Authentise Aims to Support Industrialization of Additive Manufacturing
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on September 22, 2016 |

At the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2016, news from every company in the 3D printing space suggested that the technology is ready for the mainstream production supply chain. However, in order for additive manufacturing (AM) to bring about the quality and predictability expected by the larger manufacturing industry, new solutions are being developed to make AM a better understood and managed process.

Among the firms working on such solutions is Authentise, which has developed 3Diax, a large suite of modular software tools for AM management. At IMTS, Authentise added even more capabilities to its 3Diax platform with 3Diax Machine Analytics, which automatically monitors printer status across a range of locations and provides performance monitoring updates to machine operators.

To learn more about 3Diax Machine Analytics, ENGINEERING.com spoke with Andre Wegner, CEO and founder of Authentise.

Authentise’s 30 APIs

3Diax is a software platform that incorporates 30 different modules dedicated to controlling, monitoring and analyzing manufacturing equipment in order to bring greater efficiency to the production process. These modules, many of which are developed by outside partners such as Siemens and MakePrintable, perform tasks such as mesh healing to ensure that 3D models are indeed printable or geometric search, to find similar existing designs and associated meta data within a company’s library.

An outline of the various 3Diax software modules for 3D printing. (Image courtesy of Authentise.)
An outline of the various 3Diax software modules for 3D printing. (Image courtesy of Authentise.)

3Diax Machine Analytics adds the ability to monitor 3D printer status while providing information related to machine and material usage. According to Wegner, this sort of data will be essential to AM machine operators as the technology becomes incorporated into the larger manufacturing supply chain.

“When someone wants some key information about how much material is used, I’ve seen some companies with AM equipment that literally have people walking around the shop with a clipboard and checking each machine to see how much material is used,” Wegner said.

With 3Diax Machine Analytics, this sort of data is automatically captured to more quickly identify available resources, inefficient processes and serve as a foundation for further automation. Other modules make it possible to perform tasks such as automatic serialisation of parts, more efficient nesting, manage or quoting customer orders and benchmarking prices of prints.

Behind the Scenes

Wegner also explained that Authentise’s various modules are, for the most part, based on Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that can easily integrate into existing corporate software and IT systems. 

“Industrial users of AM already have extensive IT systems with software on which they are heavily reliant,” Wegner said. “Leaving that software and jumping between different tools to setup a print interrupts the workflow, and solutions that offer a dedicated user interface may not be as easily linked to a corporation’s existing IT infrastructure. Because our modules are API based, we provide simple process automation that can be plugged directly into existing IT systems to augment rather than replace them.”

He added, “Really, you shouldn’t even feel the presence of automation software that helps you industrialize 3D printing. It should take place in the back end.”

Authentise moves its corporate clients from multi-step manual process to single, fluid, fully integrated systems for managing their AM operations. This allows operators to focus on introducing new capabilities instead of executing menial tasks. It also allows businesses keep tighter control of their IP, as 3D files are no longer constantly manually handled in insecure ways but stay within the company’s coherent IT systems.

Wegner explained that Authentise’s modular approach benefits customers wishing to integrate these AM tools into an existing workflow. “A lot of our clients are people who already use AM or know exactly how they want to use AM and just want to manage it more effectively. So, they pick and choose the APIs that address the specific challenges they want to solve today rather than buying a big, complex, interface heavy suite,” Wegner said.

Controlling Quality

One issue that manufacturers are looking to mitigate as AM gains in adoption is that of quality control and ensuring the repeatability and quality of AM parts. Though Authentise is developing a machine vision tool for monitoring 3D prints, Wegner says that it is tackling quality assurance from a software integration perspective.

“We see ourselves delivering quality as an integrator,” Wegner explained. “There are companies developing sensors for quality assurance, but our tools mostly augments these systems by integrating them, and ensuring that the process itself is as repeatable and traceable as possible.”

The new Machine Analytics tool plays an important part in this offering, making the ability to capture data generated by machines seamless. This way, the data can be automatically associated with other data generated during the print process, from healing and slicing information, to meta data about the print owner and third party sensor data.

In addition to more complete traceability reports, Authentise’s clients are also increasingly locking down processes to protect the integrity of prints, even if parts are not printed within direct control of the originator. Controlling the process used to heal the mesh, making sure the orientation of parts always follows an approved method, and ensuring certain parameters are adhered to, lays the foundation for reliable and yet flexible additive manufacturing systems.

The Future of Modular Control

As a manufacturing tool, 3Diax is meant to make manufacturing a more efficient process as a whole and is, therefore, not limited to AM. Wegner pointed out that Authentise has one client that uses the platform for managing computer numerical controlled (CNC) equipment, and he envisions many more users leveraging 3Diax for other manufacturing procedures.

“I’d be surprised if, in three years, 3D printing wasn’t only a fraction of the manufacturing technology being offered with Authentise. Even today, only 4 of our 30 modules are closely related to a specific production process” Wegner said. As the Industrial Internet of Things emerges, it will be essential that producers, whether they be massive original equipment manufacturers like Honeywell or smaller fabrication hubs like makerspaces, manage a wide range of manufacturing equipment and not just 3D printers. In this way, Authentise is prepared for the future.

That future, according to Wegner, will be one where manufacturing flows in the background of everyday life. “We want there to be a day in which you wake up to find a shoe that has been manufactured for you, that fits the shape of your foot and is prepared for the type of activity that you are going to perform that day. Or you get into an MRI machine and it automatically prepares an implant custom tailored to your body so that you go straight from the scanner and into the operating room,” Wegner said.

Wegner concluded, “We started with the principal idea of being able to make anything, anywhere at any time—the idea of on-demand, distributed manufacturing. Working with great clients on solving today’s AM automation challenges with software is the gateway. Every step we take towards additive being an everyday manufacturing option is a step towards fulfilling that vision.”

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