the example mentioned above in Step 2, choose one 3D printing technology/ Machine, the material, and the print time/print quality that you want to optimize. Time box the pilot for a 6-month or 12-month period and ensure that you control all the variables for this pilot. 

Step 5: Setup the Tooling for the Pilot

For the best success in this pilot, update the printer's firmware to the latest version provided by the manufacturer. Most machine manufacturers like EOS, HP, Desktop Metal, Stratysus, 3D systems, Ultimaker, etc., regularly update their machine's firmware to create the best possible part production environment. 

Try to use the materials recommended by the manufacturer of the material or an official supplier for the representative machines. Use data from simulation tools like Ansys and Fusion 360 to test for conditions like overhangs and conformal channels. Ensure the printers are in the best working condition, like the print head is new or 100% functional. Connect all the data from the machine and the simulation setup to tools like Power BI and Tableau for real-time insights into the part production process. 

Step 6: Evaluate ROI

Once you have run the pilot of the amount time boxed duration, evaluate the Return on Investment (ROI) on the pilot project. Look at the outcome you wanted to achieve and see if it can scale this for your whole facility. Were you able to reduce print time by 35% while increasing the quality of the parts and reducing the amount of material used by 25%? This is important because it has to make business sense for digital transformation, and ROI is essential. 

Step 7: Continuous Improvement and Employee Feedback

Once you have established that this pilot was a success, reach out to your employees and ask them for their feedback. Has this enabled them to save time in their daily life? Have there been marked improvements in the printing process and quality of parts that helped reduce too much post-printing QA/QC work? Listen to their feedback and keep iterating and optimizing for the best parts being printed in the shortest amount of time possible. 

Step 8: Scale Gradually

Once you have finished the earlier steps, you are ready to scale this in your facility and begin scaling up your Digital Manufacturing Journey! 

Step 9: Engage with Industry Networks

As part of your Digital Manufacturing Journey, you can join 3D printing industry associations, networks, and conferences like Formnext, AMUG, NAMIC, America Makes, and Building 3D to share your learnings but also be up-to-date with the latest developments in the space to further improve and develop your Digital manufacturing capabilities. 

Taking a step toward Digital manufacturing may seem daunting, but you can take small and incremental steps to achieve total digital transformation. Phasio helps to automate the customer communication aspect of Digital Manufacturing, and you can reach out to us at hello@phas.io or go to our website, www.phas.io.

3D Printing
Additive Manufacturing
CAD Design
Industry 4 0
Manufacturing Software
Software