XYZprinting’s MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer is enabling a company to provide an unusual digital inventory service.
EWIE is a 30-year-old large factory management services company with a wide selection of functions, including management of chemicals, commodities, stores, assets, vending and other commonly encountered items within a manufacturing setting. One of their key deliverables is inventory management.
Azoth Digital Inventory
Azoth is a Michigan-based subsidiary of EWIE that provides a variety of 3D services to their family of companies. Their services include several types of 3D printing, 3D scanning, reverse engineering, prototyping and more.
One of their new services is an unusual form of digital inventory. If you’re not familiar with the digital inventory concept, it is a revolutionary idea being pursued by several 3D printing companies. The idea is that instead of mass producing a large quantity of parts and storing them for future use, you instead produce them as required with advanced 3D printers. This trades an expensive warehouse of spare parts into an electronic library, hence the term “digital inventory”.
This has only recently become possible, as early 3D printers could only use limited sets of materials, often suitable only for prototypes. Today it’s possible to 3D print end-use parts using strong materials, and thus digital inventory is possible.
XYZprinting MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D Printer
The 3D printers being used by Azoth for digital inventory are the XYZprinting MfgPro230 xS SLS devices.
You might be surprised by this, as XYZprinting was originally known for its desktop 3D printers. Since their entry into the 3D printer market several years ago the company has developed a huge range of devices that now span the entire spectrum of use, from desktop to the factory floor. One of their commercial devices is the large MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer, which was designed specifically for industrial use.
The MfgPro230 xS SLS machines are able to create strong polymer parts using a laser process that selectively sinters fine powder, layer-by-layer. With a 230 x 230 x 230 mm build volume, these machines are able to handle Azoth’s digital inventory production easily.
The advantage of an SLS approach for digital inventory applications is clear: the powder process does not involve use of support materials because the surrounding powder holds partial prints in place during printing. This means there is very little effort required to post-process the prints, and thus parts are ready for use almost immediately after printing.
It also means that it’s entirely possible to 3D print highly complex part geometries with ease. This is especially important for some digital inventories that might be filled with complex parts.
The MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer has another advantage in the digital inventory market: it is an open materials machine. This means it is fully capable of using virtually any available SLS powder you can buy. There is no limitation on the powder materials, which is indeed the case for certain other manufacturers’ 3D printers that insist on use of proprietary powders.
This means that the MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer can produce parts in a variety of materials that match the needs of the moment when a specific part is required. For example, if a nylon part is demanded, then the machine can be switched to use the appropriate nylon powder. Later, the machine could be switched to a flexible TPU powder to produce a different part.
XYZprinting says the machine is easily able to switch powders due to its design. Evidently their engineers realized this is a key requirement and developed specific features to quickly perform powder switches, such as movable platforms and convenient door access. They say it’s quite possible to switch the MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer to a different powder material in only 30 minutes! That’s quite a feat, especially considering some other machines are effectively unable to switch powders at all. The MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer can not only switch powders, but it can do so very quickly.
Azoth’s TOMO Digital Inventory
While it’s entirely possible to implement a digital inventory system using the XYZprinting MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer, Azoth has done so in a very interesting way they call “TOMO”.
“TOMO” stands for “Take One, Make One”. The idea is that while 3D printing technology is easily capable of reproducing parts, it can take some hours to do so. In some situations that’s not fast enough for the application, so a slight variation in the digital inventory concept is required.
With Azoth’s TOMO process, a spare part is pre-printed using the XYZprinting MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer. Eventually the pre-printed part is used, and at that moment the TOMO system is triggered to produce another spare part to replace the first one. It truly is “take one, make one”. This ensures a very rapid response time for delivery of spare parts and at the same time keeps the physical inventory as low as possible.
It’s possible more than one spare part could be produced ahead of time, depending on the specific application needs, but the concept is the same: leverage the ability of the XYZprinting MfgPro230 xS SLS 3D printer to rapidly produce fully functional spare parts on demand.