3MF Consortium joins Linux Foundation, announces new executive director as it moves from development to adoption
Open Source and Open Standards continue to expand influence in developing new technologies and applications. I love to see companies banding together to bring out useful new ideas. This one is interesting.
The 3MF Consortium, the organization dedicated to advancing a universal specification for 3D printing, has announced it is becoming a Linux Foundation member and that HP’s Luis Baldez is its new Executive Director (ED). Baldez supersedes Microsoft’s Adrian Lannin, who has served as ED since the 3MF Consortium was founded in 2015. Among the original creators of the 3MF Consortium, Lannin will remain a strategic advisor to the group.
The 3MF Consortium is among the original members of the Joint Development Foundation (JDF), which became part of the Linux Foundation in recent years to enable smooth collaboration among open source software projects and open standards. 3MF will take advantage of the combined strengths of the Linux Foundation/JDF alliance to advance 3D printing specifications and formats. With the majority of the world’s largest players in the 3D printing industry, 3MF Consortium represents the core of the industry’s innovation in this area.
“The 3MF Consortium has done the important work to create an open standard for 3D printing. The time is now to drive the evolution of 3MF from development to implementation,” said Baldez. “We would not be where we are today without Adrian Lannin’s leadership and contributions, and we’re looking forward to his insights as our ongoing advisor.”
Baldez was recently elected Executive Director by the 3MF Consortium membership to expand upon the technical progress and success of the 3MF standard by building new functionalities for the standard through collaboration with Linux Foundation and JDF. Baldez is a 3D printing veteran with experience across new research, market & business development. It is this combination of expertise that makes him well-suited for the ED role at 3MF Consortium, where the focus is maturing from standards development to implementation and adoption. Baldez has also held R&D engineering leadership positions at other multinationals and startups.
“Luis is a longtime champion of open standards and is an expert in the 3D printing space,” said Alex Oster, chairman of the 3MF technical working group and director of additive manufacturing at Autodesk. “Luis’ leadership and our collaboration with Linux Foundation will accelerate our work on 3D printing and help us build an even more vibrant network of contributions.”
The 3MF Consortium has grown rapidly since its formation in 2015, garnering new member investments and adoption across the industry’s leaders in 3D printing. It is supported by 3D Systems, Autodesk, GE, HP, Materialise, Microsoft, nTopology and Siemens among nearly 20 other companies and has been implemented in nearly 40 products across 22 companies. The 3MF specification is robust and includes six extensions that range from core and production to slice, material and property (including color), beam lattice and security. The Secure Content specification was recently released and establishes an underlying mechanism for payload encryption of sensitive 3D printed data based on modern web standards.
As you add electronic sensing and control and networking to machinery, you can take a process to the next level. I’ve been impressed with the growing development of tighter tolerances and then better variety of materials for 3D printing (additive manufacturing). Here is an example of expanding the use of automated “subtractive” manufacturing—micro machining.
6-D Laser LLC was formed in 2018 as an affiliate of leading nanometer-level motion control specialist ALIO Industries, with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems. 6-D Laser offers Hybrid Hexapod-based laser micromachining systems for wide-range taper angle control, 5-Axis Laser Gimbal-based systems for laser processing 3D substrates, and unlimited field of view scanning solutions for laser processing large-format substrates.
Coming out of stealth mode and coinciding with its official launch in 2020, 6-D Laser has launched its website (www.6dlaser.com), and has also announced that the company will be showcasing its radical new approach to laser micro processing at the SPIE Photonics West event, booth 2149, 4-6 February in San Francisco, CA.
6D Laser’s central mission addresses limitations of existing laser processing systems which are largely due to sub-optimal positioning systems used by most system integrators. 6-D Laser tackles this problem by integrating ultra-fast laser material processing with the 6-D nanometer-level precision motion control solutions in which ALIO Industries specializes.
At the heart of 6-D Laser’s integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system is ALIO Industries’ Hybrid Hexapod, which takes a different approach to traditional 6 Degree of Freedom (6-DOF) positioning devices, and exhibits much higher performance at extremely competitive prices. Rather than 6 independent legs (and 12 connection joints) ALIO’s approach combines a precision XY monolithic stage, tripod, and continuous rotation theta-Z axis to provide superior overall performance.
The combination of serial and parallel kinematics at the heart of ALIO’s 6-D Nano Precision® is characterized by orders-of-magnitude improvements (when compared to traditional hexapods) in precision, path performance, speed, and stiffness. The Hybrid Hexapod® also has a larger work envelope than traditional hexapods with virtually unlimited XY travel and fully programmable tool center point locations. The Hybrid Hexapod® has less than 100 nm Point Precision® repeatability, in 3-dimensional space.
6D Laser vertically integrates all of the sub-systems required for precision laser micro-processing, and it does this by forming strategic partnerships with key component and subsystem suppliers that are required to achieve the goals of demanding precision applications. In addition to its association with ALIO, 6-D Laser has also partnered with SCANLAB GmbH, which together with ACS Motion Control, has developed an unlimited field-of-view (UFOV) scanning solution for coordinate motion control of the galvo scanner and positioning stages called XLSCAN. 6-D Laser has also partnered with NextScanTechnology to provide high-throughput scanning systems that take advantage of the high rep-rates in currently available in ultrafast lasers, and Amplitude Laser, a key supplier of ultrafast laser systems for industrial applications.
Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn, CTO at 6-D Laser says, “Introducing an integrated ultrafast laser micromachining system that combines the positioning capabilities of the Hybrid Hexapod®, with high-speed optical scanning leads to a system that can process hard, transparent materials with wide-range taper angle control for the creation of high aspect ratio features in thick substrates, without limitations on the feature or field size.”
Ultrafast laser ablative processes, which remove material in a layer-by-layer process, result in machined features that have a significant side wall taper. For example, a desired cylindrical hole will have a conical profile. Taper formation is difficult to avoid in laser micromachining processes that are creating deep features (> 100 microns). Precision scanheads can create features with near-zero angle side walls, but they are limited to small angles of incidence (AOI) and small field sizes by the optics in the beamline.
Uhlhorn continues, “6-D Laser’s micromachining system controls the AOI and resulting wall taper angle through the Hybrid Hexapod® motion system, and the programmable tool center point allows for the control of the AOI over the entire galvo scan field, enabling the processing of large features.”
About 6-D Laser LLC
6D Laser, LLC, an affiliate of ALIO Industries, Inc, was founded in 2018 by C. William Hennessey and Dr. Stephen R. Uhlhorn. ALIO Industries is an industry-leading motion system supplier, specializing in nano-precision multi-axis solutions. 6D Laser was formed with the mission of integrating ultrafast laser processing with precision multi-axis motion systems, including ALIO’s Patented Hybrid Hexapod. The integration of ALIO True Nano motion systems with key sub-system suppliers, through strategic partnerships with Amplitude Laser, SCANLAB, and ACS Motion Control, enables a new level of precision and capability for advanced manufacturing.
Originally 3D printing, aka additive manufacturing, seemed more a Maker’s machine and novelty with possible future applications. “Printers” were developed for one material, and one company sold the package. I did not think deeply about the machines but continued to watch developments.
The first constraint I discovered for widespread manufacturing adoption was holding tolerances. Researchers and engineers have tackled that problem.
A recent survey of manufacturers revealed that virtually all (99%) manufacturing executives surveyed believe an open ecosystem is important to advance 3D printing at scale. While 85% of manufacturers reported that industrial-scale AM has the potential to increase revenue for their business.
However, the research sponsored by 3D printing / additive manufacturing company Essentium and said to be conducted by an independent global research firm also reported that 22% said their 3D printing efforts have resulted in vendor lock-in that limits flexibility. Note that Essentium manufactures open systems. I have witnessed and written about the value of open ecosystems as a fulcrum for fostering innovation. I don’t know enough to endorse Essentium, but I do endorse the concept.
According to Essentium, the industrial AM market has been dominated by closed systems where customers are locked into vendors’ hardware, processes and materials. As the technology obstacles around economics, scale, strength and speed of production fall away, the number of manufacturers using 3D printing for full-scale production has doubled compared to last year (40% in 2019; 21% in 2018). Manufacturers are now demanding open ecosystems to overcome system inflexibility and use the materials of their choice – 50% of companies said they need high quality and affordable materials to meet the growing demand for industrial 3D printed parts.
An open additive ecosystem will see more partnerships focused on giving customers greater control of their innovation, more choice in materials, and industrial-scale production at ground-breaking economics. Market demand for Essentium’s open 3D printing ecosystem, developed in collaboration with multinational chemical company BASF and 3D software developer Materialise NV, is a clear indication that an open ecosystem approach is addressing unmet needs in the industrial additive market.
Blake Teipel, CEO and Co-founder, Essentium, said: “At Essentium, we strongly believe that an open ecosystem will be key to the evolution of Additive Manufacturing. Being locked into proprietary solutions that limit flexibility and choice is no longer an option if 3D printing is to become a serious contender as an industrial process for end-use products. An open market focused on developing new materials and better and faster machines is the only way for manufacturers to unlock new applications and new business opportunities. With this approach, the future belongs to the customer, not to the OEM.”
162 managers and executives from large manufacturing companies across the world completed the survey on their current experiences, challenges and trends with 3D printing for production manufacturing. Participants included a mix of roles and were from companies across industries including aerospace, automotive, consumer goods and contract manufacturing.
Top Tens and Top Twenties of the past or future year have never been my favorites. However, one can perceive trends and strain out little nuggets of gold by scanning several. Especially industrial taken broadly along with Internet of Things (IoT) and other current digital trends. I just had an interesting chat with Sean Riley, Global Director of Manufacturing and Transportation for Software AG, who released his Top Ten for 2020.
Following are his ideas interspersed with a few of my comments.
Cost Management Becomes Exceptional
As uncertainty enters the global manufacturing outlook, enterprises will become myopically focused on cost reductions. This will drive organizations to find more efficient methods of providing IT support, leveraging supplier ecosystems and simplifying value chains. [GM-much of my early work was in cost management/reduction; this is a never-ending challenge in manufacturing; however, tools continue to evolve giving us more and better solutions.]
A Blurred Line Between Products & Services
Manufacturers continue their product innovation quest and more manufacturers will begin focusing on how to deliver products as a service. The Manufacturers that have already created smart products and have elevated service levels will now begin to work out the financing considerations needed to shift from a sales based to a usage based revenue model. [GM-This is a trend most likely still in its infancy, or maybe toddler-hood; we see new examples sprouting monthly.]
Moving To Redefine Cost Models To Match Future Revenue Streams
Anticipating the shift to continual revenue streams, manufacturers will seek to shift costs to be incurred in a similar manner. This will be initially seen as a continued push to subscription based IT applications. While much progress has already been made, a larger focus will occur. [GM-I like his idea here of balancing capital versus expense budgets, continually finding the best fund source for shifting costs.]
IT Focuses on Rapid Support for Growth
The lines between business and IT users become blurred as no-code applications allow for business users to create integration services. IT professionals will leverage DevOps & Agile methodologies alongside of microservices and containers to rapidly develop applications that are able to generate incremental growth as requested by business users. This will be critical to the near term success for manufacturers, especially with economic headwinds that seem to be growing stronger. [GM-I didn’t ask about DevOps, but this idea is springing into the industrial space; cloud and software-as-a-service provide scalability both up and down for IT to balance costs and services.]
Industrial Self-Service Analytics Become Mission Critical
Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing initiatives continue to receive greater amounts of investment but in the near term, manufacturers will focus on unleashing the power of the data they already have. Historians, LIMS, CMMS’ have valuable data going to and in them and enabling production engineers to leverage that data rapidly is critical. Industrial Self-Service Analytics that allow production and maintenance professionals to leverage predictive analytics without IT assistance will sought as a powerful differentiating factor. [GM-we are beginning to see some cool no-programming tools to help managers get data access more quickly.]
Industrie 4.0 / Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Continue to Draw Investment
It’s no surprise that Manufacturers will continue to invest in Industrie 4.0 as the promises are great however, the scaled returns have not been realized and won’t be realized in the near term. The difficult of implementing these initiatives has surpassed manufacturers expectations for several reasons. First, traditional OT companies were trusted to deliver exceptional, open platforms and that wasn’t delivered. Secondly, collaboration efforts between IT & OT professionals proved to be more convoluted and difficult than expected. [GM-I’m thinking these ideas became overblown and complex, and that is not a good thing; to swallow the whole enchilada causes stomach pain.]
Artificial Intelligence Enters the Mix
AI won’t allow for users to sit back and relax while AI handles all of their tasks for them but it will make an appearance in back office tasks. Freight payment auditing, invoice payment and, in some select areas, chatbots will be the initial main stream uses of AI and will be seen as not becoming an anomaly but be understood to be more mainstream this year. [GM-I think still an idea looking for a problem; however some AI ideas are finding homes a little at a time.]
3D Printing Find New Uses
While this technology has steadily crept into production lines, the push towards usage based product pricing will have the technology move into after market services. Slow moving parts will be the first target for this technology which will help to free up much needed working capital to support financial transformation. [GM-watch for better machines holding tighter tolerances making the technology more useful.]
5G & Edge Analytics Enable New Possibilities
As Industrie 4.0 is continued to be pursued, Manufacturers will implement new initiatives that could not previously be realized without the high speed data transmission promises of 5G or the ability to conduct advanced analytics at the edge where production occurs. This will also provide manufacturers with new methods to securely implement Smart Manufacturing initiatives and in new locations that were not previously feasible due to connectivity issues. [GM-5G is still pretty much a dream, but there is great potential for some day.]
Security Still Remains a Critical Focus
With the increasing rate of IoT sensors, IT-OT convergence, the usage of API’s and the interconnectivity of ecosystems ensuring data security remains a top priority for manufacturers. As more data becomes more available, the need to increase levels of security becomes ever greater. [GM-ah, yes, security–a never-ending problem.]
The popular saying holds that the future is here just unevenly distributed. According to a survey released by PWC and The Manufacturing Institute, that thought is certainly true about the Fourth Industrial Revolution (which PwC labels 4IR but many others label Industry 4.0). This research confirms my observations that many manufacturers have projects at a variety of stages, while many others have adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
The report notes that fourth industrial revolution has been met with both enthusiasm and fence-sitting. While sentiments and experiences have been mixed, most business leaders are now approaching 4IR with a sense of measured optimism. Indeed, larger systemic changes are underway, including building pervasive digital operations that connect assets, developing connected products and managing new, real-time digital ties to customers via those products.
While manufacturers recognize the potential value of advanced technologies and digital innovation—particularly robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing, advanced analytics, 3D printing, and virtual and augmented reality—they are still deliberating how and where to invest and balancing the hype with their own level of preparedness. Meanwhile, they’re also well aware of the significant changes 4IR will bring to a new manufacturing workforce—that is, one that is increasingly symbiotic and increasingly beneficial for many workers and manufacturers alike.
This narrative is reflected in a new survey of US-based manufacturers carried out by PwC and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and thought leadership arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. We see a definitive—and, indeed, inevitable—shift to 4IR as companies seek to integrate new technologies into their operations, supply chain, and product portfolio. At the same time, they acknowledge that scaling, justifying 4IR investments, and dealing with uncertainty surrounding use cases and applications usher in a new set of challenges.
Some key survey findings include:
• While the sector as a whole is making assertive forays into 4IR, many manufacturers still inhabit the awareness and pilot phases. Nearly half of manufacturers surveyed reported that they are in the early stages of a smart factory transition (awareness, experimental, and early adoption phases).
• Manufacturers do expect the transition to accelerate in the coming years—73% are planning to increase their investment in smart factory technology over the next year.
• While we see a number of fence-sitters, the bulk of manufacturers are indeed prioritizing 4IR, the digital ecosystem, and emerging technologies. 31% report that adopting an IoT strategy in their operations is “extremely critical” while 40% report that it’s “moderately critical.”
• About 70% of manufacturers say the biggest impacts of robotics on the workforce in the next five years will be an increased need for talent to manage in a more automated, flexible production environment and the opening of new jobs to engineer robotics and their operating systems.
…While adopters have identified clear signs of success. Though most manufacturers are still climbing the 4IR adoption curve—albeit at different speeds—those that have made progress are reporting a modicum of performance boosts measured by productivity gains, reduced labor costs, new revenue streams from IoT-connected products and services, as well as improved workforce retention and worker safety. Those that have effectively defined their use cases with a focus on outcomes rather than technology are seeing early wins, and are looking for ways to generate even more value.
Manufacturers are seeking to balance 4IR hype and reality. And most acknowledge that sitting back and waiting for the inevitable may not be an option.
The road may be longer than the hype would have companies believe, but preparing for and embracing change is a muscle many of today’s manufacturers are ready to flex. Those that can build on their ad hoc pilots and prioritize investments and strategies with their long-term desired business outcomes will be better positioned to create lasting value for their organization.