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Vishal K. Singh
The Importance of MES in Additive Manufacturing

As Additive Manufacturing production starts to scale, companies are facing many problems due to homegrown workflow systems developed over the years. In-house solutions often lead to disconnected workflows due to siloed technologies and inefficiently planned production that results in poor operational insights. These pain points are seen in companies across many different sectors and show an increased need for a centralized digital system to streamline upstream and downstream manufacturing processes. Uncovering solutions to these problems is now becoming a top priority for organizations as they scale or enhance their R&D efforts. MES software is becoming a crucial part of additive manufacturing as it can help organizations track and trace data from print-ready files through production and delivery with a single source of truth.

One of the main purposes of Additive Manufacturing workflow software is to track data across each stage of the production process. The major goal for most companies is to achieve their ideal production output with quality management built-in to ensure high levels of distributed manufacturing. In order to achieve this, it is important for a company to track all of the digital data that gets produced throughout the 3D printing process. This is where MES software enters as an important factor for AM. The MES connected ecosystem is necessary to help attain, organize, and analyze the data tracking and capturing processes. 

The Role of Additive Manufacturing Execution System

Enabling organizations’ digital manufacturing strategies to achieve the true benefits of Industry 4.0.

Vishal Singh, CTO and Co-Founder of Link3D shares his thoughts on MES Systems which “bi-directional communication between a MES system is needed in additive manufacturing to streamline part production.” Systems must include order management systems that will push work orders into the MES and ERP systems to capture invoicing and financial data. As a result, organizations can streamline centralization of orders, quoting and costing, production planning and scheduling, post-processing management, quality inspection, and logistics. 

Additive Manufacturing Technical Ecosystem

The parts of the ecosystem of the MES software communicate to form a connected system. If businesses and organizations are to truly take advantage of Industry 4.0 and implement an automated strategy for production, then machine connectivity from production scheduling and downstream manufacturing processes can add immense value for time and cost savings. 

The components mentioned above help streamline the 3D printing process and efficiently capture various types of data at multiple stages for analysis. An example Singh used to display this need for connectivity is at the planning and scheduling stage. Basic levels of machine connectivity mean that a company can tell if the machine is on or off, or how much of a job has been completed. However, a deeper level of machine connectivity should actually “imply time series sensor data or optical demographic” Singh described.

With the Work Plan and Post-Processing Management System, the entire process, from quoting to delivery, is centralized in one software. The goal is to help companies understand and apply load balancing techniques across work centers to increase efficiency, and further track data. The data tracking that is embedded into the MES software has also given companies access to control management and compliance capabilities. 

Connecting the Digital Thread

MES Software should track all of the digital data that is generated along the way. 

Companies like Additive Rocket Corporation (ARC) have gained the ability to consistently enforce and adhere to the guidelines of regulatory authorities such as AS9100, NASA, and SAE International. For this function, the data tracking acts as proof of compliance with these regulatory standards. While MES software is already able to track all of the data relating to the job and machine, Singh notes how the overarching and futuristic goal is to “reduce the cost, reduce material switch over, and so on” from this analysis. 

Combined with the tracking abilities built into AM, MES software brings a whole new realm of organizing and analyzing the tracked data. The linkage of MES and AM has shed light on new types of data that can be collected and what can be done with the data, uncovering further benefits such as cost and time savings. Singh added how “we strongly believe that with such a system, AMES can truly help a company go from rapid prototyping to serial production.”