35th International Maintenance Conference and Reliability Digital Transformation Conference

Now that I’ve attended one in-person trade show and conference, I’m ready for a few more. I met Terrence O’Hanlon almost 20 years ago at a conference he assembled in Chicago at Rosemont. It was impressive for a small-ish magazine called Maintenance Technology. I didn’t know that I had met the real Terry, though. That came later after my brush with trying to revitalize that magazine and conference.

Since that time, O’Hanlon has brought together an association, website, magazine, and some awesome conferences. His annual large one is coming up in December at Marco Island in Florida. I keep threatening him with coming down and attending. This may be the year. My interests intersect with his in a Venn Diagram sort of way. I’m interested in exploring how IT technologies intersect with industrial technologies in order to improve operations and profitability solving tough problems in production and manufacturing.

If you are coming down, and you should, ping me and let’s meet for a coffee or other adult beverage while discussing the changes impacting us and how we’ll solve tomorrow’s problems.

Following is information about the two conferences held concurrently.

35th International Maintenance Conference

The 35th International Maintenance Conference (IMC) provides a fresh, positive community-based curated experience to gain knowledge and perspective for advancing reliability and asset management through people, their managers, the processes, the data and the technology.

Using examples from the world’s best-run companies and leaders who provide a new view of maintenance, reliability and asset management that results in attendees discovering new ways to advance their organizations that had not occurred to them in the past. 

It is about learning how to knock on the door of the “don’t know what we don’t know” knowledge domain and being open to important ideas from others with a mindset of inquiry and discovery.

Mission: Providing opportunities for attendees to discover ways to advance safety, sustainability and success in the workplace aligned to organization objects and aims.

Vision: Connect the people, the knowledge, the technology and the experience of the International Maintenance Conference community and nurture that learning opportunity 365 days per year.


Much of the context, structure and ideas for the International Maintenance Conference is based on the Uptime Elements Reliability Framework and Asset Management System which is in use at over 6,000 organizations with more than 3,700 active Certified Reliability Leaders and practitioners.


Asset Managers, Reliability Leaders, Maintenance Professionals and Operational Managers from the world’s best-run companies.

Attendees are invited to set a goal to create an activated asset management strategy and plan to be executed in an engaged, cross-functional, culture of reliability [leadership] based on what you learn and who you meet at IMC.

The RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference

The world’s best run companies are connecting the workforce, management, assets and data to automate asset knowledge that can be leveraged for huge and beneficial decisions.

According to a 2021 Reliabilityweb.com Digitalization Study for Asset Management and Reliability, less than 40 percent of organizations have a formal policy, strategy or plan for digital transformation in the context of reliability and asset management. When combined with data that shows that 70 percent of digitalization projects fail to generate sustainable business success when missing a formal policy, strategy and plan, the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference exists to amply digitalization success.

Using examples from the world’s best-run companies and leaders who provide a new view for leveraging technology to connect asset data, information and knowledge with the workforce and their managers to make better maintenance, reliability and asset management decisions for a better operation tomorrow.

It is about being open to new ideas with a mindset of inquiry and discovery.

Mission: Providing opportunities for attendees to discover ways to enhance reliability and asset management opportunities by creating new digital business models built on elastic, evergreen connected data environments, digital twins and metaverses in new ways that had not occurred to them in the past. 

Vision: Connect the people, the knowledge, the technology, and the experience of the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference and nurture that competency development opportunity 365 days per year.


Much of the context, structure, and ideas for the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference is based on Uptime Elements IT/OT Knowledge Domain and Digitalization Framework, originally created through a virtual Special Interest Group (vSIG). There is a revised body of knowledge currently being created by the Reliability Leadership Foundation (RLF) Digitalization Consortium, who will be actively involved in contributing to the RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference.


Professionals who collaborate across operational technology [OT], information technology [IT] and engineering technology [ET] from the world’s best-run companies to advance reliability and asset management.

RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference attendees are invited to set a target to create the foundation of an activated asset management strategy and plan executed in an engaged, cross-functional, culture of reliability [leadership] enabled by digitalization business models based on what you learn and who you meet at RELIABILITY 4.0 Digital Transformation Conference.

Ignition Community Conference Provides Many Ideas For Industrial Progress

Inductive Automation held its annual “gathering” last week. The Ignition Community Conference brings together customers, partners, and Inductive staff for presentations and conversations around using technology to improve industrial (and other) processes. Sales and Marketing VP Don Pearson likes to point to a couple of key words—Ignition and Community. Ignition is the base product for HMI and SCADA and IoT. Community is how Inductive Automation leaders view the customers who gather and provide thoughts and input on how to use the product and what they would like to see added.

I put gathering in quotes because the conference was once again virtual. Perhaps next year…

And, speaking of https://inductiveautomation.com/resources/podcast/manufacturing-trends-asaservice-edge-mqtt-opc-ua-moreDon Pearson, he had me as a guest on his podcast recently. I enjoyed the conversation about technology and applications.

The cool thing about a virtual conference concerns the presentations—they are all specifically made for video. This means that watching on demand after the conference still yields the same experience minus only the live chat and networking. Check out the live sessions on the website.

I recommend the main keynote for an overview of the company, its leaders, and its direction. You’ll find Arlen Nipper’s discussion of MQTT and Sparkplug informative. The discussions of the finalists and winners of application awards were well done offering insights on some of the best practices for applying this type of software. You should also pick up many ideas for uses that would never before have occurred. I like them enough that I’m summarizing all 15 below. Go online and watch the videos and check out the details.

ICC 2021 Discover Gallery

OEE, SPC, and Real-Time Dashboards for Greater Insight into Six Production Lines

Gaining real-time and historical insight in the production process on any level is the key in this project. All of this is achieved by leveraging the options that Ignition delivers. Using standards in combination with the customization resulted in a state-of-the-art project.

Before starting with the project, AT-Automation (AT) identified the need for The Compound Company. This identification resulted in a single application that can be used throughout the full company. The solution mainly consists of four key elements:

  • Real-time and historical insight into production.
  • Insight into production data to identify pain points.
  • Statistical analysis of the process parameters so deviations between setpoints and actual values are identified quickly.
  • Mobile application so production information can be accessed from remote locations.

It’s now possible for the customer to see data that is being generated by the production lines. All the production lines are easily visualized in one overview. The option to zoom in on data regarding one production line is also available to identify the smallest details. 

New SCADA and OEE for Ariens, Maker of Four Million Snow Blowers

Ariens has a state-of-the-art landscaping equipment production facility that includes industry-leading machinery and manufacturing principles, but its data-gathering process was falling behind. The company was able to offer highly granular data, but the data came at the cost of time, meaning any insight gained lagged behind. Ariens brought Corso Systems in to take the OEE data collection process from pen and paper to automated real-time results using Ignition Perspective and the Sepasoft OEE Module.

The process for the operators at Ariens was to track all produced parts and scrap by hand. Once the data was tracked, it was then collected into a digital format via manual data entry. The final step of the process was to take the data and leverage highly complex tables to service the efficiency of the work center, and the data was aggregated to determine the overall plant efficiency.

Manual data collection from the operators, while effective in the past, was dated and needed to be addressed. The errors from the manual entry easily multiplied across the various translations. Operators might make an error when transcribing a part count, analysts might input the wrong value when translating to a digital format, and there was room for additional error when driving the data calculations through unlocked open forms. This stacking of potential errors left Ariens exposed to risk that it could no longer tolerate.

The result of the project is taking a company from pen and pad to on-the-fly, real-time understanding of what is happening on the plant floor. With the ability to see high-level overviews and drill into each line, work center, and employee, management can take action to effect change for the good of the company at a much higher rate. Throughout the process, there were moments of reflection for both the Ariens and Corso teams to adjust procedures and grow as companies and individuals.

High-Performance HMI and Single User Interface for Minerals Division of Global Resources Leader

This project is a high-performance human-machine interface (HMI) which assists technicians at BHP’s Technology Remote Operations Centre (TROC) for Minerals Australia in monitoring and managing the status of critical technology infrastructure and components across the operations.

BHP has provided visibility and context of PLCs, switches, servers, applications, substations, data centers and more, using its internally developed OPC UA module for OSI PI to bring in hundreds of thousands of data points.

BHP has also integrated with many of its other enterprise platforms to provide quick, intuitive, and easy-to-digest context at a glance to enable TROC technicians.

The BHP HMI solution is a significant innovation that uniquely integrates the IT world into the OT space for the mining industry. BHP has used new technology and modern integration to combine huge volumes of real-time data and context — presenting this in an actionable form to enhance safety and productivity. BHP’s initial research found no solutions in the market that met its needs, so it chose to develop an innovative solution.

The system is providing better visibility and context to operational personnel in the field, as well as a better experience when the TROC is contacted, with the TROC technician already aware of the issue and actively resolving it. Usually, issues are being proactively resolved prior to the operations noticing any effect or impact. As the TROC HMI is accessible to all employees, others outside of TROC watch and respond to alarms, preventing issues earlier than in the past.

There is also a cultural benefit, as BHP is providing a solution that is “fit for purpose” for TROC, rather than presenting the team with multiple siloed solutions which do not provide the context required.

The HMI system results in fewer outages and IT failures. Over time, this will result in significant cost savings from disruptions that have been avoided across all of BHP’s operations in Australia — and, if replicated to other operations, potentially globally.

Smithfield Hog Production Improves Feed Mill Operations with Modern SCADA Platform

This project — automating the hog feed production plant at Smithfield Hog Production’s facility in Milford, Utah — uses Allen-Bradley CompactLogix processors accompanied with Flex and SLC I/O hardware. The computers are based on a virtual environment, having all machines running on a common server connected to thin clients. CPM Beta Raven’s MillMaster is the interface for the consumer to receive product, run recipes, track inventory, and loadout product seamlessly and accurately.

Major benefits from the project include the efficiency and response times of the software. The manufacturing business is fast-paced, safety-oriented, and dependent upon the Ignition HMI client to provide real-time data. For the Smithfield facility, it’s important to know the status of the boiler; without it the plant will not produce. This mill now has the comfort of knowing the management will be alerted on their phones in the event the boiler malfunctions. Before the CPM Beta Raven system integration project, the feed mill worked entirely on pushbuttons, relay circuit boards, and physical labor. Now the operators have the capability to focus more on ingredient/product accuracy and production times for the best results. This provides Smithfield the ability to serve more hog farms and therefore provide more protein for humans everywhere.

Improved Data Management for High-Speed Catamarans

The purpose of the project was to develop a DNV-GL approved Ship Integrated Management System (SIMS) to manage data from various inputs on the ship and present information in a consistent manner on operator workstations distributed throughout the vessel.

Australian shipbuilder Incat, based in Hobart, Tasmania, designs and builds high-speed lightweight catamarans which are supplied globally. Ships vary from fast, flexible, and efficient vehicle-passenger ferries to high-speed military support vessels, crew ships, and dynamic platforms.

Each Incat ship requires a Ship Integrated Management System (SIMS). The purpose of the SIMS is to manage data from various inputs and present data in a consistent manner on operator workstations distributed throughout a vessel.

The outcome for Incat and Cromarty was extremely positive. The project was completed within the specified time frame. The hardware and software design achieved DNV-GL Plan approval using readily available industrial-standard hardware and software. The final solution was scalable and repeatable and allowed Incat not only to deliver Vessel 091 with a DNV-GL approved Ship Integrated Management System, but also laid the foundation for the system to be adapted for future vessels — all with locally based support.

Creating a High-Capacity Lab for COVID Testing in Just Nine Months

Ginkgo Bioworks expanded its automation capabilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for increased nationwide diagnostic testing capacity. Ginkgo designed and built a new sample-processing lab very quickly. The lab is highly automated; once a rack of samples is placed on the line by an operator, it makes its way through a series of work cells with no human intervention. Ultimately the goal of the system was to prepare COVID-19 test samples for DNA sequencing & PCR testing for the virus. At the heart of this new lab is the Ignition SCADA platform.

Sample traceability is of utmost importance. With more than 40 separate PLCs all triggering actions that impacted the samples, Ignition was critical to unifying the process data and allowing Ginkgo to extract meaningful testing results.

This automated lab went from conception to bio-validation in nine months, so it was important to have a SCADA platform that could scale quickly. Commissioning occurred seven days per week, so redundant Ignition servers allowed the facility to achieve nearly 100% SCADA uptime. Ignition’s responsibilities included connecting more than 40 work cells (each with their own PLC, lab equipment, robot, and vision inspection systems), providing real-time dashboards for production data, connecting PLCs to lab equipment with a consistent interface, and reliably storing event data for the lab.

Real-Time Data Across the Entire Enterprise for a Leading Oil & Gas Company in Latin America

Pluspetrol, one of the leading oil & gas companies in Latin America, acquired Block 10 operations in Ecuador and successfully finished migrating one of the largest SCADA systems in Ecuador to Ignition in 2019. The fact that all Ecuador operations chose Ignition as their monitoring, control, and information platform allowed the corporation to evaluate its benefits and choose it as the appropriate tool for digital transformation of the company at the corporate level.

In 2020, Pluspetrol adopted Ignition software to concentrate the information of the processes of its different assets in many countries to allow availability of information at the corporate level. With Ignition as the foundation, the corporation can now collect and distribute information in an efficient, real-time, and effortless way for different area users and third-party applications and corporate services.

Pluspetrol has allowed corporate-level access to data in real time from any of the operation centers and offices. Now sites in Peru are in the process of joining the IDEA initiative. Soon, more sites located in Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador, which already has Ignition, will be incorporated into the corporate SCADA system.

The collected and centralized data will be available to third-party systems such as ERPs, through Web Services and other available technologies.

In Ecuador, the system has allowed constant development for all areas in the plant with a faster response and taking the operation to an administrative/management level.

New opportunities have arisen for the customer’s everyday operations due to the IDEA standard. Every area in the company can access data in real time. This is the basic difference for everything. Making decisions based on past data only is now history. Having real-time information from past and current data enables the customer’s operations to be more efficient — and helps tremendously with constant improvements to operations.

Mobile Robots and Logistics Automation for Avery Dennison

More and more organizations are introducing automation into their logistics operations through the use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Over the past several years, Flexware Innovation has assisted customers with this effort by leveraging Ignition to integrate these vehicles into their existing ecosystems. This integration typically includes interfacing with automation/control infrastructure, inventory management systems, and other line-of-business applications. The result of this continuous development is a highly configurable, Ignition-based middleware framework named LIFT (Logistics Integration Framework Technology). 

Avery Dennison recently expanded the production and warehousing capacity of its plant in Greenfield, Indiana. The project included the implementation of a new JBT AGV system that would transfer materials autonomously throughout the facility. Avery Dennison wanted to create a comprehensive material handling solution that would seamlessly integrate the new JBT AGV system with existing facility systems and processes. Flexware utilized its Ignition-based LIFT framework to create a fully integrated logistics solution and help make Avery’s expansion a success.

Flexware developed the solution over a six-month period, and then partnered with both the Avery Dennison and JBT teams to implement the integrated solution into the production environment successfully. With limited training, the Avery Dennison team has achieved complete customer ownership of the solution. The full-featured configuration client allows Avery Dennison to reconfigure existing missions as desired, as well as add new equipment, vehicles, and missions to the system as needed. The system manages Avery Dennison’s autonomous vehicles, human-driven vehicles, production lines, a shipping area, and an expanded warehouse area. This integrated material handling solution has allowed Avery Dennison to increase logistics capacity significantly in this plant with minimal additional manpower.

Improved Data Integrity and Easier Compliance with 21 CFR Part 11

Par Pharmaceutical worked with Grantek as part of Par’s corporate data integrity initiative to improve production data quality and regulatory compliance. The project related to fluid beds, which are pieces of equipment used to reduce the moisture content of pharmaceutical powder and granules. The project was to draft corporate data integrity requirements for all control systems across Par Pharmaceutical’s industries, and then develop a new system for the fluid bed as a pilot against the new requirements.

The fluid bed dryer solution provided by Grantek is a critical piece of process equipment involved in the manufacturing of solid dose pharmaceuticals. This solution ensures each fluid bed control system utilizes five main process phases: pre-conditioning, charging, heating, spraying, and cooling — each involving a sequencing of air flow, temperature control, or spray per a pre-configured (but editable) manufacturing recipe.

Previously, one of the fluid beds was being controlled by a ControlLogix 5562 processor with an iFix SCADA HMI and custom Visual Basic interfaces and scripts. In contrast, the other Fluid Bed was controlled via a PLC-5 with a Wonderware SCADA HMI. The client also upgraded the air handler and other process equipment as part of the migration included in this project. The solution provided by Grantek utilized the Sepasoft module for recipe management within Ignition to organize and manage all recipe creation and versioning. The tight integration of Ignition with the database also allowed for robust filtering and data validation using dropdowns and search-fields objects.

As data becomes the driver behind critical business decisions, it is becoming ever more critical to ensure that data is handled correctly, following industry best practices. These projects reviewed the shortcomings of the antiquated fluid bed dryers to identify risk areas that could lead to errors in electronic records, or compromise data integrity. This solution removed the barriers to documentation and sped up data retrieval. Several of the priority concerns addressed by this project are adding robust role-based access controls, modernizing the audit trail to improve mean time to resolution, and implementing electronic signatures to approve critical operating changes or events.

These projects further facilitate the collection of trusted data while increasing the availability of actionable data to allow users to improve operations. While the interface was updated for these features, the PLC operations were identical aside from several additions to accommodate new HMI features. This allows for the transition to compliance while maintaining familiarity for operators working with the system.

In terms of data integrity improvement, data reporting capability, change tracking capability, and data retention, the project was a very strong success.

The highlight of this project and its value is using Ignition as a centralized data repository and 21 CFR Part 11/data integrity compliance tool. Par is now working on centralizing many machines’ controls into Ignition.

Modern SCADA, MQTT, and the Cloud Bring Intelligent Buildings for SNCF, the French National Railway Company

This project is about digital transformation for railway stations across France. The challenge was to collect and interact with greenfield and brownfield facilities in a highly distributed BMS-like environment.

Three years ago, the western management of the SNCF’s Gares et Connexions entity began thinking about updating its command and control systems for onsite and remote operators, as well as subcontractors for the various operating and maintenance contracts.

With the Ignition and MQTT Sparkplug platform, HTTProject was able to implement a flexible solution that meets all requirements.

Ignition Perspective has made it possible to create applications that can be adapted to all terminals (responsive design); these are not simple dashboards, but real industrial supervision applications in the palm of your hand!

More than 250 users can view and control the installations from anywhere on their mobile devices or from any computer on the network. With alarm notification, external users are alerted in real time of any deviations and use their remote access to correct anomalies.

Perhaps most importantly, with Ignition, MQTT, and Sparkplug B, the choice of technology and site integrator is free. The definition of assets is done at the edge level, so the unique name space is used by all applications from the moment of publication on the MQTT infrastructure.

Equipment control is less than a second at all points on the network. The reliability, flexibility, and performance of the solution is such that other projects using more conventional techniques will use the data produced by Ignition. And this is just the beginning. Ignition can expand almost indefinitely with its unlimited license and the scalability of MQTT Sparkplug B.

Advanced Monitoring and Control for a Data Center Leader in Italy

This project provided Aruba with an advanced real-time monitoring and control system for its revamped IT2 Arezzo Data Center. This was Aruba’s first data center, put into operation more than 15 years ago, covering approximately 2,000 square meters.

After the positive experience with a previous MTech project, Aruba wanted to give a new shape to this old but still strategic data center, with particular attention to the use of modern technologies, building a flexible control system to control all its subsystems.

Once again, Ignition has demonstrated its power and flexibility, as well as an incredible ability to bring real innovation into the hands of customers. The ability to manage truly complex systems from the palm of your hand is certainly the real next step in automation and control of systems.

Cloud-Hosted SCADA with MQTT Gives Water Agency Faster Access to Data

Waterford Township Department of Public Works (DPW) in Oakland County, Michigan, manages 715 miles of water and wastewater sewer, including 19 production wells, three storage tanks, 11 treatment plants, and 63 sewer lift stations. In 2015, Perceptive Controls undertook a project to upgrade the department’s core SCADA infrastructure, which monitored RTUs over licensed RF using a poll/response protocol. Now, the department’s system runs on a cloud-hosted Ignition MQTT infrastructure, which has improved the speed, scalability, accuracy, and fault-tolerance of the system with lots of potential for future integration.

This design is unconventional for the industry, but it avoids the kinds of problems with local utilities that have made the news lately and is more resilient than it used to be. In fact, Waterford DPW recently experienced a loss of internet connectivity in their office building, and of course, the system was totally unaffected.

With MQTT, the system is also much more responsive and stable. The DPW system has gone from multi-minute cycles to sub-second latency and a significant reduction in actual data transmission because of report-by-exception. This allows the DPW to send out more data than before and never miss a system action or an alarm notification, which enables operators to accurately diagnose issues in the field.

The new HMI screens complement the level of data integrity with a friendlier user interface. Critical factors like wet well level and pump runtime in each lift station are highlighted so an operator can spot problematic behaviors early on.

The DPW also has lots of communication diagnostic information, which simply wasn’t possible before. Scalability is no longer a concern, and the DPW is looking forward to future projects built on this foundation. In the future, the DPW sees huge potential for integrating with local and regional systems to build predictive systems that help avert disaster and operate more efficiently.

Support costs went down by around $10,000 from what they were when paying for iFIX, and the DPW saved a lot of money in travel time because Perceptive can do all the programming through a secure remote connection. Tag counts and related metrics will increase by the time the project is completed in late 2021.

AWS, MQTT, Edge, and Perspective for Easy Government Compliance and Better Operations

With this new system, Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE) can collect data from numerous locations and see all the data in one place. It’s now much easier to do compliance reporting, and data is also used to improve operations in several ways.

RAE and another company are both using the solution provided for reporting compliance data. This has streamlined the process and ensures a single source of truth for reporting the data. Furthermore, RAE uses the operations platform daily for various reasons and it continues to grow and develop new features. This type of system has been proposed to potential customers and has received quite a bit of interest.

Modern SCADA Improves Operations Across Three Water Districts

Ignition Perspective proved to be a big improvement over the previous SCADA system for the Warren, Simpson, and Butler County Water districts. The new system has much more flexibility and scalability, allowing it to keep up with the districts’ needs as they continue to expand. The project was implemented across 131 separate stations.

Vertech was brought into this project to provide a world-class automation solution for the three water districts. 

The new system created a viable way for the districts to view and control any level of equipment from a singular interface while introducing data insights on network reliability and system performance down to a granular level. This allowed improvement to truly originate from the bottom up as operators became more acquainted with the nuances of the system and used it to convey data insights through dynamic reports and annotated charting. Vertech also benefited greatly in this process by refining and improving its offering of web-based water SCADA systems and leveraging the operational experience and procedural skills of the three water districts.

Edge Computing and MQTT Help Uncrewed Vessels Gather Data from Oceans

XOCEAN is an Irish company with offices in the UK and Canada that has designed and developed a fleet of uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) to provide data collection services to surveyors, companies, and agencies globally.

XOCEAN’s CyberDeck 2.0 system uses Ignition as its controls platform to create a web-based command and control interface for its fleet of USVs. The system allows XOCEAN to perform over-the-horizon operations with USVs in any marine location, and work with remote pilots in any location with internet access.

Ignition was chosen as the XOCEAN controls interface because it provides fully developed modules to create a robust, secure, and scalable solution. With Ignition, XOCEAN has developed Edge and central Ignition Gateway projects in less than six months, allowing a very swift migration of the entire USV fleet from the pre-existing Rockwell solution.

XOCEAN now has a scalable, secure, and flexible controls platform which puts the company on sound footing as it grows its fleet and enhances its product offering.

Additive Manufacturing Software For Metal Replacement Parts

Continuing coverage of additive manufacturing from last week’s Rapid + TCT show in Chicago, here is news from Roboze, a company specializing in extreme end-use metal replacement parts. The original additive process used polymer materials. Metals have been hard to process and maintain tolerance. Technology has advanced.

Roboze has launched Prometheus, a robust slicing software that increases the productivity of its customers. The software, developed by Roboze’s software engineering team, was unveiled today at this year’s Rapid + TCT event.

The development of the Prometheus software empowers Roboze customers with a complete, simple, and intuitive 3D printing software solution for end-to-end workflow management, from the first stages of design through final production of the printed part. Prometheus was designed with a user-friendly interface and cutting-edge features to increase digital production and parts performance from Roboze 3D Printers. The technology behind Prometheus was developed to specifically consider the robust performance capabilities of the machines and the intrinsic characteristics of Roboze’s specially developed, high-performance super polymers and composite printing materials. The software allows users to easily and quickly create a stable, secure 3D printing code in just a few clicks, and it works across the most popular browsers in the world, including Chrome and Edge.

Software Partner and 3D Printing Materials Bring Additive Manufacturing to the Factory Floor

While at Fabtech and Rapid + TCT last week, I stopped by the Stratasys booth. It’s another of the leading Additive Manufacturing (or 3D Printing) suppliers developing materials, machines, and software. Here are a few announcements from it.

Expanded material options for new manufacturing systems

Stratasys continues to expand its ecosystem of materials to offer customers a variety of options across 3D printing technologies and solutions. The company announced new materials for the Stratasys H350 and Stratasys Origin One 3D printers and a new Origin Open Material License (OML) for the Origin One.

The SAF-powered Stratasys H350 3D printer is specifically designed for the mass production of end-use parts with consistency, and the ability to customize and control the production workflow. The H350 will initially utilize High-Yield PA11, a sustainable material derived from 100% bio-based castor beans. In addition, in 2022, PA12 (also known as Nylon 12) will be available for the H350. PA12 provides dimensional stability, chemical resistance and impact strength, and has been used across various additive manufacturing printing technologies for creating jigs and fixtures, tooling, and functional end-use parts.

Stratasys has further expanded its ecosystem of materials with two new materials by Henkel for the Stratasys Origin One. Stratasys Dura56 by LOCTITE is a durable, impact-resistant photopolymer with exceptional surface finish and a low cost per kilo. The material was created to address applications with high material consumption and for functional applications where aesthetics and robustness are critical. Dura56 is ideal for end-use parts such as housings, parts with mating features, or class A surfaces.

The second material for the Origin One printer is LOCTITE 3D IND405 Clear, a one-part semi-rigid 3D printable clear photopolymer resin that provides smooth surface finish, good impact resistance and elongation. Parts printed in IND405 can be polished to an optically clear finish. The material can be machined, tapped and polished, and is ideal for microfluidic devices as well as guide overlays. Its qualities are most comparable to unfilled polypropylene.

Stratasys is also introducing the Origin Open Material License (OML) for the Stratasys Origin One system, which is expected to ship this year. With the Origin OML software toolkit, advanced print users and material companies will be able to develop, beta test, and experiment with custom workflows and new materials. OML users will have the ability to override light, temperature, force, velocity and pressure on a layer-by-layer basis for ultimate control over the print process. The OML is designed to help materials companies and super-users accelerate iterations of material formulations and push products to market in weeks, not years.

Supporting Industry 4.0 with a growing software ecosystem

The GrabCAD Software Partner Program has added eight software partners so far in 2021, enabling Stratasys customers to integrate additive manufacturing into their Industry 4.0 initiatives. Stratasys today announced the newest addition to the GrabCAD Software Partner Program – AMFG.

AMFG, a leading provider of Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and workflow automation software for additive manufacturing, has partnered with Stratasys to deliver advanced AM solutions that combine AMFG’s workflow automation expertise with Stratasys’ 3D printers and GrabCAD software. AMFGs software solution enables connectivity across the production workflow, streamline processes, and provide greater levels of traceability and visibility. Further, the combination of Stratasys 3D printing solutions with AMFG’s fully automated order management, routing and production scheduling tools enable fully automated end-part production at scale.

Transforming additive manufacturing technology

Daikin Applied, a member of Daikin Industries, Ltd., designs and manufactures advanced commercial and industrial HVAC systems for customers around the world. The company is using the large build volume of the new Stratasys F770 3D printer to print batches of end-use parts for HVAC cabinets, which has allowed them to achieve a 93% time savings over purchasing custom injection molded spacers. Daikin is also using the F770 to print nozzle clamps used in Daikin test chambers, again saving time and costs over traditional manufacturing.

In February 2021, Stratasys announced the acquisition of UK-based RP Support Ltd. (RPS), a provider of industrial stereolithography 3D printers and solutions. This acquisition provided Stratasys customers with a new 3D printing technology option that produces high-quality parts with superior surface quality, accuracy and detail.

The Stratasys Neo Series of printers can produce concept models and prototypes with industry-leading accuracy, exceptional sidewall quality and crisp feature resolution, as well as rapid tooling and master patterns. Furthermore, the Neo Series of printers are designed with an open resin material system. This allows customers to choose the material that best suits their application.

Additive Manufacturing—Machine, Materials, Software

Talking with the Blake Teipel, CEO of additive manufacturing developer Essentium, at Rapid + TCT last week, he emphasized the core of the company’s offerings—Machine, Materials, Software. I summarized the show last week. Following are details from the company’s press releases. They include high-performance materials and a new printer, and electronics manufacturing.

First was announced the introduction of Essentium PEKK, made with Arkema 6002 Kepstan resin. This ultra-polymer offers high heat and chemical resistance and mechanical strength to meet the performance requirements of aerospace and industrial applications.

PEKK shares most of the performance attributes of PEEK but has a lower crystallization rate and can therefore be treated as an amorphous polymer. This means it is less affected by the cooling process once the part is 3D printed, thereby minimizing warping. PEKK maintains the flame smoke toxicity ratings for FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) compliance while offering improved resistance to chemical attack compared to PEI materials. PEKK has an extrusion temperature between 340 and 400°C. 

The new material extends Essentium’s open additive ecosystem by allowing manufacturers to scale and meet the requirements of their specific applications with tested and certified materials of their choice. Essentium PEKK ensures manufacturers can quickly produce parts that meet their industry’s reliability, repeatability, and performance standards.

The Essentium HSE 280i HT 3D printer demonstrates how the industry’s first true independent dual extruders (IDEX) machine gives manufacturers the ultimate machine tool to 3D print at scale.  The system is independent on both the Y and X-axis, enabling manufacturers to 3D print multi-part builds at industrial speeds, even for parts with complex geometries.

Said Brandon Sweeney, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of R&D, Materials and Co-founder, Essentium Inc.: “Industries such as aerospace and automotive want AM to give them speed to parts without sacrificing quality. By providing an open additive ecosystem with a range of high-performance materials such as PEKK combined with the powerful capabilities of the HSE 280i, industry players now have a unique opportunity to rapidly produce complex parts for harsh and extreme environments on-demand. These AM innovations are game-changing for manufacturers who are driven by improvements in efficiency and time-to-market opportunities.”

Electronics Manufacturing with Industrial-Scale 3D Printing

Essentium, Inc. showcased its work with electronics manufacturer VIRTEX to achieve significant efficiencies, cost-savings, and time-to-market gains. Serving customers across aerospace, military, medical, and other industrial sectors, VIRTEX needed to create large volumes of custom fixtures for circuit boards and electronics placed in plastic enclosures. The fixtures were machined using traditional methods, but the lead time and cost would be unsustainable as production scaled. VIRTEX needed a 3D printing solution that could deliver the speed and agility to meet the demand for 3,000 fixtures per month and a build volume to accommodate 18″ x 6″ parts. 

VIRTEX worked with Essentium to explore the possibilities of deploying AM to create custom fixtures that could perform as well as the machined counterparts. Using the Essentium High Speed Extrusion (HSETM) 3D Printing Platform and Essentium PCTG material, VIRTEX could print the set of fixtures in under two days, reducing the lead time by almost two weeks. For the same fixture order that cost $5,000, the 3D printed part was $30, reducing the cost by 99%.

Said Ian Denefe, Manufacturing Engineer at VIRTEX: “The flexibility of additive manufacturing was one of the biggest benefits for us. The fact that we could reverse engineer existing fixtures, print them quickly, and rapidly modify them or replace them made it an ideal solution.”

Said Blake Teipel, Ph.D., CEO of Essentium: “As additive manufacturing goes mainstream, it is increasingly possible to manufacture crucial parts at speed and scale not previously seen. Given its greater design freedom, accelerated time to market, and significantly lower tooling costs, AM is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to meet the demands of electronics manufacturers. We will continue to work with customers like VIRTEX to unlock innovative new possibilities in electronics design and production.”

Universal Robots Showcases Innovative Applications at Fabtech 2021

My last post before absconding for vacation included an overview of Fabtech 2021—the first trade show I’ve visited in two years. Aside from the additive manufacturing area, the next most active area for me was collaborative robots. Much of the activity concerned welding. People at the Universal Robot booth told me that smaller companies have trouble hiring welders. The smaller cost of these robots plus speed from delivery to production make them an attractive alternative.

Universal Robots used FABTECH 2021 as the launchpad for new cobot applications including heavy-duty water-cooled welding, hardfacing, plasma cutting, and flexible machine loading. 

UR cobot-powered systems were mainstream at FABTECH with numerous OEMs and UR+ partners actively selling MIG, TIG and plasma welding and cutting solutions, making it one of the fastest growing market for UR cobots.

“For 40 years, robotic arc welding evolved incrementally”, says Joe Campbell, Senior Manager of Applications Development and Strategic Marketing at Universal Robots. “Collaborative arc welding is the first disruptive technology to hit the robotic arc welding market since the introduction of DC servo powered robots,” he adds, attributing the rapid market traction to several key drivers including significant shortage of welders, increase in high mix/low volume production, and the fact that cobot welders are easy to deploy, quickly producing parts with improved quality and consistency.

Heavy-duty welds are now possible to perform with cobots as Vectis Automation becomes the first UR partner in North America to develop a water-cooled cobot-based welding system in a new version of its Cobot Welding Tool. The solution is now not only compatible with Miller welding equipment but can be integrated with Lincoln and Fronius welding equipment too. 

Vectis Automation also pioneers the use of a UR cobot for hardfacing, the metalworking process where harder or tougher material is applied to a base metal. The company debuted new UR cobot powered plasma cutting as well, featuring Vectis’ Cobot Cutting Tool with Hypertherm PowerMax able to perform complex cuts on 3D shapes and large structures for a fraction of the cost of a tube laser. 

The UR booth also hosts new solutions for automated machine tending, featuring the new VersaBuilt CNC Mill Application Kit for manufacturers seeking a plug-and-play approach to CNC milling automation. Versabuilt’s UR+ Application Kit comes with all components pre-assembled and designed to successfully get the CNC mill and the UR10e cobot working together, automating the loading and unloading of parts into the mill. The VersaBuilt Kit requires no programming experience with easy-to-use automation software that allows the machinist to simply enter part dimensions and CNC milling program numbers to get the application up and running. 

Universal Robots’ ActiNav combines intelligent vision and real-time autonomous motion control with Universal Robots’ e-Series cobots. ActiNav combines real-time autonomous motion control, UR cobots, vision and sensor systems in one seamless Application Kit that solves the bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. At FABTECH, ActiNav picked metal parts randomly jumbled in bins and correctly insert them into a machine. Powering ActiNav is the new enhanced version of UR’s best-selling UR10e cobot now featuring 25% more payload capacity with the ability to lift 12.5kg (27.55lbs).

When it comes to the grippers picking up parts in automated loading and unloading of machine tools, as well as handling of ferromagnetic raw materials, gripping with magnetic grippers has proven to reduce cycle time and increase production. SCHUNK has addressed this industry need with the new EMH gripper, the world’s first electrically activated, 24 V permanent magnetic gripper with integrated electronics. The new EMH gripper will be showcased in seamless integration with a UR cobot at UR’s FABTECH booth alongside the new UR+ product, the AOV-10 Axially-Compliant Orbital Sander, from ATI Industrial Automation that is the ideal robotic solution for surface preparation and finishing. With built-in compliance, the AOV-10 is well-suited for many different robotic application types—even those that require a light touch.