Distributed manufacturing as a solution in terms of supply chain disruption is now at the heart of the post-pandemic debate. It has also been at the heart of the AM industry since AM has become a viable technology for final parts production. As part of their experimental projects at the Accenture Industry X Innovation Centers, global consultancy firm Accenture and MES software developer 3YOURMIND combined their expertise to prove the feasibility of a distributed AM platform through machine connectivity at the Accenture IIoT Center in Garching near Munich.
The long-term model for future AM factories—which is still far from being fully deployed—involves a digital network of decentralized manufacturing sites, spread across multiple locations and connected by digital technology. This model leverages the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to drive digital transformation. It uses a network of apps or sensors to collect production data from machines and push it into software to turn that data into information about the efficiency of manufacturing operations. Industrial 3D printers are digitally native systems so, when it comes to 3D printing, machine connectivity is at the forefront of IIoT. Eventually, it will enable the transfer of data across globally connected additive manufacturing factories and networks.
With machine connectivity, operators can have a complete view of the shop floor with live machine data, enabling production monitoring, performance analysis, and identification of predictive maintenance and machine status in real-time.
Connecting the Industry X Innovation Center
The Industry X Innovation Network helps companies harness, rapidly implement and scale the latest digital technologies and services. To do this, the team needs to pioneer and master new technologies and digital transformation processes. In this case, Accenture wanted to connect the entire Industry X Innovation Center shop floor to the IIoT in order to optimize production flow.
Accenture has various industry centers worldwide to experiment with new technologies and new processes. The Industry X center in Munich was selected as the seat of the experimental project to draw the future shopfloor of Industry 4.0. The ultimate goal of the project is to implement the basis of a successful distributed manufacturing model and spread the business model on all the Centers.
The foundation of the smart factory is based on data and depends on strong communication between devices that speak the same language. That’s where 3YOURMIND comes into play, leveraging its expertise in software and machine connectivity to connect the entire IoT center shop floor to optimize production flow.
With support from 3YOURMIND, an AM-Venture-funded MES software developer, the project set out to collect and analyze all part requirements and data from different machines and from different locations
Having support from investors such EOS (AM Ventures) and TRUMPF gave the 3YOURMIND team a head starting in the ability to incorporate many different print technologies and diversity of machines in one central platform. The software then was tuned to be able to prioritize, track and schedule parts for production in real-time from different locations, monitoring and analyzing the results locally and globally
Different data sources and locations, one digital platform
The Agile MES (Manufacturing Execution System) by 3YOURMIND is the platform at the heart of the digital factory that leverages IIoT machine connectivity. It optimizes scheduling, transparency and quality assurance tracking along the AM production chain.
Machine connectivity isn’t just about pulling data from 3D printers. It’s about gathering the information engineers and designers need to make the impossible possible. it is being developed so that the features within the Agile MES reflect the real-time production information coming from the floor. It is configured to schedule and track complex AM workflows. That includes both automatic and manual steps from printing and post-processing, to quality assurance, documentation, and shipping.
Machine connectivity connects technical production machinery with other hardware and software for bidirectional controlling and tracking of production. It offers one IoT platform that converts multiple languages which can be processed by the Agile MES. The data are gathered and collected for data analytics and shop floor intelligence. Since 2019, 3YOURMIND has put a focus on building strong partnerships with AM machine manufacturers to connect their data into the Agile MES.
Enabling distributed manufacturing
The Agile MES platform offers the primary value by delivering the data to different machines, different production locations, or different times, in a single point of control for all of your machines, so you can gain complete visibility into the operations. Monitoring large production facilities at multiple sites from a single source allows for intelligent control, data automation and quality assurance on an AM shop floor.
The real-time machine data allows engineers to track production progress, regardless of the technology or physical location. Specific data points is captured to provide documentation for an audit trail of a successful production. The machine manufacturers that opt to be part of this network will make it easier for their customers to use a smaller subset of software systems and increase production by streamlining processes.
With better visibility to the additive manufacturing environment—thanks to real-time data management—operators can improve analytics through the entire process, from customer management until production, to improve decision making.
The collaboration between Accenture and 3YOURMIND in the Industry X project proves that machine connectivity in the IIoT for 3D printing is possible and that it is at the heart of accelerating digital transformation. It allows building a smart factory in a distributed AM model based on machine data.