3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) has announced that it will be embedding intelligent monitoring, control, and maintenance utilities into its 3D printers. These features will be powered by the ThingWorx® Platform, developed by computer software company PTC (NASDAQ: PTC) headquartered in Needham, MA, and are part of “a focused plan to make 3D production real”.

“The latest innovation in stereolithography” clip showing 3D Systems’ automated 3D production system in the Figure 4 technology. Via: 3D Systems on YouTube

The trend for smart, connected machines

Machine connectivity and collection of big data has taken off in recent years through its ability to enhance product lifecycle management (PLM). By adding internet connectivity to machines and collecting information on performance, it is becoming easier for manufacturers to detect and troubleshoot problems, or areas for improvement, in the delivery of a product from design to the end user.

Such utilities are also the focus of scaling 3D printing for serial production. Example projects include NextGenAM from Premium AEROTEC, EOS and Daimler, or the Speedfactory concept for 3D printed sneakers from adidas, that is now collaborating with Siemens on its digital workflow.

Heading for the business advantage

By integrating ThingWorx® into its 3D printers, 3D Systems will give customers “the ability to create real time dashboards to monitor their printers”, with readings on the machine and material usage. It will also enable the company to access appropriate data when troubleshooting a problem, even in some cases allowing remote access to service the machine.

Utilities of PTC's ThingWorx® Platform. Image via thingworx.com

Utilities of PTC’s ThingWorx® Platform. Image via thingworx.com

Carol Zampell, vice president, software, 3D Systems, comments,

We believe the capabilities enabled through ThingWorx technology can help us deliver the machine uptime required in production environments. This will enable our customers to gain a distinct business advantage through improved resource utilization, business insight, and overall gains in productivity.

Supportive of the future of 3D printing

Internet of Things (IoT) integration can also be found in the PTC’s Creo CAD software, that has been incorporated by 3D Systems into its 3D Sprint design tool. Mike Campbell, executive vice president, PTC ThingWorx Platform, comments,

PTC has a long-standing relationship with 3D Systems, and we are excited to continue expanding the collaborative and innovative work by enabling their printers to be smart, connected products. We support their vision to the business value and opportunity that exists in 3D printing as an industry, and the power the IoT can have in driving that further.

3D Printing Industry’s EIC heard more of 3D Systems’ developments toward the future in an interview with company CEO & COO Vyomesh Joshi which can be read here.

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Featured image: 3D Systems Figure 4 quad engine at RAPID + TCT. Photo by Michael Petch.

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