Organizational Challenges of an Additive Manufacturing Service Bureau
If you are familiar with Sculpteo and 3D Printing, you must surely know the name, Clement Moreau. As the CEO and Co-founder of Sculpteo, Clement is the driving force behind web-based 3D Printing applications. Clement holds 10 years of experience in Additive Manufacturing and a passion for accelerating the 3D Printing industry. With two Additive Manufacturing factories, located in Paris and San Francisco, Clement quickly saw the value of cloud-based solutions for 3D Printing. In this blog, Clement discusses the organizational challenges he and Sculpteo faced in developing an international, industrial-scale service bureau. See how Clement developed the tools to overcome these challenges and how you can implement these same solutions in your service bureau with Fabpilot.
Sculpteo: a cloud-based factory since 2009
Sculpteo provides professional online 3D Printing and laser cutting services for on-demand production of prototypes, individual products, and short-run manufacturing.
With seven different 3D Printing technologies and 75 combinations of printing materials and finishings, organization and communication are clearly of vital importance for the success and growth of Sculpteo. As Sculpteo processes more than 10,000 files and 100,000 parts per month, Clement identified the necessity for industrial-scale tools and software. Tools for repairing files, for optimizing machine efficiency, for facilitating internal and external communication, for tracing parts and items, and capable of managing the Additive Manufacturing workflow. Anyone familiar with 3D Printing factories whether as a service bureau or internal lab will quickly identify with the same challenges Sculpteo faced.
A Lot of Steps to Produce Good Parts
The organizational challenges of building an international service bureau are the same as those faced by any other service bureau. The Additive Manufacturing process comprises many different steps undertaken by different actors with different requirements. Each action is vital to efficiently produce quality parts on time and on budget. For a standard service bureau this includes:
- Order input: receiving files in a secure way, quoting, file management
- Order placing: communication between client/designer and production, processing payment
- 3D file preparation: file repairs, orientation, supports, hollowing, lattice generation, solidity check, thermal review,
- Job preparation: batching items into jobs, 2D/3D Nesting, slicing
- Post-processing: dying, painting, finishing
- Quality Control: error reporting, reprints
- Logistics: packing, shipping, tracking
As a service bureau grows in the volume of items they produce, the complexity of this process increases by orders of magnitude. If your service bureau is producing hundreds of parts per month and has the vision to grow to thousands or tens of thousands, you can appreciate the value of having the right tools in place.
Knowing where parts are at any given moment
Communication is key to any successful business. For a service bureau producing parts for external clients, having real-time information on individual items allows for superior customer service and increases the potential for repeat, loyal customers. Salespeople, production engineers, and clients all have an active interest in traceability. For service bureaus using offline methods such as sticky notes and Kanban boards or those using spreadsheets, there is a desperate need for traceability. It’s simply not enough to produce quality parts if you don’t know where those parts are or when they will be delivered. Your team needs access to accurate and timely information to provide the best customer experience.
Printing the unprintable
Not all 3D files are created equal! Production engineers and salespeople often have to work with clients to ensure their files are not only printable but also will result in the quality the client is looking for. Receiving files with manifold edges, auto intersections, flipped faces, or any number of other issues that make files unprintable can quickly become a customer service nightmare. Production, sales, and client need to work together to repair the files which means trying to communicate via email or phone what exactly the issues are.
With 75 combinations of materials and finishes at Sculpteo, it’s clear to see why post-processing can pose such an organizational challenge. And, if you’ve tried to manage this with sticky notes or spreadsheets it’s even more clear that a tailor-made solution for Additive Manufacturing is exactly what your lab needs. Communication between production team members is also vital at this stage to ensure items are processed according to specification.
Quality and loyal customers go hand in hand. Having the right tools to assess files, having standardized procedures, and diligence on the part of every team member will help to identify potential errors and quality issues before items are shipped. But, being able to report errors in an efficient way and having analytics on performance means production managers can get a big picture view of shop performance and identify areas of vulnerability in the production process, allowing them to put preventative measures in place.
Maintaining data and file security
Sculpteo places the utmost importance on protecting intellectual property and maintaining 3D file security. Where are files kept? Who has access? How are they transferred? All of these questions identify potential security vulnerabilities. If your service bureau is working with government contracts, prototyping, startups, or large corporate clients, file security is surely a concern.
An integrated solution for the Additive Manufacturing factory
Given all these organizational challenges Sculpteo faced on a daily basis, Clement sought an integrated solution for his Additive Manufacturing process. One platform to manage the end-to-end Additive Manufacturing workflow for Sculpteo’s industrial-scale operations.
Manage individual user rights by file and project and grant access to collaborators. Centralize communication with your team with a conversational timeline interface. Keep relevant item information is directly with the file.
Real-time shared review of files between specified users allows Designer and AM Specialist to modify files in the same platform.
Project Review Tools
Review and repair files with solidity check and automatic thickening, exposure analysis, cutaway view and automatic .stl repairs.
One-click hollowing and lattice generation help to avoid thermal defects and make better, lighter parts.
Track individual items, orders quantities, and errors throughout the AM workflow.
Batch Preparation: 2D/3D Nesting
Optimize each production run with dense server-side nesting. Balanced to reduce crashes and integrated with production tracking.
A centralized platform is accessible from any web-connected workstation. A touchscreen interface for production and post-processing management.
Put Fabpilot to work for your service bureau
We know that we are not unique in the challenges we faced in growing Sculpteo as an international service bureau. If your Additive Manufacturing factory faces any of these organizational challenges like we have here at Sculpteo, be sure to give Fabpilot a test. A thin client, cloud-based solution can help you to better manage your production from end-to-end.
To learn more about Fabpilot visit our website and book a demo or start a free trial today