Investigating the Impact of CAD Data Transfer Standards for 3DP-RDM

The final project report from the feasibility study led by Dr Eujin Pei at Brunel University is now online. Investigating the Impact of CAD Data Transfer Standards for 3DP-RDM describes results of the work undertaken during the 2015-16 feasibility study conducted by Dr Pei and Dr Malte Ressin, with the results of the study feeding into ISO’s Technical Committee 261 on additive manufacturing.


Additive Manufacturing is set to play a vital role in the Re-Distributed Manufacturing landscape. The paradigm shift towards a decentralised approach of cloud manufacturing and dynamic production requires tighter standardisation and efficient interfaces between CAD data and Additive Manufacturing. In parallel with technology advancements, it is important to consider the digital chain of information. Although a plethora of CAD formats exist, only some are used for data transfer. The problem is that a true CAD data transfer standard for a 3DP-RDM ecosystem does not exist.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of CAD data transfer standards within the 3DP-RDM landscape. It aims to investigate the impact of CAD data transfer standards within the 3DP-RDM landscape and identify required features in existing standards. The study was set up by first examining the data flow from CAD to 3D printing and reviewing established shortcomings of existing data transfer standards. Further
after identifying the data transfer standards AMF, 3MF, STEP and STEP-NC as upcoming and promising replacements, their premises, objectives, contributions and advantages were reviewed. Finally, the role of 3D printing in setting up re-distributed manufacturing by overcoming tooling costs and the associated economies of scale were reviewed.

Because the aims of this research touch both on sociotechnical aspects, i.e. the impact of standards on future manufacturing, and on more technical aspects, i.e. information requirements for future standards, in this study qualitative and quantitative approaches were combined to answer the research question. Focus group interviews and a survey were conducted with 3DP and RDM experts from both industry and academia. Participants’ accounts were analysed for common themes and narratives. The suitability of existing data transfer formats was examined by compiling existing and expected standard features and rating them through the AM industry and experts.

Results show the expected requirements on future 3DP-RDM data transfer standards as well as their benefits, in particular with regards to manufacturing processes of 3DP service providers, but also for customer concerns such as privacy. The study shows that the STEP-NC and AMF standards are ahead in implementing the most highly valued data transfer features. Open standards are expected to further facilitate innovation in 3DP.

This study is intended to contribute to an evaluation of existing standards and their future development and adoption. It is hoped that the results will benefit policy makers and industry leaders to be aware of the importance of data exchange standards for AM so as to pave a clear roadmap for the digital economy in RDM manufacturing.

[Image source: Eujin Pei]

Introducing the 3DP-RDM feasibility studies: Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3DP-RDM

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2016. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we introduce the third study, “Supporting SMEs in creating value through 3DP-RDM”, which is being led by Dr Peter Dorrington at the PDR Cardiff Metropolitan University. 

Click through to their blog to read the introduction to the project.

[Image source: Peter Dorrington]

New paper on distributed manufacturing published

A new paper with a contribution from the 3DP-RDM network has now been published in the International Journal of Production Research. The paper Distributed manufacturing: scope, challenges and opportunities is a collective effort from participants in the EPSRC re-distributed manufacturing networks and is authored by Jagjit Singh Srai, Mukesh Kumar, Gary Graham, Wendy Phillips, James Tooze, Simon Ford, Paul Beecher, Baldev Raj, Mike Gregory, Manoj Kumar Tiwari, B. Ravi, Andy Neely, Ravi Shankar, Fiona Charnley and Ashutosh Tiwari. The paper is part of the forthcoming special issue “Distributed manufacturing to enhance productivity”, which is doubly special for our project as it also features Letizia Mortara and Nicolas Parisot’s paper Through entrepreneurs’ eyes: the Fab-spaces constellation.


This discussion paper aims to set out the key challenges and opportunities emerging from distributed manufacturing (DM). We begin by describing the concept, available definitions and consider its evolution where recent production technology developments (such as additive and continuous production process technologies), digitisation together with infrastructural developments (in terms of IoT and big data) provide new opportunities. To further explore the evolving nature of DM, the authors, each of whom are involved in specific applications of DM research, examine through an expert panel workshop environment emerging DM applications involving new production and supporting infrastructural technologies. This paper presents these generalisable findings on DM challenges and opportunities in terms of products, enabling production technologies and the impact on the wider production and industrial system. Industry structure and location of activities are examined in terms of the democratising impact on participating network actors. The paper concludes with a discussion on the changing nature of manufacturing as a result of DM, from the traditional centralised, large-scale, long lead-time forecast-driven production operations to a new DM paradigm where manufacturing is a decentralised, autonomous near end user-driven activity. A forward research agenda is proposed that considers the impact of DM on the industrial and urban landscape.

[Image source]

Exploring how 3D printing is changing the world around us


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