Data-Driven Manufacturing: Uncovering New Insights

How the Cloud Manufacturing Platform gives engineers access to data-driven insights that improve design and manufacturing.

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(Image courtesy of Fast Radius.)

(Image courtesy of Fast Radius.)

Written by: Bill King, PhD, Fast Radius co-founder and chief scientist

Manufacturing generates more data than any other industry. As products go through the stages of the manufacturing lifecycle, data can be collected at every step—from design and prototyping to production, validation and shipping. The scale and volume of this data is staggering, and much of it is still not captured by manufacturing organizations. When this data is captured, most companies do not know how to use it effectively.

The field of data science has been a game changer. With the help of data science technologies, it is now possible to mine manufacturing data for patterns and trends, gleaning insights to inform design and manufacturing. Product manufacturing is becoming smarter, faster and cheaper. Now, the manufacturing industry is looking for ways to translate these data-driven insights into easily accessible decision-making tools. But long-standing ways of doing business are difficult to disrupt—in many manufacturing organizations, internal silos prevent communication and impede progress. And within the industry at large, manufacturing capabilities and expertise are highly fragmented, making knowledge difficult to access.

Enter the Cloud Manufacturing Platform from Fast Radius: a highly connected digital infrastructure that uses data-informed software to make manufacturing technologies and insights available to anyone with a web browser. The Cloud Manufacturing Platform enables designers and engineers to test their designs, receive feedback and scale to production, making better products and doing so quickly. With fast, data-driven feedback, engineers can evaluate and iterate more designs at higher rates than ever before. The design process is improved—and data is the driver that makes it all possible.

Data-Powered Decision Making

Centralizing data collection and analysis makes it easier to share vital knowledge and insights, which results in better manufacturing processes and products. For example, Fast Radius makes parts with complex 3D geometries, such as electrical connectors, that are designed to be integrated with the sophisticated systems of electric cars. Additive manufacturing technology allows us to make these parts to the demanding specifications required by the application. And by gathering data about the part design, manufacturing equipment performance and the tolerances of the parts that are made, we can ensure the functionality and performance of these parts without forgoing their geometric complexity.

(Image courtesy of Fast Radius.)

(Image courtesy of Fast Radius.)

With today’s sophisticated manufacturing technology, the production of every part can be monitored using sensors and measurement technologies, generating data from every step of production. This data can then be used to optimize manufacturing process settings and machine configurations, and to inform the manufacturability of new designs. Ultimately, this type of data will allow us to lower product scrap rates, speed up manufacturing equipment and serve more customers.

Because this approach is driven by data and not industry-specific designs, we can transfer knowledge to new products even when they are produced for totally different applications. For example, data collected from the production of automotive parts can be applied to the production of parts for consumer products. Because the underlying equipment, materials and processes are the same, the data-driven approach can be applied across many different applications and designs.

A More Accessible Solution

Generating insights from manufacturing data makes manufacturing knowledge and expertise more accessible. Within organizations, this knowledge is sometimes confined to individual experts. Those without access to these experts lack the insights they need to innovate. And individual experts can have biases or make mistakes, creating extra barriers to success.

Instead of bringing questions to these few experts, we can now look to data-driven software for answers; instead of relying on one person’s individual experiences, we can rely on a wealth of data-supported knowledge. Cloud-based manufacturing software allows for further innovation because more people have access to design tools, feedback and recommendations. With the Cloud Manufacturing Platform, anyone with a web browser can access this data and test their designs. The key to innovation is the ability to quickly and efficiently put new ideas to the test—democratizing the manufacturing process only makes it more innovative. 

And yet, the processes of the manufacturing industry are deeply entrenched. We have historically placed a lot of trust in human experts, and it will take time to move toward a new knowledge infrastructure. But data science technologies allow us to serve customers better and create a future where anyone can have access to manufacturing insights and tools. With data as the main differentiator, designers and engineers will look for solutions that include an extensive knowledge base, solid track record and transferable insights that can be applied to future manufacturing endeavors.

The Future Lies in Data-Driven Insights

As data-driven insights lead to constant learning, optimization and adjustment, the design process will become smarter and more agile. Now, any engineer can take advantage of data science in manufacturing.

The manufacturing industry is largely fragmented and inaccessible, but the Cloud Manufacturing Platform offers a solution. By revolutionizing the way knowledge is shared, we enable constant improvements to our parts and processes. With data as the driving force, we can create greater accessibility and lift our industry.

Learn more at Fast Radius.