Additive manufacturing technology and quality
If your company is considering deploying additive manufacturing technology in the near future, your task is to adapt your current quality processes to satisfy regulations and customer requirements. From a manufacturer’s standpoint, additive manufacturing is an exciting technology, particularly when juxtaposed with big data and the Industrial Internet of Things. As you know quite well, however, emerging manufacturing technology demands that you take a fresh look at what you can do as a quality professional to fulfill its potential.
Where does additive manufacturing technology stand today?
The truth is: At the time of this writing, additive manufacturing — AKA 3-D printing — still has plenty of room for innovation in the area of quality management. In fact, quality remains one of the many shortcomings of additive manufacturing technology. Additive manufacturing gives your company the opportunity to fabricate parts and materials like never before, but what about the quality of the fabrication process itself?
To clear the air, Deloitte Consulting’s recently published white paper “3D Opportunity for Quality Assurance and Parts Qualification” gives the background you need to take a step back and gain perspective. Co-authored by Ian Wing, Rob Gorham and Brenna Sniderman, the white paper sheds light on myriad issues and proposes a different approach to quality with additive manufacturing in mind. To save you time, here is a link to a downloadable version of Deloitte’s additive manufacturing white paper, published in late 2015.
Deloitte’s take on additive manufacturing and quality
Deloitte’s white paper is not an exhaustive treatment of additive manufacturing quality, but the research does point out several key points of emphasis that you may find fascinating. For instance, “unlocking the full potential of AM may necessitate a reversal of the qualification process to which engineers are accustomed,” the paper’s authors posit. Additive manufacturing portends “the development of a means to certify AM parts based on design, as well as observations and corrections made during the build process, rather than verifying performance after fabrication,” they add.
If this is the first time you have read of reinventing quality processes for in-situ additive manufacturing, you are not alone. Taken a step further, Deloitte’s white paper proposes three pillars of additive manufacturing quality: build planning, build monitoring and feedback control.
In short, you have to consider managing the quality of parts during fabrication as opposed to inspecting for quality after fabrication. This distinction is key, according to the authors of the research.
What you can do to advance additive manufacturing quality
Without the tools at your disposal to do the job right the first time, your company may lag behind first-movers in additive manufacturing technology. For example, Deloitte’s research also touches upon the need for sound data management since video monitoring data for in-situ fabrication can create 1.5 petabytes of data, “roughly the equivalent of more than 57 years of high-definition streaming video.”
Imagine this volume of data generated in a nearly endless stream. Add the issue of data management in Web-enabled sensors that will drive the IIoT trend, and it is easy to see that you will soon have a data deluge on your hands. Enterprise quality management software may be your best opportunity to stay ahead of technologies that are generating massive, unheard of quantities of data to maintain a handle on quality from a holistic point of view.
Additive manufacturing is an exciting emerging technology. From your perspective as a quality professional, is your company ready for additive manufacturing?