3D Printing

Aalto University develops 3D printing database to help conventional manufacturing make the switch

EIT Digital, a digital innovation, education community and accelerator of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), has supported the creation of a 3D printing database. Developed to help manufacturers identify potential time and cost savings, the directory aims to encourage more businesses to switch to 3D printing instead of conventional methods.

Aalto University Finland created the database, which will be rolled out as a plugin for 3D data expert software from industrial partner DeskArtes, also based in Finland. Leading manufacturing company and 3D software developer Siemens created knowledge graphs for the system, ensuring logical links between all collected data.

The Big Data behind 3D printing

When developing under Industry 4.0, conventional manufacturing businesses are challenged with rethinking the way things are done. For 3D printing’s part in this, many stakeholders are rising to the aid of these businesses at a peak point of transition.

Senvol is still without doubt the largest additive manufacturing database in the industry, and is leveraged by a wide variety of sectors to help with process integration. Recently, American manufacturing association SME launched its Interactive RAPID AM Portal (iRAMP) too to help manufacturers determine “Can I Make It?” and “Should I Make It?” using additive manufacturing. Research, at an academic level, is also being undertaken to potentially develop a system for identifying when additive manufacturing makes sense.

The OEDIPUS High Impact Initiative

Development of the Aalto database was undertaken for an activity titled “Automation Support for Additive Manufacturing,” part of the wider Operate Digital Industry with Products and Services (OEDIPUS) High Impact Initiative (HII). Through OEDIPUS HII, EIT Digital is seeking solutions to help SMEs adapt to the cyber physical system requirements of Industry 4.0. There are 10 international partners contributing to this initiative (AaltoDFKICEAOcéCefrielEngineeringCRFInnovaliaAtos and Siemens) and activity takes places at five core iCenters in Europe which offer demos, advice and consultancy services to parties interested in the developments.

How to 3D print your components

The new 3D printing database, according to Aalto University project lead Niklas Kretzschmar, provides businesses with “up-to-date relevant data for 3D printing of end-use components.” Machines, materials, mechanical properties, print accuracy levels and post processing steps are all incorporated in the platform. To access this data, users specify the size, material and surface characteristics, or CAD file, of a component, then they are given a list of suitable modes of 3D printing.

As a for instance, Kretzschmar explains, “you want to investigate [3D] printing a complex industrial component out of a specific metal alloy and the system would tell you which metal additive manufacturing process, machine and material type could ideally be used to address user’s demands.”

“In this context,” Kretzschmar adds, “the system additionally provides feedback on certain mandatory post processing steps as well as optional measures that could be beneficial for you.”

At present, the plugin is undergoing a pilot testing phase with three trial customers, and is expected to reach the commercial market by the end of 2019.

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Featured image shows EIT Digital Madrid. Image via EIT Digital