How do you begin to use industrial-scale additive manufacturing?
This growing technology will someday be a requirement for all manufacturers. Additive manufacturing has tremendous potential to improve the way you produce and repurpose your product via 3D printing technology. This industry is significantly expanding. However, how do you begin to implement it?
As a member of the Siemens PLM Thought Leadership team, I have the privilege of discussing additive manufacturing with Robert Meshel, Siemens Director of the Additive Manufacturing Network Initiative. It’s a new online collaborative platform, designed to accelerate the use of additive manufacturing in the global manufacturing industry. In this third part of a four-part series, we are discussing jumpstarting industrial-scale additive manufacturing (ISAM) via a manufacturing network.
Dean Haehnel: Can you explain why Siemens is offering the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network?
Robert Meshel: It’s a strategic direction. Many business units in Siemens are leveraging additive manufacturing including power generation, mobility and Healthineers’ – a medical device Siemens’ company. Additive manufacturing plays a significant role that needs leveraging to improve its position in the market.
Siemens is an influential producer of technology in the manufacturing industry. We see substantial opportunities with collaborative business models that are emerging. When we view the additive manufacturing market, we see a strong need to consolidate knowledge tools and assist companies in connecting with the ecosystem within additive manufacturing.
Also, it’s not merely the direct supplier, but having access to other suppliers in the market like machine vendors, materials vendors and software suppliers. These types of interactions have not been managed in the past, making it a challenge to locate and make these positive connections.
We see a strong need for making these connections, along with having a centrally located network where all players can unite to generate knowledge to be assessed while orchestrating and digitalizing this interaction.
Dean Haehnel: This sounds exciting. Can you go into more detail of how it works?
Robert Meshel: It's an ecosystem that connects all parties within the additive manufacturing domain. This includes the buyers, service providers, service bureaus, machine vendors, material vendors, engineering consultants and software solutions. There is sufficient knowledge available in the market because additive manufacturing is a seasoned process. The organization is meant to help provide very high proficiency with this technology.
However, information is divided into silos. There’s a significant need for accessible knowledge to those who seek it. Our mission is to build a centrally-located knowledge base to serve the gathering of information, tools and IPs of all involved.
To accelerate the use of additive manufacturing in the industry, we orchestrate and facilitate the transaction that occurs between the buyers, engineers and consultants, which requires either the parts to be produced or service providers who can assist in delivering these parts – building knowledge into their organization. This process allows us to begin collecting data to improve the overall service.
Our number one focus is the industrialization of additive manufacturing. Therefore, we concentrate on industrial companies and position ourselves to take care of the security and privacy of data.
Dean Haehnel: What are the benefits of ISAM for vendors and service providers?
Robert Meshel: Service providers are looking for markets. However, this is not their primary reason for this network of knowledge. They are also looking to improve, learn and provide better service to customers with the discount the network offers. You want to be in a place that ensures continuous improvement and better service.
Dean Haehnel: What is the most significant misunderstanding of industrial-scale additive manufacturing?
Robert Meshel: There are still some misconceptions that additive manufacturing is a separate domain. Eventually, additive manufacturing will fully integrate into the manufacturing process. To have earnest or high quantity production with additive manufacturing, it will not only include printing. It will also address the cross processes like machining, which may consist of quality processes. This may involve robotics and other technological elements to increase the production rate. Therefore, when you consider a facility that produces a high volume in additive manufacturing, it’s not just about printing, but how to incorporate a comprehensive set of manufacturing techniques. It’s a holistic manufacturing process approach to additive manufacturing as a complete segregated set of practices.
Dean Haehnel: Very interesting. When did the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network debut and how has it been received?
Robert Meshel: We first announced the initiative in Hannover Messe in 2017; however, its official launch was at Hannover Messe 2018. The reception was overwhelming. This is the kind of solution needed by all organizations we communicate with, and they express their need to have it and are acting on it.
We receive many requests to connect and actively participate in this network. This kind of solution makes a difference in additive manufacturing. Though still in its infancy, it will prove to be most effective and recognized in the market. Moreover, the significant amount of interest we are garnering, along with requests for participation, is overwhelming.
We are building a solution in a manner that is attractive to various audiences. So, it starts with those who are new to the industry, looking for knowledge and tools to learn how to get started in the industry with a trusted partner. Siemens provides these trusted partners, via our supervising network, and trusted players within that network they can collaborate with to run their additive instruction process.
Also, this audience includes those further along in the process, looking into solutions to scale up their production and support a set of immediate needs in order management and additive manufacturing design. We see a strong need for them to improve their processes continuously, and they realize this network can provide ongoing support for them to achieve that goal.
The essence of every network is to ensure that people stay and continue to contribute. They need to see endless benefits whenever they participate. So, anytime they visit, they want to see or learn something new as a takeaway to improve their additive processes.
We are adopting this monumental task in building this network with a demeanor which delivers continuous benefits, to be improving over time. Our partners are in sync with this concept of understanding how this can help even though they may not be astute or fluent in this technology. They comprehend that this innovation is continually evolving, and by combining forces, we are building a network to rely on partners as the best method for proceeding forward more rapidly.
Dean Haehnel: Do you see manufacturers using this in place of existing manufacturing processes, or as an addition to in-house manufacturing capabilities?
Robert Meshel: It would be multiple ways – a hybrid. As discussed, to master the domain you must partner and rely on external service providers. Also, you need to experiment with the technology first-hand. Therefore, it would be a combination of both in-house and outsource production. This approach requires continual management as a significant part of the industry market.
Also, prototyping is a significant part of this process and it will take time until the fully serialized production parts take over the prototype volume. Therefore, the way you run your prototype business and service business need to be consistent. You take a hybrid approach to accommodate both.
Eventually, additive manufacturing will be another manufacturing technique that fully assimilates and integrates into the overall manufacturing processes. Because this is a new domain and technology, it will need a new set of machines, a new set of supply chains and a different set of processes. Organizations tend to put additive manufacturing in a specific bucket and manage their additive processes in a separate way than their other manufacturing process.
Therefore, for additive manufacturing to be fully convergent, it needs to be assimilated into the overall manufacturing set of processes and convergence of IT technologies of software solutions in a way that is entirely consistent with additive manufacturing and traditional manufacturing techniques.
Dean Haehnel: Thank you, Robert, for providing valuable information on how to jumpstart additive manufacturing via the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network.
This concludes our third in a four-part series of blogs taken from a transcribed podcast on industrial-scale additive manufacturing. In our next blog, we discuss where to start and view use-cases for additive manufacturing.
About the author: Blake Snodgrassis a writer for the Thought Leadership team in Siemens PLM Software, which supports several venues, including the Thought Leadership blog for the company. He speaks with experts in their field who provide compelling insight into innovative technologies affecting industries and how this can impact the future. Blake has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications and more than 25 years of experience working for IT companies, with roles in technical writing, marketing communications, user-experience design and content development.
Robert Meshel, Director of Additive Manufacturing Network, Siemens PLM Software
Robert Meshel is the Director of the Siemens additive manufacturing network, an online collaborative platform designed to accelerate the use of additive manufacturing in the global manufacturing industry. This initiative was born under his previous role, where he re-joined Siemens PLM as the director of the strategy for the manufacturing Engineering Software unit. Driven by the passion for innovation in technology and business models, Robert was relentlessly pursuing new strategic opportunities developed within the organization or by partnering with ambitious external startups that are seeking to make a significant impact.
Robert originally joined Tecnomatix in 1996, where he served in various technical management capacities, including head of portfolio management, director of product management and business consulting.