June 18, 2018:
Robert Meshel, Director of the Siemens’ Additive Manufacturing Network initiative, recently named data the most valuable asset of Industry 4.0. With the digitization of information throughout the supply chain, intellectual property is more vulnerable than ever to loss or compromise even as it becomes the heart of the global economy.
The role of data in large-scale additive manufacturing
Specialized printed parts is one way industrial manufacturers are using new digital capabilities to become more competitive. GE Aviation, BMW and Siemens all use additive manufacturing (AM) to produce unique, differentiated parts for a limited number of engines, car bodies and turbines.
However, demand for large-volume printed parts beyond these, and a few other early programs, is rare in industrial manufacturing.
The biggest barrier holding back demand is a lack of access to a collective democratized data; that is, access to publically available information on the marketplace of providers as well as proven business models. AM at this scale is nothing like traditional manufacturing, and only a handful of companies have resources that allow them to tolerate risks and apply knowledge as needed to design and execute an entirely new production model.
The aforementioned pioneering companies had to start from scratch; this is not possible for most manufacturers. Yet, the very antidote to low demand is for producers to learn by doing, as AM leaders have done.
Siemens studied this dilemma and has introduced a platform-based AM service in which industrial manufacturers can work with AM service providers to identify opportunities, build business cases and connect with providers in a transparent, private network.
The Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network addresses both sides of the data/knowledge balance in modernized, digitally driven production. The platform aims to collect data and convert it to a consumable knowledge.
At the same time, participants—parts buyers as well as product and service providers—can also protect 3D printer design files and machines and materials IP.
• Knowledge sharing: The cloud-based platform supports an AM ecosystem in which parts buyers, printing service bureaus, equipment and materials suppliers, apps developers, and engineers and consultants can connect with one another and share knowledge as they work together to plan order-to-delivery models. As demand for printed parts grows, the knowledge base within the network grows, thus paving the way for more demand.
• Securing IP: Large-volume AM requires sharing digital files outside of a company’s protected systems, often with many entities, in different locations and among multiple devices. Securing IP in those files is paramount, and app developers are responding with new tools.
For example, in the Siemens AMN ecosystem, Identify3D technology provides a secure digital container to move and modify data through the digital workflow. The Identify3D Protect applications create the secure container, while Identify3D Manage enables distribution and licensing policies to be created for data usage within the container. These agreements and the data usage are transparent and traceable within the platform, which provides additive manufacturing security tools for all participants, whether they are buyers or vendors.