The most important aspect of the revolutionizing power of Additive Manufacturing (a.k.a. the 4th industrial revolution) is how 3D printing is advancing end product manufacturing. When Additive Manufacturing is integrated in production (in house or outsourced), it can bring significant financial and environmental change. By maintaining virtual inventory instead of holding warehouses of unused parts, a company can reduce costs of production and storage, as well as minimize wasteful use of materials and resources. Yet there are some challenges in bringing additive manufacturing into a commercial enterprise, which is why companies need LEO Lane.
If you are well-versed in the world of Additive Manufacturing, you probably know this, but just in case let’s take a step back to the basics. What do I need to additively manufacture a part (or product)? First, the geometry: an STL file (or any other format that a 3D printer can handle) is a file containing the geometric data of a 3-dimensional object, typically generated by CAD (computer aided design) software. After finalizing the geometry, the next step is deciding on the production technology and its parameters. As in any process, it’s important to choose the technology and the specific parameters best suited for the production of your particular part, it’s the same when choosing casting, injection molding or any technology. Additive Manufacturing is a broad term these days and there are various printers and technologies (here is a reminder of the options). There are many parameters that can be defined from the material through the machine technology or model potentially down to the minutest setting of the machine, in case of highly sensitive parts. These parameters are additional data needed to correctly produce the part.
Once you have determined the geometry, using CAD software, and decided on the method of production and parameters, it’s time to proceed to the actual production. When sending a file such as STL for production there are no definitions of other data and those need to be communicated to the service provider (or determined by him) to be fed to the machine together with the file. This leaves room for human error, inadvertent mistakes, and deliberate changes that may not have been intended.
“lacking from the STL file format is the inclusion of metadata (such as authorship and copyright information), little or no file security..” – All 3DP on STL for 3D printing.
The STL file can be edited and changed easily, which is beneficial in intra-company collaboration while designing and defining the product. Once the product is defined, commercial companies and brands that want to use Additive Manufacturing (AM) and distributed AM must protect the FULL data of the part, geometry, and definitions, to assure a quality part being produced every time. Companies want to stay in control of their products: when, where, and how their parts are produced, the quantity of parts, the consistency and the quality of the parts etc. This is where LEO Lane comes in.
The infographic below describes the process and source of input when working with an STL file vs a LEO file. The STL file does not hold any metadata which opens the process to an additional source of manual input, communicated separately. Also, the STL file itself is not protected. This leads to potentially inconsistent production: the quality and quantity of production isn’t controlled in each location and even more so across locations. The information itself in the file, in terms of intellectual property and economic rights, is also vulnerable. On the other hand using a LEO file combined with the LEO Lane cloud ensures a protected, controlled and more consistent process. Still, the brand retains the file, not a third party or LEO Lane or any kind of repository. A combination of flexibility, control, and ease of use.
The LEO Lane service (together with LEO files) provides 3 main controls: Control, Protect and Track.
Control (a.k.a. Preserve): control the quality – the data on your product or part is preserved, preventing unwanted changes, ensuring appropriate manufacturing technology of product, etc.
Protect: set a limit to the number of items that can be produced from each file.
Track: get real-time information on when/where/how each part was produced as well as business insight on real-time demand and preferences.
Using LEO Lane enables a company or brand to safely keep virtual rather than physical inventory, minimize logistics costs, and simplify the supply chain while keeping its product under control – both quality and quantities. Safely getting rid of inventory costs and overhead opens the door also to increasing the number and variation of products offered – enabling more value adding customization and enhanced revenue streams. You can react quickly to market demand without huge upfront capital expenses. LEO Lane is designed to flexibly adapt along with the ecosystem, without any upgrades, and to integrate easily and quickly with other ecosystem players as well as customer processes. That’s why we say it’s always ready and always relevant. OK, you might reply, but what do others say? Here’s one:
“LEO Lane gives me the peace of mind to have 3D printed parts produced anywhere and know that the quality, quantity, and timeline is controlled by us without compromising confidentiality.” – Shimrit Ben-Chaim, Senior T&SA Manager, Teva Medical Devices.
Implementing Additive Manufacturing through a service provider (or in house) with a control and protection solution by LEO Lane is easy and impactful. Just what everyone wants from the 4th industrial revolution! A guide for a simple pilot is coming up in a future post. If you want to hear more before then, email Idan at email@example.com or share your comments and suggestions below. For more inspiration and information follow us on Pinterest or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.