Augmented reality (AR) and 3D printing are coming closer together all the time, now including a smart remote field service solution brought to additive manufacturing through a new alliance.
With adoption of additive manufacturing on the rise, so too are needs for support needs in the field. On-site assistance can be held up by any number of issues, though — think distance, timing, expense, or, I don’t know, global pandemic. Gaining field service remotely through smart technology can offer more users in the 3D printing industry access to the expertise they need when they need it.
3D Alliances Accelerates 3D Printing Expansion
It’s impressive to think that 3D printing industry veteran Gil Lavi founded 3D Alliances less than two years ago.
He sought to create a project all his own, after years working with well-known 3D printing entities from Objet and Stratasys to Roboze and BigRep. Through founding 3D Alliances, Lavi sought to “help innovative hardware and software 3D printing companies to accelerate their global business and channel expansion.”
Today, 3D Alliances has an active network of 1,500 3D printing resellers around the world, working with 3D printing companies including Essentium, PostProcess Technologies, Xact Metal, and XJet.
The most recently announced alliance for Lavi’s endeavor is a partnership with Israeli company Fieldbit.
3D Alliances x Fieldbit
Fieldbit, with offices in Israel and the US, uses AR to offer a multi-source knowledge platform for enterprises.
Real-time information and interaction via smart technologies — usable on both Android and iOS platforms, including smart glasses — allows for remote problem solving. While Fieldbit was founded in 2014, its offerings are proving particularly timely in 2020 when so much of the world is necessarily working remotely.
This includes 3D printing, as industrial machinery installations have continued, but with more phone support than in-person. As anyone working with such equipment can attest, getting a new technology up and running often requires a good amount of work and information sharing. Through partnering with 3D Alliances, Fieldbit now has access to 3D printing companies and resellers to offer “a smart remote field service solution for industrial 3D printers.”
I was curious about some of the challenges that Fieldbit is proposing to solve for the 3D printing industry, so turned to Lavi for a closer look. He explains:
“This platform will help 3D printing companies and large VARs solve the challenges they are facing today with very limited traveling options in relation to field service support. In the past few weeks I’ve heard that more than several OEM did remote installation of their printers over the phone.. this is crazy especially when an industrial 3D printer is involved and not a desktop one which is in many cases self installed. They need a smarter tool to do that, it can’t be done over WhatsApp.
Second challenge it solves is technical training. Usually it’s done physically at the customer site and now it has to be remote in many cases. What I see these days – OEM recording videos with instructions of how to use the printer. This is a limited source of knowledge.. the user can’t ask questions.. just watch.
Third challenge is ongoing technical support. In some cases, there are technical problems with 3D printers that only an expert engineer from the OEM can solve. With an AR platform he can be online with the machine operator and guide him live how to solve the problem.”
Addressing these challenges in times of pandemic-related closures is surely very of-the-moment and in-demand, but the benefits go beyond. As many scenarios are changing as a result of the business environment we’ve been experiencing recently, some changes are likely to remain in the ‘after’ times — including more remote functionality.
“I believe that even after the sky will be open for traveling, OEM and VARs will find that traveling is not always a must. They can save a lot of traveling money using AR solutions,” Lavi noted. “Anyhow times are different now, companies must find ways to reduce costs.”
Continuing to gain access to subject matter experts through AR will offer more options to industrial 3D printing operations.
As Fieldbit’s first foray into 3D printing, this partnership is already laying important groundwork for long-term work.
“3D Printing systems require multi-disciplinary skills to provide technical services and fix problems. Fieldbit solutions virtually brings your most experienced engineers and SMEs to any locations around the globe to ensure quick resolution of technical issues and high uptime of the equipment,” Alex Rapoport, VP Product and Marketing, Fieldbit, said.