How 3D printing can speed procurement: A closer look at our proof-of-concept

Following my previous post about speeding procurement with 3D printing, I am sharing details about our proof-of-concept to do just that. We have designed an easy-to-use 3D printing plug-in for enterprise procurement (i.e., ERP) systems that is loaded with features.

Our proof-of-concept has four parts:

  • digital warehouse — stores all the digital design models (files), with Upload, Assess, Simulate and Print added as features for the model based on the purchase request
  • assess — focuses on the 3D printability of the component (cost, time, printing materials) and includes a channel to collaborate with 3D Printing Service Providers (3DPSP)
  • simulate — ensures that the component’s digital model is printable; includes quality control (QC) check and version control apart from creation of the encrypted GCode file for printing
  • print — routes file for 3D printing to the right 3DPSP machine folder and displays print status

We tested several scenarios, and the rapid prototyping scenario best illustrates the features. Let’s take a look.

How it works

The 3D printing steps are illustrated in the figure and described below.

3D Printing Workflow for a Procurement System Proof of Concept

3D printing workflow for a procurement system proof-of-concept. Click image to enlarge.

  • Select (1, 2) — In the procurement system, a procurement specialist requests that a component or product be 3D printed. In the system’s digital warehouse, the specialist selects the open purchase requests, which will display a picture if the digital model is in the system, or text (the product name) if the model is not in the system. In the latter case, the model must be uploaded in order to 3D print that component or product.
  • Assess (3, 4) — Once the model is uploaded, the Assess button is enabled to display the assessment report. A chat window is available so the procurement specialist or designer can invite the appropriate 3DPSP to collaborate. 3DPSPs (internal or external) are registered entities, along with their material handling capabilities and machine characteristics. A notification is issued informing the stakeholders to work on the request for quotation (RFQ) and purchase order (PO) in the procurement system and to update the PO for further processing.
  • Simulate (5) — Once the purchase requisition is updated with the PO information from the procurement system, the Simulate button is enabled for the model. Once pressed, the system automatically generates G-code and sends that to the enterprise GIT repository as ready for printing after the QC check for the selected version.
  • Print (6) — Once the procurement specialist or designer approves the physical printing, the encrypted G-code is moved to the correct 3DPSP folder for printing, and notification is sent to the 3DPSP to print. The 3DPSP will have access to the G-code file, which can be decrypted and printed. Print status is reported by the 3DPSP at regular intervals and viewed in the printer dashboard. (As an added security measure, a webcam can be installed to monitor the printing process. This was not part of this proof-of-concept).
  • Complete and Close (7) — Once printing is completed, notification is sent to the stakeholders (separate from the purchase requisition update) and the encrypted G-code in the 3DPSP’s folder is deleted. The revision history, which is very important for rapid prototyping given multiple iterations, is managed by the GIT repository. The purchase requisition is marked as Complete and closed.

Further enhancements to the system are possible, such as leveraging machine learning in identifying the 3D printability of the component(s), leveraging scanning and vision technologies in quality control, and using scanning technologies for model creation.  We will be working on these in the future.


Baskar Venugopalan, associate director at DXC Labs, is a technology enthusiast currently focused on 3D printing. As a lead technologist, Baskar has worked in the cloud and big data areas, with emphasis on technology adoption. He has led incubators, as well as teams of senior technologists and architects in the past. Based in Bengaluru, India, Baskar’s three decades of experience include working with multinationals like Microsoft and Oracle. @venugbx 

 

RELATED LINKS

How 3D printing can speed procurement

3D printers start to build factories of the future

AI in manufacturing: How to run longer, run better and keep relevant

 

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  1. […] I’ll share the proof-of-concept progress in my next blog post. […]

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  2. […] To address this problem, we have added a visual search feature to our 3D printing procurement system proof-of-concept. […]

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  3. […] How 3D printing can speed procurement: A closer look at our proof-of-concept […]

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