Data can improve your operations. So it should be a no-brainer that you are collecting data in your process. Without it, decisions made to change your process for the better are a shot in the dark. Digital applications enable you to collect robust data you can improve your operations and unlock new transparency to help ensure quality, and inform decisions and changes.
With digital apps that are integrated into your workflow, data can be easily captured at each process step, and stored in a single place for analysis later, or in real-time. Being able to capture this data is important and shouldn’t interrupt your workflow, so it should be passive or easily integrated into the tasks the operator already has to complete.
Here is an overview of how digital applications improve production for a team printing parts with several 3D printers and post-processing operations:
With a printer management terminal app, the team can add new printers and update specifics such as the current material type, and requirements for printing with each machine. On the fly, operators can view a table of all of the printers currently in their print farm.
An example of a printer management terminal in a Tulip app
Jobs can be added as well, with specific requirements and images.
Adding a new job to your workflow is simple, and can be configured to meet your needs
In a printer management dashboard, active printers can be monitored based on their current status, and more details about the time to complete, and the current job can be viewed and updated. Analytics can be created based on job completion and uptime of printers as well.
Post-Print Work Track
When a print has completed, operators fill out a quality form in the digital solution to track part quality.
Quality control forms can be integrated into the operator workflow, for a seamless experience
The operators can be guided through their workflow with a simple off the shelf barcode scanners, speeding up workflows by simply scanning printers and workflows to update the printer status.
Barcode scanners can be integrated into an operators workflow to maximize efficiency
This also enables batch tracking, allowing individuals or groups of parts to be tracked through post-processing. If the part needs support removal, solvent wash, sanding, painting, or sintering, you can track and update the batch in a table, enabling transparency at every step.
With production visibility into your data, you can operate more efficiently. Displaying metrics in public dashboards enable everyone in the process to identify trends and progress, and solve issues faster if they arise.
This dashboard is pulling real-time performance metrics from a print production-facility
In addition to guided workflows, training operators is another way digital apps can transform your process. By setting up a training application, you can walk operators through a mock-process, and quiz them on important information regarding each step and function of your production. Permissions based on training completion can be monitored and changed based on the active operator, simply by signing on. This enables you to quickly onboard new hires, and train them in your unique process while minimizing user error.
Machine monitoring provides data collected directly from the source. If your 3D printers support API protocols, you can integrate information about the current print directly into your apps. Being able to automate printer status and job information saves operators time and reduces the chance of error.
In Practice: Formlabs
With Tulip’s 3D printing solutions, Formlabs was able to unlock real-time visibility for their own in-house printing operation. Formlabs utilizes over 60 printers to print over 10,000 parts per month. With batch tracking and dashboards, their team was able to have visibility into their production at all times and have full part traceability. In addition, real-time data allowed them to resolve issues quickly and see immediate results as they scaled their printing operation.
This analytical dashboard was created by a team at Formlabs, to manage over 360 printers
In Practice: Stratasys
Stratasys, another leading 3D printer OEM was able to adopt digital applications to assist in the national COVID-19 response. With its internal printing operations, the company was initially aiming to print 5,000 PPE face shields. With digital apps, they were quickly able to ramp up to 40,000 face shields per week over a 6 week period. Stratasys was able to configure and deploy Tulip’s 3D printing solution, enabling efficiency production tracking and printer management.