3D Software

Interview: 3YOURMIND is unlocking its full Agile MES platform for additive manufacturing production management

3D printing software company 3YOURMIND is set to undergo a full launch of its Agile MES platform later this week. Launched for customers of the company’s Early Access Program in December 2018, the Agile MES is a software tool enabling AM workflow management, process monitoring and control.

Tom Castermans, founder and owner of the 3YOURMIND early access member Tenco DDM tells 3D Printing Industry more about how Agile MES has improved the company’s small series  production line. Speaking alongside are Daniel Burkhardt, the Product Owner at 3YOURMIND, and Stephan Kühr, the company’s CEO, giving more detail about what to expect from the software’s full release, and features still to come.

Additive manufacturing is more than just clicking “print”

3YOURMIND’s Agile MES (Agile Manufacturing Execution System) is a program designed to help make decisions and streamline production on the factory floor. At present, the software is composed of two main segments: Smart Part Prioritization and Agile Production Scheduling. These features combined enable automated part and job scheduling to ensure that projects meet deadlines, and give users the power to quickly identify any setbacks or areas of improvement. The software was developed by 3YOURMIND in response to growing trends in the 3D printing industry. “Over the past two years,” Kühr explains, “it has become apparent that as companies try to scale the production floor, the data management software we developed for intake will also be needed on the production floor.”

“We all know that AM isn’t just pressing print, it includes cleaning, polishing, dyeing, heat treatment, milling, quality control. Those are all steps that need to be managed, that include multiple employees, multiple workstations and can benefit from data management and prediction for the production team.”

By automatically scheduling and rescheduling print jobs, Agile MES essentially frees up employees to do their real job. “We are able to move from ordering to automatically schedule each part sequence along the entire production stream,” adds Kühr, “Those units then get tracked and can generate work lists for each individual station, part or employee so that instead of concentrating on management and organization, they can focus on production.”

Agile MES 3D printed part workflow. Image via 3YOURMIND
Agile MES 3D printed part workflow. Image via 3YOURMIND

Early access with Tenco – Agile MES is the ‘tool required in order to scale’

Tenco DDM is a manufacturing service bureau based in Genk, Belgium. For 3D printing, the company has SLS, SLA, DLP and FDM capabilities, which run alongside milling and vacuum casting services. For several years now, Tenco DDM has been using 3YOURMIND software as an online quotation tool.

“[Tenco] has always been vocal about suggesting improvements to our software have translated into important benefits for our entire customer base,” comments Burkhardt, “That made them a natural fit for the early access program.”

As a full end-to-end production solution, Tenco DDM is also the perfect partner to make full use of Agile MES features. As Burkhardt adds, “we knew that they would put our custom workflows through a hard, real-world usage test.”

3D printed jig produced at Tenco DDM. Photo via Tenco DDM
3D printed jig produced at Tenco DDM. Photo via Tenco DDM

Within day-to-day tasks, Tenco DDM produces prototypes and end-use 3D printed parts for a variety of industries, including automotive, design and medical. Each one of these orders is complete with its own data (and paper) stream, which is managed and filed manually by the team, often using multiple systems. “We’ve been using different software modules in our production (planning, workflow documentation, online order system, invoicing software, …) and it was getting difficult to keep track of everything and couple the various systems together,” says Castermans, the founder of Tenco DDM. “We were already using 3YOURMIND software as an online quotation tool, so expanding the platform to all other directions was a great benefit.”

With Agile MES in the workflow, Tenco’s multiple data streams are consolidated into one single platform. Furthermore, though a great deal of data transfer was required for the initial setup of Agile MES, it is clear from both parties that the advantages outweigh the effort required for its implementation.

Burkhardt comments, “After we built the first workflows for Tenco and they began running parts through the software, it became clear that this was much more efficient than their current solution. Their employees put every order, even backorders, into our software so that they could manage their workflow in a single platform”

For Castermans, the three key benefits of Agile MES are:

– The combination of all software to manufacture and plan in a production environment
– The ease of configuration to their individual needs and workflows
– It is visually strong platform with easy access for all users inside the company

“It is important that each company makes a good study of what they really need,” Catermans concludes, “but in order to scale, systems will have to be combined and the 3YOURMIND Agile MES is designed in such a way that it will work in or can be adapted to almost any industrial workflow.”

Agile MES production dashboard. Image via 3YOURMIND
Agile MES production dashboard. Image via 3YOURMIND

Prioritizing development and future features

As 3YOURMIND has solicited the help of its Early Access Program throughout the development cycle of Agile MES, there will be no significant changes between the pre-release and the software’s full launch later this week. “The biggest shift the program brought our team,” says Burkhardt, “was the understanding that we are not yet focusing on adding full automation, but rather we are using digitalization to help track and support a lot of manual processing and organization of the production floor. This is different than order management, which can be automated to 80 or 90% in many facilities.”

Burkhardt goes on to explain that, though many aspects of a production floor may be digital, the “physical touch points” of the line, where a person has some interaction with the part/machine, still carry a paper trail. “We are still several years out from full automation of those types of processes,” he adds. Agile MES has thus been developed in harmony with these, more analogous, documents. “The second part of our program was focused on developing automatically generated part lists that can travel with products throughout the value chain for tracking as well as automatically generated workstation lists so that all parts to be processed and instructions can be added to a single print out each morning,”

“Even though we are generating physical paper, the data collection and organization that is performed by the Agile MES has proven to be a huge advantage to the facilities using those auto-generated documents.”

For 3YOURMIND, this is the first time the company has worked customer feedback in this specific form, and Burkhardt says, “It has far exceeded our expectations.”

As such, “We are planning to continue to do these types of co-development programs to develop specific feature sets after AMUG.”

“The next big feature we are working on,”  Burkhardt adds, “will be machine connectivity to pull data into the Agile MES in order to track real-time production status and maintain records for quality control.”

“The ability to collect all data from different production systems into a single management platform is very important for the quality assurance process. We expect to see similar gains for our customers that our order management system provides in terms of creating a digital inventory.”

3YOURMIND will be hosting presentations and exhibiting at the AMUG 2019 Conference in Chicago from March 31 – 4 April. To schedule a meeting with the company’s software and workflow management experts just contact 3YOURMIND.

3YOURMIND Agile MES has been nominated for Software Tool of the Year in the 2019 3D Printing Industry Awards. Vote now to decide this year’s winners.

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Featured image shows Agile MES Agile Production Scheduling. Image via 3YOURMIND