On demand manufacturing

PrintParts ships its first set of traceable 3D printed SmartParts

PrintParts, a New York-based provider of additive manufacturing services, has begun shipping its first set of 3D printed SmartParts to select customers.

Announced earlier this year, SmartParts are 3D printed components that integrate the company’s proprietary digital signature technology, making them scannable, serialized, and cloud-connected. Designed to enable authentication and traceability, the SmartParts process works by embedding programmable nanoparticles into parts, which can then be detected and registered using smart scanners.

“Many of our customers are looking to adopt additive for production, but have legitimate concerns around verifying materials, managing suppliers, and how to authenticate manufacturing data,” explains Robert Haleluk, CEO of PrintParts. “If our industry wants to move further into production applications, we need to introduce technology that solves these problems and provides the security, as well as traceability, that companies expect.” 

A 3D printed SmartPart being scanned by a handheld smart scanner. Photo via PrintParts.ScanningSmartPart
A 3D printed SmartPart being scanned by a handheld smart scanner. Photo via PrintParts.

Disrupting on-demand manufacturing with PrintParts

Since its founding in 2016, PrintParts has steadily grown its portfolio of 3D printers to more than fifty. The firm currently provides five different additive manufacturing technologies, including FDM, SLA, and SLS, supplying customers in sectors such as aerospace, medical, and automotive. According to PrintParts, it has the largest fleet of Formlabs Fuse 1 printers on the market, which it uses to 3D print polymer parts made of Nylon PA11 and PA12.

Having now developed and tested its SmartParts technology with several 3D printing processes, PrintParts is now offering SmartParts as a service.

SmartParts: enabling traceability in 3D printing

At its core, the SmartParts technology connects manufacturing data to 3D printed parts. By embedding nanoparticles in components and scanning them via haptic and audio feedback, SmartPart users can trace parts through the additive manufacturing process chain. With a part scan, it’s possible to confirm its 3D printing technology, confirm PrintParts as the supplier, verify the material used, and even add information to the part’s digital twin.

The digital histories of scanned parts are stored on PrintParts’ browser-based SmartParts platform, where the authentication and part tracing functionality can be found. The platform is also integrable with existing MES/ERP systems.

PrintParts believes its innovation will be a gamechanger for companies and organizations that require full traceability or certified materials in their 3D printing workflows, including those in the defense sector. With SmartParts, customers can also ensure their parts conform to predefined manufacturing specifications.

In fact, PrintParts was one of the five winners of the Formnext Start-up Challenge 2021. The competition pits young additive manufacturing enterprises with less than five years of trading experience against each other based on their novel business ideas and technological achievements. The firm will also be demonstrating SmartParts at the Formnext trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, between November 16-19 (booth 12.0 B81B). 

A polymer part 3D printed by PrintParts. Photo via PrintParts.
A polymer part 3D printed by PrintParts. Photo via PrintParts.

To truly ensure performance in distributed 3D printed parts, traceability in the process chain is key. Earlier this year, 3D printing software developer Authentise partnered with the Manufacturing Intelligence division of Hexagon AB, a Sweden-based global technology company, to develop software capable of making 3D printing more traceable. The program digitizes every step of the additive manufacturing workflow by expanding the control loop from the machine level to include data from design, manufacturing operations, and quality assurance.

Elsewhere, Renishaw has previously partnered with software development firm TRACEam to deploy an end-to-end quality management tool for industrial additive manufacturing systems. The software is integrated directly into Renishaw’s InfiniAM API ecosystem and is designed to give customers a simple and scalable method of tracing and managing AM parts.

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Featured image shows a 3D printed SmartPart being scanned by a handheld smart scanner. Photo via PrintParts.