PerceptEngine Features - Reduced Learning Curve

PerceptEngine Features - Part II

In our prior blog posts, high cost, lack of quality control, and process speed were discussed as the primary hurdles preventing adoption of Additive by industry. However, there's another unforeseen barrier many encounter after deciding to pursue 3D-Printing. This hindrance comes in the form of a significant learning curve.

What do you mean by significant 'learning-curve'?

Additive Manufacturing's dirty little secret is that it's not an easy technology to learn while also being time consuming and expensive to master. It's even more difficult to find your footing if you don't have someone skilled in the art to teach you. This statement certainly can be said for many trade skills & arts but it's important to understand that success in additive, as it stands today, requires significant technical ability and resources. If you don't believe me, here's an article discussing the struggles a 75 year-old advanced manufacture had when adopting Additive Manufacturing (AM).

 Basic Learning Curve for to Additive Manufacturing,  Click Here  for Basic 3D-Printing Advice

Basic Learning Curve for to Additive Manufacturing, Click Here for Basic 3D-Printing Advice

But I thought you could just 'press print' and then a part comes out?

This unfortunately is not the case and was an early marketing ploy used by Additive companies to expand the 3D-Printing market and guess what, it worked! Well at least until mid 2014 when people realized that things weren't as they seemed in the 3D-Printing world. Stratasys, one of the early pioneers of 3D-Printing, fell victim to the harsh realities of the Additive hype-cycle that started in 2010 as showcased by their stock plummet in late 2014.

 Stratasys' Stock Pricing Fluctuation Due to the Additive Hype-Cycle

Stratasys' Stock Pricing Fluctuation Due to the Additive Hype-Cycle

The problem with hype-cycles is that they have an initial boom and bust nature followed by a significant distrust in the technology, often referred to as the trough of disillusionment. These marketing guys really like to keep it dramatic apparently.

 Additive Hype-Cycle Breakdown

Additive Hype-Cycle Breakdown

The hype-cylce for Additive, according to the above Gartner breakdown from 2015, puts 3D-Printing at an industrial (macro) scale more than 10 years off (2025+) with significant industrial progress by (2020ish), which I'd argue is still a somewhat accurate prediction. If it were my guess, I believe Additive has just finished clawing its way out of the Trough of Disillusionment and is now entering the Slope of Enlightenment.  

So you're saying we are getting closer to just being able to simply 'press print'?

Yes, sorta... but before we can get there, we have to be honest with ourselves and view additive through the eyes of someone trying to enter the additive field. This means taking a view at the daily grind of an Additive service provider.

Those at the top of the Additive service hierarchy have recently been using the phrase 'end-to-end solution'.

But what does that really mean?

Here's a step by step breakdown of the 'end-to-end solution' used by Additive service providers:

  1. Create/Edit CAD Design & Prepare for the specified Additive Process & Material
  2. Convert to a .STL file (or a variant file type)
  3. Repair the .STL file (or variant file type)
  4. Simulate & or Orient the .STL file (or variant file type)
  5. Import & Slice the repair + oriented .STL file (or variant file type)
  6. Review the Slices & Transfer Files to the Additive Machine
  7. Pick & Prepare the Additive Machine aka 3D-Printer
  8. Start the 3D-Printer & Baby-Sit the Machine for Quality Assurance
  9. Upon completion (assuming nothing went wrong) remove the build from the machine
  10. Once removed post-process the part (i.e. remove supports, stress-relief, H.I.P., perform subtractive operations, etc.)
  11. Compare Original CAD Design to Final 3D-Printed part to verify geometric consistency
  12. Test porosity & mechanical properties if necessary

This is the basic workflow structure utilized by the boots on the ground in the Additive field. Obviously the learning curve for each of these steps is significant but the problem compounding the issue is that almost every step requires a different software to execute, this increases cost and significantly breaks up the workflow.

Why not just consolidate steps and stream line the additive process?

Now you're thinking! At Solid Innovations, we took it a step further by automating some of the more mundane tasks to further increase productivity and alleviate workflow bottlenecks.

 Solid Innovations' Automation Offering(s) for the Additive Workflow

Solid Innovations' Automation Offering(s) for the Additive Workflow

Our premier software, PerceptEngine, automates 7 of the previously listed 12 steps in the pursuit of automating the entire end-to-end Additive approach:

  1. Create/Edit CAD Design & Prepare for the specified Additive process & material
  2. Convert to a .STL file (or a variant file type)
  3. PerceptEngine Automation
    • Repair the .STL file (or variant file type)
    • Simulate & or Orient the .STL file (or variant file type)
    • Import & Slice the repair + oriented .STL file (or variant file type)
    • Review the Slices & Transfer Files to the Additive Machine
    • Pick & Prepare the Additive Machine aka 3D-Printer
    • Start the 3D-Printer & Baby-Sit the Machine for Quality Assurance
    • Compare CAD Design to 3D-Printed part to verify geometric consistency
  4. Upon completion (assuming nothing went wrong) remove the build from the machine
  5. Once removed post-process the part (i.e. remove supports, stress-relief, H.I.P., perform subtractive operations, etc.)
  6. Test porosity & mechanical properties if necessary

Automation allows us to reduce the 3D-Printing learning curve and increase fluidity in the additive workflow which improves efficiency and scalability. Simply put, we're making the life of an Additive operator easier.

Ultimately, if a manufacturing technology becomes as easy to use as pressing a 'print' button, industrial adoption in mass is inevitable.

- Joseph M. Sinclair

Interested in seeing if PerceptEngine is right for you? Sign up for our free Beta Program and join the revolution today!

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