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Building the Pop-up Factory at The Digital Factory 2022

Learn how Tulip built a Pop-up Factory in 24 hours with Formlabs, Vention, Autodesk, RealWear, and Be Global Safety.

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The Digital Factory

Digital technologies are transforming the way products are designed, engineered, prototyped, manufactured, sold, and serviced. The Digital Factory aims to make these technologies accessible to leaders in every industry through global conferences and publications.

Building a Digital Factory

In a world where change is the only constant, responding quickly to market demand using an agile approach has become a strategic advantage for operations striving to compete within their industries. To demonstrate how emerging digital technologies enable organizations to move faster than ever, we built a Pop-up Factory during the Digital Factory Conference in Boston.

Teaming up with Formlabs, Vention, Autodesk, RealWear, and Be Global Safety, in just 24 hours we created a working factory and demo that allowed attendees to experience emerging digital manufacturing technologies first-hand. Set against the backdrop of the Flynn Cruiseport in Boston, attendees were guided from start to finish through the process of assembling their own 3D-printed wireless phone chargers that they could take home at the end of the event.

The Pop-up Factory also made an appearance at IMTS 2022 in Chicago, with Formlabs, Tulip, Vention, and Autodesk.

Here’s how we did it.

Introduction

In just a few short days of planning, teams across Tulip, Formlabs, Vention, Autodesk, and RealWear collaborated on how to showcase the process of designing, building, and assembling a take-home item for attendees. The item had to be easy to assemble, scalable, and functional, to demonstrate the value of advanced technologies and how they are used to build the world around us.

A Qi wireless charger in a snap-fit 3D printed enclosure emerged as the victor, thanks to its broad useability and straightforward assembly process.

Picking a takeaway item was the easy step. Next, the team had to sit down and address some key questions:


  • How can we design 3D printed parts that are simple to snap together and fit the wireless charger electronics?

  • How can we print hundreds of these parts in time for the event?

  • What does the operator experience look like?

  • How can we accommodate hundreds of attendees and ensure they have the best experience possible while showing each step of the factory process?

  • And how can we build it all in just 24 hours?

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Designing the Parts with Autodesk

At the Pop-up, guests were greeted with an overview of Autodesk’s industry-leading CAD software which we used to design the device they would go on to assemble.

Using Autodesk Fusion 360 enabled us to develop our charger from the conceptual phase all the way through design verification and manufacturing with their all-encompassing CAD package.

Notably, it provided us with a variety of tools to aid in designing for additive manufacturing (DfAM), as well as generative design. These include the ability to create lattice structures to increase stiffness and lightness of printed parts, automatically arranging multiple parts within a single build volume, and simulation tools to analyze how your design will perform under a variety of test conditions.

Printing at Scale with Formlabs’ Fuse 1

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With the design of the parts having been finalized in Fusion 360, we were ready to move on to the actual production of each of the printed components. For this part of the process, we turned to Formlabs and their Fuse 1 SLS printer.

Designed for nonstop throughput, the Fuse 1 system brings a new, advanced way to create parts at scale with Formlabs. Similarly to more common methods of additive manufacturing, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) allows for the creation of parts with complex internal geometries impossible to achieve with traditional subtractive processes. However, the SLS technology employed by Fuse 1 also enables the creation of finished parts without the need for support or long curing times required by traditional FDM or SLA printers. The Nylon powder we chose to use with the Fuse 1 can be recycled easily using the Fuse Sift powder recovery system and results in durable parts with a hardwearing surface finish.

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In order to meet the expected demand at the Pop-up Factory, we needed to scale up production of the printed enclosure. Leveraging their internal print farm, the team at Formlabs printed 500 copies of each part of the assembly across two facilities and 20 Fuse 1s, including top and bottom body panels as well as the two legs.

At the Pop-up Factory, we set up a print farm using fifteen Formlabs Form 3 and two Fuse 1 printers to show attendees how additive manufacturing at scale can be achieved.

With Formlabs software, you can optimize production throughput with tools that manage and monitor your printer fleet for you. Integrating the Formlabs ecosystem into your workflow with Tulip allows you to easily use their API to send files, monitor consumables, and track prints from start to finish across your entire fleet of printers.

Maintaining Fuse 1s with RealWear and Tulip

With powder-based 3D printers like Fuse 1, establishing a clean workflow is critical to minimizing the downtime of your production line. The Fuse Sift powder recovery system achieves this by combining part extraction, powder recovery, storage, and mixing in a single free-standing device.

To show off how RealWear’s augmented reality headset makes this process easier for operators, we built a Tulip app that walks the user through the steps required to clean and change the HEPA filter on Fuse 1. Attendees were able to try out the hands-free app on the latest RealWear AR hardware, which guided them through the filter-changing process by displaying visual instructions that were updated in real-time based on voice commands.

This allowed users to interact with dynamic work instructions even while their hands were busy with the machine in front of them. In addition to the convenience of not having to reference an external display, the hands-free headset also helps to maintain a cleaner workspace, which is especially relevant in a laboratory setting or with materials that require careful handling.

Designing Assembly Stations with Vention’s Manufacturing Automation Platform


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Next, we needed to design the workstations where each attendee would go on to assemble their charger. Our requirements included an area to assemble the device, parts bins, as well as mounting points for a monitor, machine vision cameras and other IIoT devices used in the production process.

Using Vention’s MachineBuilder enabled us to rapidly create and iterate on a design for the pop-up factory’s assembly stations. With thousands of modular parts, smart 3D design tools, and collaboration features, MachineBuilder made it very easy to design custom benches that fit our needs.

Vention’s application engineers were also extremely helpful throughout the process, answering our questions through the in-product chat so that we could move faster. This ties into the killer feature of Vention: turnover time. After we had completed the design of our bench, all the parts we needed to assemble were delivered within just 3 days. This speed is simply unheard of in this space.

With all the parts in hand, putting the workstations together was made simple with the help of auto-generated instructions for our custom design, including Allen keys for assembly, and part numbers engraved on each component to keep things organized.

Our final design for the production line consisted of four assembly benches each with a mounted screen to display work instructions, as well as a Tulip light kit to guide picking, off-the-shelf computer vision cameras, label printers, barcode scanners, Andon lights, and Tulip Edge IOs to provide connectivity.

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Error-Proof Assembly with Tulip’s No-code Apps

With the workbenches fully assembled, we were now ready for the production of our chargers to begin. To tie everything together and run our operation, we used Tulip’s frontline operations platform.

Since Tulip is a no-code platform, you don’t need to know a programming language to create these apps or integrate them with your IIoT, allowing you to move way faster than if you had to create these kinds of systems from scratch.

Using native computer vision features, the Tulip app running each bench would wait until an attendee approached and their hands were detected within the work area before it began to display instructions on the screen. It also allowed them to view and interact with an embedded CAD model of the charger they were about to assemble. Throughout the subsequent build process, users were guided by written directions with embedded video on their bench’s display.

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  • First, the instructions on the screen in conjunction with a pick-to-light system directed attendees to retrieve the two halves of the clamshell enclosure, as well as the charging coil PCB from the parts bins at their station. We used the machine vision algorithm running in the Tulip app to drive the pick-to-light system and confirm that the operator had in fact collected the required components.

  • Next, they were instructed to attach the PCB to the bottom half of the clamshell. This step also integrated an IoT scale which was used to error-proof the operation by weighing the unfinished assembly, ensuring that the correct components had been used, and allowing attendees to record a defective product if it was not within predetermined limits.

  • In the next step, attendees were instructed to conduct a second quality check by connecting the charger to a power source on the bench. In order to proceed, they then had to confirm its function using a smart ammeter with the readings displayed in context within Tulip’s work instructions and were again able to register a defect if the quality check failed.

  • Having passed these quality control tests, attendees were now able to complete the assembly of their chargers. In the next step, the pick-to-light system directed them to retrieve the legs, which they snapped into place along with the top half of the clamshell. The weight was recorded in Tulip one more time using the smart scale to ensure that all parts of the assembly had been installed.

  • With the charger housing completely assembled, work instructions directed attendees to add adhesive rubber feet to the legs, again integrating the pick-to-light system and IoT scale to guide users and error-proof the operation.

  • Finally, all that remained was for each attendee to package their completed charger and they were ready to take it home. The Tulip work instructions app automatically printed a self-adhesive label, then guided the user through the process of packing their charger and cable, including affixing the label and unique serial number to the box.

Having fully assembled, quality controlled, and packaged their device, attendees were now free to take home their new wireless charger confident that it would function as expected.

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Assembly apps beyond the pop-up factory

This assembly app is an example of how you can use Tulip to build interactive work instructions that leverage IIoT devices connected at the edge in order to reduce quality defects and increase operator productivity. By displaying work instructions that are dynamic and show the right information at the right time, your team can learn new assemblies and skills faster. Furthermore, you can use similar apps to guide other operator processes like kitting operations, packing and shipping, and lean best practices (such as a 5S audit, Gemba walk, and so on).

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Production Visibility with Tulip

One of the main benefits of running your operations with Tulip apps is you can get real-time production visibility. Tulip makes it very easy to create reports, aggregate them in dashboards and share them with your stakeholders.

In the middle of the four assembly benches, we set up two dashboards running a Tulip app that provided an overview of the production process as it happened at the conference in real time. The first gave attendees a peek at crucial production stats using charts to display the average job duration for each station, total assemblies completed, and the number of chargers completed over time.

The second dashboard registered any defects reported by attendees as they assembled their chargers, tracking defects over time by component, station, and defect type. Like the first dashboard, this was updated in real-time as attendees worked on the assembly line.

To help with the flow of traffic, we also implemented live station status monitoring so attendees could easily see in real-time which of the four stations were being used, and which ones were ready for them to begin assembly. This readout was displayed on the production dashboards we had set up and was also tied to an Andon status light mounted at the top of each workstation.

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Seeing the Whole Picture with Be Global Safety

After assembling their charger and returning to the main event, attendees were able to see how Be Global Safety had been monitoring the entire space with AI to detect and report on any safety incidents that may have occurred. With just a simple IP camera overlooking the area, Be Global Safety can detect PPE, unsafe acts, and other hazards in a warehouse, laboratory, or shop floor setting. Using a system like Be Global Safety to monitor your operations floor provides yet another layer of information that you can use to assist both frontline workers and managers in order to drive continuous improvement.

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Staying Agile with AWS

All the many technologies leveraged to build the Pop-up factory have one thing in common: they all run on AWS cloud (in fact, Tulip is an AWS Industrial Competency Partner).

Running on the cloud makes the pop-up factory scalable. If we wanted to add more stations or reduce their number, we could easily do so. This flexibility lets you run your systems like you run your factory - with minimal (server) waste.

Furthermore, running on the cloud reduces the initial investment needed to get the system off the ground.

Though manufacturing has been late to the cloud revolution, factories around the world are realizing that running on the cloud is a strategic imperative for their operations.

Conclusion

While it may be unrealistic to set up a full-scale production line in 24 hours, staying competitive in today’s rapidly shifting economic landscape means that manufacturers across the globe need to adapt more quickly than their competitors. Implementing emerging technologies like additive manufacturing, digital work instructions, machine vision, and augmented reality allows manufacturers to stay agile and expand their competitive advantage by achieving operational excellence.

By leveraging technologies like these which helped us successfully set up our pop-up factory, you too can achieve:

Accelerated product design, development, and market introduction

With the help of advanced design tools and the power of additive manufacturing, manufacturers are able to design, prototype, and iterate on new products more rapidly and cost-effectively than ever before. Using a powerful design software package such as Autodesk alongside commercial 3D printers enables manufacturers to save money and accelerate their prototyping process. With advanced deposition techniques like those employed by Formlabs Fuse 1, you can even produce high-quality, finished pieces that are ready to be assembled into a completed unit. With tools like these, businesses can significantly accelerate the development and introduction phases of the product life cycle.

Improved productivity by augmenting frontline workers

Agile technologies guide production and enable teams across an organization to run faster. No-code apps built in the Tulip platform give operators the right information at the right time. Digital instructions guide workflows and help error-proof production by integrating with the machines and devices used in your operations, making jobs safer, easier, and more efficient.

Using AR devices to display apps further helps frontline workers in situations when their hands need to be free for the task ahead of them. By implementing these technologies, manufacturers can significantly enhance productivity alongside product quality, without having to sacrifice the flexibility and advantages of human workers.

Continuous improvement through real-time data

Leveraging edge connectivity to IIoT and digital apps to collect data in real time gives manufacturers the ability to continuously improve. With frontline operations apps built in Tulip, you can collect human and process data to provide valuable insights into machine uptime, quality, cycle times, and everything in between. Capturing the data from both your operators and equipment enables supervisors and engineers to achieve a holistic view of their operations, and allows them to rapidly identify and resolve issues as they arise.

Citizen Development and the convergence of IT and OT

With augmented lean technologies, IT and OT data no longer have to be siloed. Increased connectivity between machines, sensors, and humans makes it possible to create more responsive, agile production systems to solve problems in your operation.

By democratizing development with a no-code platform, businesses can save time and resources by eliminating the need to involve IT, because citizen developers are able to build apps and analyze data sets on their own. With this model, teams can stay lean while allowing improvements to be implemented much faster and more efficiently.

Getting Started with Frontline Operations

Whether you had the opportunity to experience the pop-up factory in person or if what you’ve read here sounds interesting, starting your business’s digital transformation is easy. Below are options for everyone:

  • https://cdn.brandfolder.io/GDDASP4K/at/rbvq9bcw4t9

    Want to see Tulip in action?

    Learn how Tulip can help transform your business, optimize production, and achieve continuous improvement.

    Schedule a demo
  • https://cdn.brandfolder.io/GDDASP4K/at/fgs6rjm48qm

    Want to learn about the event?

    You can now watch the full on demand program from the conference on the Digital Factory website.

    Watch now
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    See the Pop-up factory at IMTS 2022

    Formlabs, Tulip, Vention, and Autodesk brought the Pop-up Factory to IMTS 2022 in Chicago.

    Learn more