Controls for additive manufacturing, 3-D printing

Cover Story: The software tools for 3-D printing, also used for additive manufacturing, are getting more sophisticated and integrated to increase speed, quality, limit material waste, and accommodate material diversity. How are automation and controls helping to advance additive manufacturing?

By Mark T. Hoske June 7, 2017

Additive manufacturing (AM) and other 3-D printing technologies are advancing with closer integration of controls and design software, and seamless transfer of intellectual property from one stage to the next. Recent additive manufacturing developments include a new Siemens platform to support a complete vision for the global additive manufacturing market, standards development by ASTM International, and research in the future of additive manufacturing materials, design, and processes from the NextManufacturing Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Connected resources

Advancing its integration of tools to support the global additive manufacturing industry, Siemens revealed plans at Hannover Messe in April for a new online collaborative platform designed to bring on-demand product design and 3-D printing production to the global manufacturing industry. The part manufacturing platform under development from Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software business is expected to provide an environment capable of connecting all members of the global manufacturing community to maximize resource utilization, access additive manufacturing expertise, and expand business opportunity.

For example, by linking part buyers to micro-factories, the platform aims to enable 3-D print production parts on-demand where needed across the world. In addition, the platform will include collaborative capabilities to help streamline the co-innovation process and accelerate use of 3-D printing as a mainstream production method for industrial parts. 

Improved manufacturing workflow

The announcement addresses "the diverse needs of all additive manufacturing market participants—from designers and engineers, to manufacturers, 3-D printing machine OEMs, material vendors, and software providers," said Tony Hemmelgarn, president and chief executive officer, Siemens PLM Software. Doing so will help distributed industrial additive manufacturing and co-innovation, Hemmelgarn suggested, while "connecting the people, technology, equipment, and expertise needed to efficiently address mutual business opportunities."

The platform is expected to create an "online ecosystem made up of highly qualified members from a variety of areas such as product designers, job shops, part buyers, 3-D printer OEMs, material suppliers, expert services providers, micro-factories, and others." Those involved will be able to connect and "initiate co-innovation of products using the latest software tools for additive manufacturing."

Advantages of easier linking might include greater access to design experts, part buyers, services, better job scheduling, and reduced time to obtain production quantities of end-use parts at needed locations, the company said, along with better scheduling and machine utilization, and greater access to the latest systems, technology, and expertise for repeatable production of industrial parts and quantities. This digital platform is expected to launch in mid-2018. 

Additive manufacturing standards

Standards were among topics discussed at a May conference on additive manufacturing (RAPID+TCT in Pittsburgh, Pa.). Mohsen Seifi, Ph.D., ASTM International’s director of additive manufacturing programs, explained that the new framework for developing additive manufacturing standards was created in 2016 through an agreement between two standards development organizations: ASTM International and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The effort aims to coordinate the creation of standards related to feedstock materials, processes, equipment, and finished-part properties while supporting standards for aerospace, medical devices, automotive, and other industries.

ASTM International is helping create a Standardization Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing, a plan developed by a group known as the Additive Manufacturing Standards Collaborative (AMSC), explained Pat Picariello, ASTM International’s director of developmental operations. In a related panel, AMSC chair Jim Williams, advocated for new additive manufacturing standards and specifications in aerospace, defense, medicine, and other fields. 

Research into the future of additive manufacturing

Another component of the conference was academic research in additive manufacturing. A symposium was hosted by the NextManufacturing Center at Carnegie Mellon University that was designed to promote discussion about additive manufacturing technologies and foster collaboration among industry, government, and nonprofit sectors. Presentation speakers included top industry professionals from companies such as General Electric, Ansys, Arconic, and ATI Powder Metals; representatives from Catalyst Connection and America Makes; and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Control Engineering asked two conference speakers for some advice about 3-D printing for manufacturing, based on their research and field experiences.

Jack Beuth, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the NextManufacturing Center, said, "Process monitoring and control is perhaps the single most important application area in additive manufacturing research right now, and it will continue as a driver for AM innovation for the next 10 or more years." In addition, Beuth noted, "Companies in the metals industry should take additive manufacturing very seriously, continue to gather information, and continue to re-evaluate how AM might affect their business. The processes are changing very rapidly and everything we see tells us that the rate of change will increase from this point on."

Anthony Rollett, Ph.D., professor of materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and associate director of the NextManufacturing Center, said, "Users of powder-bed machines are strongly encouraged to understand that there is a well-founded process window for their particular machine that is based on the physics of the processes. Furthermore, that the process window can be extended by paying attention to the various details."

Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,, using materials from Siemens, ASTM International, and Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering.


Key concepts

  • A digital parts manufacturing platform can connect resources across locations
  • Global design and engineering expertise expands for additive manufacturing, 3-D printing
  • The idea-to-part time is decreasing as 3-D printing is expanding for industrial use.

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Additive manufacturing developments

In other news related to additive manufacturing: 

Cuyahoga Community College has a semi-trailer of advanced manufacturing technology that includes training for CNC machining, welding techniques, 3-D Printing, and programmable logic control.

Siemens and Materialise have integrated additive manufacturing (AM) technology from Materialise into Siemens’ NX software, streamlining the design to manufacturing process for the rapidly growing universe of products being produced using AM. The new solution leverages proven Materialise technology to enable NX computer-aided design, manufacturing and engineering (CAD/CAM/CAE) software to accurately and completely prepare CAD models for powder-bed fusion and material jetting 3-D printing processes. As a result, the time necessary to go from a completed product design to a fully 3-D-printed part could be reduced by 30% or more. The January partnership agreement between the two companies enables Siemens’ product lifecycle management (PLM) software business to sell the integrated software through its global sales channels.

NextManufacturing Center at Carnegie Mellon University, a research center for additive manufacturing, has more than 20 researchers from across disciplines researching the interrelated processing, materials, cost, and design challenges of additive manufacturing. Carnegie Mellon researchers, the university said, are working on additive technologies using materials that range from biological and soft materials to metals; the NextManufacturing Center has a particularly strong focus on the direct metal processes, merging data from all parts of the process to create a fully-integrated understanding of the technology. 

See related articles on additive manufacturing from Control Engineering linked below. 

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.