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Manufacturing companies often have a mix of different equipment: additive manufacturing machines from one company, software from another, and all of them populate a factory floor but few can integrate seamlessly with each other. 

This means that a factory is not getting the most out of their products and systems; the factory isn’t working nearly as effectively as it could if all systems were connected under a single software solution. 

It takes a significant amount of effort to navigate through many systems without a bridge — until now. 

The recently announced GrabCAD Software Partner Program offers a way for companies to integrate its 3D printers into production environments with the factory floor. In addition, partners will be able to join the program so that their technology seamlessly integrates with Stratasys technology.

Link3D, the leader in additive workflow and manufacturing execution system software is one of the first to join the new program! This new partnership will save users a significant amount of time and money. 

Link3D enables businesses to scale their additive manufacturing infrastructure by allowing third party enterprise systems to integrate into their platform. By connecting IT, hardware and software technologies with APIs, 3D printing businesses can improve overall visibility to their additive manufacturing processes – leading to increased productivity and machine utilization.

Creating a Connection

“There has been a lack of data flowing from the machine,” explains Shane Fox, Chief Executive Officer at Link3D. “And this is because the machines don’t offer proper connectivity back to the orchestration system like the MES. So we felt that Stratasys being a leader, would be the right leader to push these solutions into the industry.”

There are three GrabCAD SDKs and Link3D currently uses two:

  • MTConnect SDK: a free package that provides the resources to get started collecting data streaming from select Stratasys equipment via the MTConnect standard protocol.
  • The Printer Connectivity SDK: an integration between Stratasys printers and enterprise applications such as ERP, PLM, digital rights management, and MES systems. This allows for automation and production data collection and analytics.
  • The PLM SDK: integrates GrabCAD Print Desktop application with PLM vaulting and file management to streamline the job programming workflow.

 By using the GrabCAD APIs, Link3D is able to accomplish what they want for their customers:

“Being able to pull sensor data back from the machine — can help improve quality management,” Fox explains. “There’s a lot of data that can be gathered from the Stratasys machines to help deliver that picture.” 

The Benefits of Machine Connectivity

Machine connectivity isn’t just about pulling data from 3D printers. It’s about gathering the information engineers and designers need to make the impossible, possible.

“Machine data can teach engineers how to design a better part for additive,” Fox adds. “And marrying the machine data with an understanding of the workflow can influence part design and build preparation.”

Link3D is trying to help customers achieve scale within their additive manufacturing department. Link3D isone of the pioneers championing enhanced connectivity to 3D printing hardware and software. 

Independent software vendors joining the partner program should expect an increase in speed in the additive manufacturing process and maximizing overall machine utilization. 

“Being able to get the data that you’re getting off a printer, can help you start proving Statistical Process Control (SPC) so that SPC qualification is maintained,” explains Fox. 

Looking Ahead

As organizations increase their investments in additive manufacturing environments, solutions to help increase productivity and asset utilization will be paramount.  Link3D will continue to bring new solutions to the market that will help improve system connectivity allowing for better visibility to the additive manufacturing environment and analytics to improve real-time decision making.  

These improvements will bring about higher overall production productivity, increased asset utilization, and better system quality.

Learn more about Link3D and how they can provide connectivity and visibility to your additive environment.

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