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The Industry 4.0 revolution has changed manufacturing and business processes by introducing cyber-technology systems onto factory floors. Advanced technology such as cloud technology, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence, Big Data, and of course, 3D printers.

With these new technologies, manufacturers hope to run their factories smarter than ever before in response to ever changing customers habits and expectations.

“[With Industry 1.0] we had measurement and standards, so you could segregate production into separate workstations or processes. Industry 2.0 was the mass-production era, with lots standardization and flowing of the material through the factory. Industry 3.0 brought automation and some measure of flexibility. And 4.0 brings in digitalization and cyber-systems.” — Professor David Hardt, MIT.

Stratasys software has joined the Industry 4.0 revolution by offering MTConnect capabilities on its manufacturing flagship platform the Stratasys F900 and the earlier Fortus 900mc.

This industry standard Application Programming Interface (API) will allow for streaming additive manufacturing data to third-party software, bringing the smart factory floor together.

Manufacturers are particularly concerned about operating information such as:

  • System monitoring: is the equipment running smoothly?
  • Preventive Maintenance: when to service to keep the equipment running ?
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): is the equipment producing quality parts all the time?
Overall Equipment Effectiveness

Photo courtesy: OEE.com

But there is no insight without the ability to connect to a wide range of equipment from multiple vendors as typically found on a factory floor.

MTConnect: The Industry Standard

MTConnect is our first example of customers connecting to Stratasys machines. MTConnect is a common language used with custom, open source, or paid software API clients to collect, aggregate, analyze, and display machine and sensor data in a useful way.

MTConnect enables production software applications by providing the following: 

  • Uniform collection of data from manufacturing equipment, devices, and sensors
  • Hide vendor specific, proprietary machine APIs

Stratasys has been chairing the MTConnect Working Group for Additive Manufacturing, which has now led to additive manufacturing becoming an integral part of version 1.5 of the standard.

In the image example below, the MTConnect Adapter and Agent will allow for translation of raw sensor data and machine status information into a standardized XML format every MTClient software application will understand. It can then display in a dashboard showing the machine’s current state and monitor it, not only during production, but also allowing production data to be archived for later diagnostics or part certification.

Communication between MTClient software and MTConnect client software is identical to how a web server works. Because the protocol and data format are standardized and well documented, existing MTConnect client software will have little difficulty showing Stratasys 3D printers alongside traditional manufacturing equipment. This will allow Stratasys additive manufacturing technology to enter the factory floor.

Customers with a Stratasys F900 and Fortus 900mc will now be able to connect their machine to their existing, industry leading third-party applications for Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Business Intelligence (BI), or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to increase 3D printing productivity and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about MTConnect on your Stratasys Fortus printers, please reach out to our MTConnect Application Specialist, Frank Lindeman.

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