3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3D objects are created using additive processes. In this process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object gets created. You can see these layers as thinly sliced horizontal cross-sections of the produced object.
The additive process is quite simple. It starts with making a virtual design of the object. This virtual design can be a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. This CAD file is created using a 3D modelling application or a scanner. A 3D modelling application or scanner can make a 3D digital copy of an object. In this post, we will discuss the workflow software behind 3D printing. 3D print workflow software comes in several forms. This software includes the applications that companies employ to manage the sequence of administrative and production processes used to build 3D-printed items. A company can use these applications to manage their internal operations and produce customer orders. The software is specially made to manage the activities that facilitate an active 3D printing environment.
The features of this software are:
- Estimating Pricing
- Capacity planning
- Order entry
- Quality assurance
- Data collection
This software controls the entire workflow or unique elements specific to 3D printing processes. These processes may be incorporated into manufacturing execution system (MES) software. The following image shows us the three stages of 3D workflow software.
You must remember that 3D printing workflow software does not encompass computer-aided design (CAD) or other modeling software. Also, it does not involve the applications that prepare 3D models for printing by slicing the models into layers. If your organization is working with few numbers of 3D printers, whether centralized or dispersed (stand-alone), you are not likely to need workflow software. But, if your organization is planning to use multiple 3D printers in a production environment, you will need a 3D print workflow capability. This will ensure the usage efficiency and cost management at a basic level. This capability is often provided by software or cloud business services that integrate with an organization’s ERP and content management systems (CMS). It provides you with an understanding of the following:
- Archival and retrieval of a 3D print file
- The status and performance of 3D printing activities
- Available 3D printing capacity, with visibility for planning to avoid production bottlenecks
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) to improve customer service and satisfaction
Nowadays, many organizations are relying heavily on proprietary tools to manage their simpler workflows. A small number of core commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) packages are also available. Some of these packages are available on-premise, while others are available via subscription.
Yet, organizations currently managing complex 3D print workflows typically rely on custom software developed by their staff or external consultants.
A number of organizations today have not adopted 3D printing technology. However, at the rate at which 3D printing technology is getting developed, it is probably one of the most promising technologies. One that could change the world as we know it.