Machine Connectivity – Why does it matter?
Industry 4.0, a term first used at the World Economic Forum in 2015, also known as the 4th industrial revolution, is challenging the way companies design, manufacture and distribute their products.
The 4 Industrial Revolutions (by Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com)
The term encompasses several cutting edge technologies such as AI, Machine learning, Cloud computing, IoT, as well as Additive Manufacturing. The key driver to embrace these technologies is to digitalize the manufacturing process to deliver more automation, more flexibility, less waste and ultimately reduce the cost of production.
And while all sorts of new hardware (advanced sensors, robotics, controllers, additive machines,…) are making their way into the factory floors, they all have one thing in common. They would be useless without embedded software that manages the underlying fuel to make these machines efficient and productive: data.
Data in and data out. All digital manufacturing technologies, especially additive manufacturing, not only consume data to build something, but also generate data throughout the process that can be collected and analyzed to improve the additive workflow. Machine connectivity is a critical element of a full end-to-end workflow to enable both automation and flexibility. Identify3D utilizes machine APIs to deliver connectivity to and from machines on the shop floor. This connectivity allows other systems and components to securely send and receive data from machines.
However, this machine connectivity is rarely straightforward. Each machine manufacturer integration is different and does not always provide all the needed APIs to enable sending and receiving data to/from the machine. Some manufacturers have their own connection schemes utilizing their own software stacks, some use industry standards with their own custom data models while others have completely proprietary interfaces or no interfaces at all. Furthermore, the APIs hardly cover all the factory floor use cases that are needed for a fully automated workflow.
Through the Stratasys GrabCAD Software Partner Program, an ecosystem of software providers that have connected to Stratasys technology to provide customers with end-to-end additive solutions, Identify3D enables a secure workflow meeting the most stringent NIST and Department of Defense cybersecurity requirements. All data is encrypted to ensure the AM data is protected throughout the workflow. Cryptographic protection is implemented providing confidence in the AM data integrity so that the manufacturing process is repeatable. All workflow operations are tracked enabling full traceability and auditability of the entire AM process from design to manufacturing.
Automation, quality and flexibility have always been the holy grail of optimized manufacturing so that end users get the part or product they need at the place, time, quality and cost they need. A strong framework and methodology along with a team of experts is often needed to scale this connectivity on a factory floor. Identify3D provides this capability so that its customers don’t have to develop it internally while also enabling a level of trust to the overall workflow process with its secure software flow. The ability for specialized software to communicate back and forth with manufacturing machines is a key enabler of the digitalization of manufacturing.
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