3D printing industry, it’s time to grow up. So says Materialise, and they would know, having been around for the early days of the technology’s emergence. Now, 3D printing is becoming mainstream in nearly every industry, and while that’s undoubtedly a positive thing, Materialise cautions that additive manufacturing companies need to avoid becoming too relaxed and complacent about their success. 3D printing may be doing great things for manufacturing, but it has to continue to evolve into a permanent, preferable alternative to traditional manufacturing processes. That means strict quality standards and a continual push to create parts that are more than just a novelty but a true improvement, in order to stay competitive with traditional manufacturing giants.
“It truly is a new reality we’re dealing with,” said Stefaan Motte, Vice President of Materialise’s Software Unit. “The new benchmarks for our industry have to be Automotive’s ultra-efficiency, Aerospace’s absolute accountability and Medical’s full traceability. That feels like a departure from what we’re used to, but in fact, a lot of the building blocks are already in place. At Materialise, we’ve already built the tools we need to reach these new benchmarks – and have used them in our own production.”
Materialise is one of the leading providers of additive manufacturing software, offering comprehensive solutions for a wide range of industries and applications, and they never stop updating, improving, and adding to their numerous software suites. Next week at formnext, which will run from November 15 to 18 in Frankfurt, Germany, the company plans to unveil a whole new slate of features for one of their most popular software offerings: the Materialise Magics 3D Print Suite.
Earlier this year, Materialise announced that they were combining their multiple Magics software solutions into one integrated, customizable software package. They’ve been adding to it on a regular basis since then, and at formnext, they will introduce what they state is the most advanced additive manufacturing package available today.
“We’re in the lucky position that we’ve been acclimatizing to the new reality for quite some time now,” said Motte. “We’re already used to the high quality standards, certifications and specifications of an industry like Aerospace, or the uncompromising efficiency of Automotive. We’ve run into and have overcome a lot of the challenges already and have built the learnings into our software suite.”
New tools that will be introduced next week will focus on effficiency and repeatability, speeding up, as one example, preparation time for builds through automated support generation and orientation recommendations. Other features will streamline steps, improve first-time success rates, and facilitate better use of specialist skills – especially for metal 3D printing applications. An entirely new software program will be unveiled as well, designed for monitoring and inspection and addressing waste, scrap rates and validation issues.
“Metal is the fastest growing area in AM at the moment, so we’re adding a raft of features and functionalities to our software package that will accelerate progress in metal AM at a mass manufacturing scale,” said Motte. “To keep up with the demands of high-end, fast-paced manufacturing environments, AM processes have to be able to fit in with complex, very disciplined ecosystems. That means we have to start looking at the whole thing end-to-end. We have to be able to join up all steps of the AM process seamlessly, control it tightly and integrate it with other production processes. A lot of that can be done through software, but to work in the world of real manufacturing, this software has to be open, agnostic, collaboration-ready and helpful. That’s still not always the case.”
Materialise has always taken pride in their open development philosophy, allowing for co-creation and fast advancement into new areas. Now, says Motte, it’s time to focus on those areas in which additive manufacturing still hasn’t made significant inroads.
“I predict that the last few remaining ‘walled garden’ solutions in AM software will now come under pressure to open up,” he continued. “For us, openness has always been a no-brainer, as it allows us to get our technology out there quickly, partnering with industry leaders to prove it in as many scenarios as possible. In a way, this biggest shift in the industry is the moment we’ve been waiting for – to show how much we can achieve together.”
Motte will speak about the new era of additive manufacturing, and how companies can leverage it to their greatest advantages, in a presentation entitled “Playtime is Over: How to Take Full Control of Processes and Quality?” at formnext on November 17 at 1:50 PM. If you’ll be at the conference and would like to talk to Materialise in person about their views on the industry and their newest software solutions, you can stop by their booth or schedule a meeting ahead of time here. 3DPrint.com will be in Frankfurt as well, so hopefully we’ll see you next week!