Tag Archives: feasibility studies

Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: 3D Printing Production Planning

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 final study, “3D Printing Production Planning (3DPPP): reactive manufacturing execution driving re-distributed manufacturing”, which is being led by Dr Martin Baumers at the University of Nottingham.

As an emerging manufacturing technology, Additive Manufacturing (AM) is demonstrating significant opportunities across a wide range of industrial sectors. Among the advantages of the technology are an ability to generate complex functional geometries and the technology’s efficiency in the manufacture of small numbers of products.

In most industries, however, AM faces the challenge of substituting, or integrating with, conventional manufacturing technologies, which are normally operated in a centralised location. Among the reasons for the dominance of centralised manufacturing are economies of scale, allowing the amortization of substantial costs over large volumes of products for the global marketplace. Additionally, the ability to implement suitable supply chain configurations has evolved from being an afterthought to a core capability for manufacturing businesses.

Viewing the work flow of AM in this context reveals a puzzle: the current process for allocating build requirements to individual (potentially re-distributed) AM systems, and thereby configuring the AM supply chain, relies on isolated and disconnected decisions on the operator/technician level. This is not indicative of efficient manufacturing order execution and effective supply chains.

As a collaboration between the 3D Printing Research Group (3DPRG) and the Automated Scheduling and Planning Research Group (ASAP), both at the University of Nottingham, this project is exploring the feasibility of adopting an optimisation-based manufacturing execution methodology that complements the strengths of AM. Essentially, the idea is to replace the existing process by a combined automated “all-in-one” production planning tool driven by a set of interchangeable build volume packing and scheduling heuristics. Considering a wide range of general and location-related aspects, the tool allows the determination of the best AM system for a build request, including the benefits resulting from re-distribution.

The tool under development is called the 3D Packing Research Application Tool (yes, the acronym is “3DPackRAT”…). In essence, it is a custom developed manufacturing execution platform to explore and deploy various algorithms, heuristics and policies to optimise the work flow in AM, both for the centralised and re-distributed settings. This should allow the release of significant additional value by making the process more effective, potentially enabling adopters to leapfrog the gradual evolution of supply chain management in response to AM as a new technology. More information, including a video walk through of the demonstrator, is available on the project website.

Project Group at the University of Nottingham: Martin Baumers, Ender Ozcan, Jason Atkin, Warren Jackson, Wenwen Li

Industrial advisers: Susan Reiblein (HP Enterprise), David Knight (Knightgraphics)

[Image source: Martin Baumers]


Phoebe Li interviewed at 3D Printing Innovation Centre in Qingdao

Phoebe Li, the project lead at the University of Sussex for the 3DP-RDM feasibility study “A feasibility study of mass customisation governance: regulation, liability, and intellectual property of re-distributed manufacturing in 3D printing” was recently interviewed by a 3DP online platform at the China Headquarters of the 3D Printing Innovation Centre in Qingdao. In the interview Dr Li introduces her studies in 3D printing.

The interview, in Chinese, can be found here.

[Image source]

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]