July 26th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
A number of companies over the past several years have proclaimed that they have the answer for resurrecting manufacturing in the U.S. Unfortunately, several of these efforts have turned out to be little more than chest beating without much real substance. Then, a company came along about four years ago that really had a concept and plan for making a difference for the future of manufacturing in the U.S. – Xometry.
Xometry, the largest on-demand manufacturing platform, announced earlier this month that it has acquired MakeTime, another leading on-demand manufacturing company. This acquisition brings together the country’s two top manufacturing network platforms. The combined company will operate under the Xometry brand name and have offices in Maryland and Kentucky.
The acquisition will allow Xometry to grow its national partner network of manufacturers from 1,100 to more than 2,300 while gaining MakeTime’s enterprise product expertise and features including their Autodesk Fusion add-in and Shop Advantage program. Drura Parrish, MakeTime Founder and CEO, will join Xometry as Executive Vice President for Platform.
Foundry Group, one of MakeTime’s investors, will lead a new $25 million round of funding for the newly combined company. Almaz Capital, BMW i Ventures, GE Ventures, Highland Capital Partners and Maryland Venture Fund will also contribute to the round. Xometry has now raised a total of $63 million to date.
Xometry and MakeTime: The Future of Manufacturing
“We’re thrilled to combine Xometry’s online manufacturing platform with MakeTime’s proven success in building a distributed network of over 1,000 manufacturers,” said Randy Altschuler, co-founder and CEO of Xometry. “This acquisition will provide our customers with access to massive capacity through the industry’s largest distributed manufacturing network as well enhanced product features.”
“We’re excited at the prospect of joining forces with Xometry,” said Drura Parrish, CEO and Founder of MakeTime. “We’ve both been building the future of manufacturing, and now we will be able to offer small- and medium-sized manufacturers access to more jobs, more opportunities for growth and advanced products to power their businesses.”
July 19th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Last week, SME and Stratasys Ltd. announced the winners of this year’s additive manufacturing student competition held at the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
During the past four years, SME and Stratasys have collaborated on the Additive Manufacturing Competition — a contest designed to stimulate student knowledge of additive manufacturing and 3D printing techniques. This year’s contest included 44 teams representing high schools, colleges/universities and career technical institutions — each competing for a chance to take home a gold, silver or bronze medal. Prizes include scholarships from the SME Education Foundation (for high school participants), a one-year Tooling U-SME subscription, RAPID + TCT conference passes, Solidworks’ 3D-CAD design software and a MakerBot Mini printer.
“The SkillsUSA Additive Manufacturing Competition allows students to explore and apply promising emerging additive technologies that are increasingly used in manufacturing operations,” said Jeff Krause, executive director and CEO of SME. “SME and Stratasys have built a competition that is inspiring and attracting tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.”
This year’s challenge focused on solving a real-life medical problem for a veteran who endured a traumatic thumb amputation on his left hand. As part of the contest, students watched an introductory video to learn about the patient’s disability, assessed his current condition and determined how each could design an adaptive device enabling the veteran to continue using his PlayStation 3 gaming system. The winning devices consisted of 3D-printed parts designed to allow the veteran to comfortably use a PlayStation 3 controller, without his current silicone prosthetic.
July 12th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Last week we started a roundup of some digital manufacturing trends based on a recent ‘‘Trends in Digital Manufacturing” survey, that was jointly conducted by SME, a manufacturing association promoting advanced manufacturing technologies, and Plataine, a provider of Industrial IoT (IIOT) and AI-based manufacturing optimization solutions, that shows key insights on plans for factory digitization.
While we agree with most of the issues raised in the report, they represent pretty broad strokes when real digital manufacturing trends are considered. However, we do see several positive trends occurring and one glaring negative one (but there is hope) in these trends:
Blockchain Migrates To Manufacturing
One of the most interesting, but mysterious and most misunderstood technologies in the digital realm are blockchain and bitcoin. Blockchain, specifically, is also the technology with great potential for securing data and transactions that demand trust. Although it requires quite a bit of space to adequately explain, this time around, I’ll focus on a few aspects of blockchain and possible implications for manufacturing.
Blockchain combines the openness of the Internet (that is, until Net Neutrality goes away) with the security of cryptography to give companies a faster way to verify vital information and establish trust without the need for third parties and other intermediaries. It was initially developed more than a decade ago to provide the technical underpinnings for Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency with which it is sometimes mistaken. As Pat Bakey, president of SAP Industries, noted, “Early horror stories about bitcoin, the most famous digital currency to use blockchain, prompted its mainstream dismissal as a dubious tool of the dark web.”
Manufacturing Cloud Services (Source: Researchgate.net)
At its core however, blockchain is simply an open and secure method of recording transactions, just like a traditional ledger. Because blockchains establish trust, they provide a simple, paperless way to establish and track ownership of money, information, and objects by individuals, companies, and other organizations.
By design, blockchains are inherently resistant to modification. The data stored in a blockchain exists as a shared and continually reconciled database hosted on millions of computers around the world, so that no single version of it exists in a single place. In addition, each block of data in a blockchain is linked and secured to the next in a sequence using cryptography.This makes it virtually impossible to add, remove, or change data without alerting others in the chain.
Understanding what blockchain can do and enable is part of the process of understanding both the challenges and opportunities for innovation, afforded by digital transformation.
Data (more about that below) is at the core of this transformation, and has become the biggest resource for business. The companies that survive and thrive in this new hyper-competitive environment will collect and curate Big Data using IoT sensors and other tools, process that data to discover patterns and insights through machine learning and analytics, and secure and streamline their operations using blockchains.
Blockchain may just be getting started in manufacturing, but is almost certain to be one of the most disruptive technologies taking it into the future.
However, before we do our blockchain happy dance, let’s briefly touch on the potential downside.
Even though its been around a while, there is still a significant amount of confusion and debate what a blockchain even is. Some would argue that it’s become just another meaningless marketing buzzword, but the most commonly accepted definition describes a shared, decentralized, cryptographically secure, immutable digital ledger. In theory (and it’s only theory), provides new opportunities to solve complex coordination problems without letting ingrained coordinators so much value in the process. This same philosophy was one of the initial tenets of the internet. Eventually, the open collaborative potential succumbed to a massive takeover of “trusted” third parties – Amazon, Facebook, and Google. So much for decentralization. Will blockchain ultimately go the same way? That’s hard to say or predict now, but nothing should surprise us – there’s just too much at stake for somebody not to try.
As long as we’re speaking of blockchain in the context of manufacturing, last week General Electric announced that it had filed a patent application for using the technology of blockchain in validating and verifying 3D printed objects on their supply chain. The application which was filed in December 2017 and recently released by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, discusses methods for implementing a distributed ledger system into additive manufacturing. GE proposes to use blockchain and the distributed ledger system, which would keep a record of the historical data on the additive manufacturing process with proper verification and validation of the devices used for 3D printing and the stakeholders who push the product along in the supply chain. This patent has far-reaching consequences and gives GE a good start into the world of blockchain.
Data and Analytics
It is predicted that by 2020, there will be as much as 50 times the digital content compared to what exists today. Big data analysis becomes increasingly difficult and time-consuming as digitized manufacturers struggle to manage, update, and analyze product and consumer information. As such, many businesses are opting to move content to the cloud as well as house on-site for a hybrid approach to their storing, managing, and processing needs. Information about things like supply, delivery, customer support used to be difficult to find or cumbersome to work with. In the digital era, that data is streamlined and collaboration-friendly, increasing accessibility for all stakeholders. Because production teams and consumers are growing accustomed to the immediacy and intuitiveness of IoT, they now expect the same from their processes and products, requiring faster innovation from manufacturers. To keep up with these expectations, digital transformation changes the way businesses manage and share product information across the enterprise, increasing production and transparency and decreasing cost and down time.
Most manufacturers have already made the most obvious changes to streamline their operations, using traditional methods to eke as much productivity out of their supply chains and plants as possible. To do even more with less in a slow-growth and uncertain environment, however, companies must look for new ways to boost the productivity and profitability of their operations.
There’s one significant asset that manufacturers have not yet optimized: their own data. Process industries generate enormous volumes of data, but many have failed to make use of this mountain of potential intelligence. Historically, manufacturers have lagged other industries in their IT capabilities. However, thanks to cheaper computational power and rapidly advancing analytics opportunities, process manufacturers can put that data to work, gathering information from multiple data sources and taking advantage of machine learning models and visualization platforms to uncover new ways to optimize their processes from the sourcing of raw materials to the sale of their finished products.
Advanced analytics also help manufacturers solve previously impenetrable problems and reveal those that they never knew about, such as hidden bottlenecks or unprofitable production lines. There are three applications of advanced analytics in particular that together are powerful tools for maximizing the physical and financial performance of manufacturers’ assets and often-complex supply chains.
Advanced analytics approaches can deliver earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) margin improvements of as much as 4 to 10 percent. They can also boost ongoing continuous improvement efforts at a time when manufacturers have seemingly exhausted other options for increasing productivity. Moreover, they offer a lever for competitive advantage, even for companies with overcapacity, by helping them better manage their production systems and optimally reallocate resources in real time.
Data-driven manufacturing can be realized by applying advanced analytics to manufacturers’ data can produce insights to optimize the productivity of individual assets as well as the total manufacturing operation. Deployed in conjunction with each other, these tools enable operators to maximize their productivity and profitability.
In an increasingly complex manufacturing environment, this ongoing data-driven transformation can enable companies to dynamically optimize their tactical planning and make better strategic decisions for the long term. However, advanced analytics tools alone will not magically transform process manufacturing. The value of these new tools is only realized when they complement human skills and expertise. These new approaches make it possible for manufacturing professionals to engage in more fact-based discussions, comparing the real impact of different parameters on business outcomes before making decisions and, in many cases, to consider counterintuitive actions that might improve productivity or profitability.
Cyber Threats Increase
A huge issue that affects all of the aforementioned trends is how do you keep all of this stuff safe and secure? From Equifax to WannaCry to Russia’s manipulation of U.S. social media, 2017 was the most challenging year ever for cyber threats. An IT security firm, AV-TEST Institute, says it now registers more than 350,000 new malicious programs every day, and believes 2018 may turn out to be worse (with up to 780+ million malware instances), as the number of sensor/internet-connected devices increases.
It could be particularly challenging for those in the industrial IoT space: cyber expert Shachar Daniel warns that as manufacturers increasingly embrace cyber-physical systems, the vulnerability of their operations will become far more vulnerable.
The good news is, while there are more opportunities to make life miserable for businesses, advances in AI and machine learning offer solutions that will help predict and ward off random cyberattacks.
All of these trends point to the fact that there has never been a greater need for highly skilled workers with STEM talents – a tall order given the lack of urgency and the state of education in too many schools. However, the manufacturing organizations that can hire qualified employees, and who continue to use technological advancements to move their companies forward are the ones that will thrive and remain relevant, competitive, and profitable.
July 5th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
A recent ‘‘Trends in Digital Manufacturing” survey, jointly conducted by SME, promoting advanced manufacturing technologies, and Plataine, a provider of Industrial IoT (IIOT) and AI-based manufacturing optimization solutions, shows key insights on plans for factory digitization.
This IIoT survey, completed by nearly 400 C-level manufacturing staffers from multiple industries including aerospace, automotive, furniture and chemicals, was designed to help advanced manufacturing managers prepare for the rapid advances in digital technology that are transforming factories. The survey reveals how factories intend to implement new digital technologies, which challenges are faced, and what benefits they envision.
Growth expectations were strikingly optimistic: the majority – 93 percent – of all respondents expect double or single-digit growth in the next year. Meanwhile, 84 percent of respondents reported they are already engaging in digital factory initiatives. These initiatives focused on four areas:
Top Digital Transformation Trends In Manufacturing (Source: Futurum Research)
Additionally, the survey defined a group of industry leaders: companies that expect double digit growth while also reporting exceptional quality standards. Industry leaders, who made up 24 percent of respondents, showed clear trends that set them apart. For example, 37 percent described their organization’s digitization level as “mostly digital” compared to 25 percent of the rest of the market.
June 28th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
This week, Sciaky, Inc., a leading provider of metal additive manufacturing (AM) solutions, announced that they have entered a strategic partnership with Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) to support growing demand for high quality, large-scale additively manufactured metal parts. CTC will offer Sciaky’s Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) metal 3D printing technology to its manufacturing customers for producing large metal parts.
CTC is an independent, nonprofit, applied scientific research and development professional services organization.
“Sciaky is excited to work with CTC and help educate its clients about the real-world benefits of EBAM technology,” said Scott Phillips, President and CEO of Sciaky, Inc. “When compared to traditional forging methods, EBAM offers significant competitive advantages for customers all over the world by drastically reducing production time, waste, and costs associated with manufacturing large, high-value metal parts.”
“We are extremely pleased to announce this newly formed strategic partnership with Sciaky,” said Edward J. Sheehan, Jr., President and CEO of CTC. “We are grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with the talented team at Sciaky. Our clients will realize numerous benefits thanks to this arrangement.”
Sciaky’s Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) Process
Widely regarded as the most scalable metal additive manufacturing solution in the industry (in terms of work envelope), Sciaky’s EBAM systems can produce parts ranging from 8 inches (203 mm) to 19 feet (5.79 meters) in length. EBAM is also the fastest deposition process in the metal additive manufacturing market, with gross deposition rates ranging from seven to 25 lbs. (3.18 to 11.34 kg) of metal per hour. EBAM brings quality and control together with the Interlayer Real-time Imaging and Sensing System (IRISS), a real-time adaptive control system for the metal 3D printing market that can sense and digitally self-adjust metal deposition with precision and repeatability. This closed-loop control is the primary reason that Sciaky’s EBAM 3D printing process delivers consistent part geometry, mechanical properties, microstructure, and metal chemistry.
June 21st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Volkswagen Motorsport is charging to the start line of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, thanks in part to a new collaboration with ANSYS to develop its first-ever, fully-electric race car — the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak. With a goal of setting a new time record for electric cars at the race, Volkswagen Motorsport tapped into ANSYS’ Pervasive Engineering Simulation solutions to create a digital prototype of the battery system and optimize the electric propulsion system of the I.D. R Pikes Peak race car.
Behind the wheel of the 680-horsepower sports car prototype, Volkswagen Driver Romain Dumas will attempt a new time record for electric cars at the 96th edition of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Race.
The aerodynamic design of the I.D. R Pikes Peak car was developed for extreme conditions and to meet the specific challenges of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
High altitude results in about 35 percent lower air density, which creates different aerodynamic conditions than a racetrack on flat land. In addition to real-time data and results, ANSYS solutions were used to simulate driving conditions that cannot be recreated in a traditional wind tunnel. With ANSYS solutions, Volkswagen engineers calculated the ideal balance of cooling airflow and aerodynamic loss and determined the best battery cooling strategy for optimal performance of the vehicle.
Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Test Drive
“Perfect energy management is a critical factor for beating the record in the electric car category at Pikes Peak,” said François-Xavier Demaison, technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport and I.D. R Pikes Peak project manager. “The first test drive at Pikes Peak was successful and demonstrated the accuracy of our simulations. Our team is confident in the vehicle’s performance and eager to set a new record in the category.”
June 14th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Las Vegas is not one of my favorite places, especially in June, but I’m really glad I was there this week to attend HxGN Live 2018 to learn the latest and greatest from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence.
Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence (HMI) grew out of what used to be known as Hexagon Metrology. Metrology (the science of measurement) is still a big part of Hexagon with its hardware and software offerings, but has grown far beyond that with acquisitions that include Vero Software (CAD/CAM) and MSC Software (simulation/analysis). Hexagon now covers the entire product development process from design to production to inspection.
During the course of HxGN Live, updates were provided on many of HMI’s products, but the most significant announcement was about an initiative for interconnecting Hexagon’s and other products – Xalt – a new framework for accelerating digital transformation by better leveraging and exploiting IoT data.
The goal of Xalt (pronounced “ex-alt”) is to create Autonomous Connected Ecosystems (ACE), a state or condition where data is connected seamlessly through the convergence of the physical world with the digital, and intelligence is built-in to all processes – literally from the core to the edge of a customer’s network.
The Big Leap: Ola Rollen Keynote Presentation at HxGN Live 2018
Xalt’s framework leverages disruptive technologies that address the critical IoT points of leverage: ubiquitous enterprise integration; cloud orchestration; data visualization; built-in mobility; intelligent edge connectivity; and artificial intelligence (AI). As the cornerstone of Hexagon’s ACE strategy, it delivers industry-specific solutions that integrate sensors, data, and software to create “smart” digital realities.
“Perhaps the single greatest need in business today is autonomous insight. This means much more than operational line of sight – it means being able to leverage vast amounts of data behind the scenes, where connected devices and machines interpret what’s happening and why, and then act accordingly autonomously,” said Ola Rollén, Hexagon President and CEO. “Customers need to operate based on the whole picture, not just the big picture – something not humanly possible without the aid of AI and visualization technologies.”
June 7th, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Design and manufacturing seem to get most of the attention where many product development processes are concerned, and for the most part, relatively little attention seems to be paid to the materials that will comprise these great new products. That’s about to change a little bit, though, with Dassault Systèmes collaborating with Granta Design to help product development teams make better decisions about the materials they use for the products they are developing.
Through this new partnership, Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform will integrate with Granta Design’s GRANTA MI system for materials information management, improving productivity, collaboration, and product quality.
The integration of GRANTA MI technology will provide approved information from a company’s materials database that will be directly available to its product innovation teams using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. Designers, engineers, simulation analysts and other stakeholders will be able to quickly access accurate and consistent information on materials and their properties, and check that requirements on their structural behavior, cost, application, compliance or sustainability are fulfilled. This partnership also dovetails nicely into Dassault’s sustainability products, services, and initiatives
Materials Gateway For Abaqus/CAE With Granta Design – Dassault Systèmes
“Science-driven companies using the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to explore materials now gain higher levels of confidence and flexibility in their innovation process,” said Leif Pedersen, CEO, BIOVIA, Dassault Systèmes. “The ability to search and assign the right material directly impacts the user experience, from the stiffness of a tennis racket or the cushioning of a car seat, to the right material for additive manufacturing, all while addressing increasing consumer awareness of the environmental impact of their product investment. Our customers need to understand the materials they are using, throughout the product innovation process.”
May 31st, 2018 by Jeff Rowe
Given enough time, virtually all companies experience ups and downs, highs and lows, and peaks and valleys. It goes without saying that these cycles are inevitable in the course of any business, and an industry that seems to have more than its share of major swings is additive manufacturing/3D printing, and a company that has had its share of these cycles of late is Stratasys.
As an example, this week, Stratasys Ltd. announced that Ilan Levin decided to resign from his positions as CEO and Director, effective June 1, 2018.
Elchanan (Elan) Jaglom, the Company’s current Chairman of the Board, will serve as CEO until a successor is appointed. Mr. Jaglom’s service in the position of Chairman and CEO simultaneously requires shareholder approval in accordance with Israeli law. Stratasys plans to call a shareholder meeting to seek that approval. Mr. Levin will provide ongoing consultancy services to the Company following his resignation, as needed.
The Company’s Board of Directors has appointed an Oversight Committee to help support the management of the Company during the interim period, until a successor is appointed. The committee is comprised of the Company’s Vice Chairman of the Board, Executive Director and former CEO, David Reis, along with additional Directors Scott Crump, previous Chairman and Founder, and Dov Ofer.
Interview With Eldad Itzhak, Director of Product Management, Stratasys At RAPID + TCT 2018