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Poor Quality Control Management Habits in Additive Manufacturing (and How to Solve Them)

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

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Bright AM

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Quality control (QC) is important in manufacturing, but it’s even more crucial in Additive Manufacturing (AM). The stakes are already high for safety-critical applications, such as medical devices or aircraft parts. For any AM part or product, however, meeting customer requirements consistently is the key to getting repeat business.

What Are the Poor Quality Control Management Habits That Keep Additive Manufacturers from Success?

Too often, Additive Manufacturers allow too high of a level of nonconformance, waste, scrap, post-processing, and rework. They believe that it is just part of the process and is unavoidable.

AM, they say, requires trial and error. It may seem that way, especially if manufacturers are using manual processes or quality inspections are being done after production is complete. Acceptance of poor quality then becomes standard and a tough habit to break. These are all symptoms of a bigger problem: poor quality control management.

Reactive Quality Control

Additive Manufacturers tend to take a reactive approach to QC rather than a proactive one, such as making quality inspections and verification processes during the production pathway rather than at the end. One example would be the FRACAS method as the core of a quality control program.

FRACAS = Failure Reporting, Analysis, and Corrective Action System

1. Final product inspections

2. Documentation of problems or failures

3. Corrective actions

4. Metrics to diagnose failure and corrections

Each of these steps is essential in the process, but they are all reactive. They should be part of the quality program, just not the only steps. They don’t take into account the ways that you can integrate QC throughout the manufacturing process and prevent problems from occurring (or recurring) in the first place, and they do not provide a pathway for continuous quality improvement.

The Benefits of Proactive Quality Control

QC is too vital to be reactive, especially when many expensive quality control issues are preventable using a manufacturing execution and quality management system (MES + QMS) software made for Additive Manufacturing.

When QC is embedded in every step of your production pathway, the overall quality will improve. There will be:

· More efficient use of resources

· Less scrap, waste, and rework

· Lower inspection costs

· Higher customer satisfaction

· Improved production methods

· Consistent repeatability

· Consistent quality improvements

Infusing Quality Control into Your Production Process

It takes a holistic approach to quality assurance in order to focus on the three elements that have a direct influence on AM component quality.

· Processes

o It’s time to move away from trial and error and focus instead on repeatable processes using data and fact-based decision-making.

· Systems

o Besides processes, systems must be streamlined to deliver timely information and monitor performance at each stage.

· Materials

o The quality of the materials you use must meet the criteria you established.

However, none of these strategies will work if people remain in information silos, use old or outdated requirements, or fail to communicate and track the AM production process.

How Bluestreak | Bright AM Solves Quality Control

Bluestreak | Bright AM is an innovative and extensible real-time MES/QMS that’s built specifically for the AM industry. It provides powerful QC tools for end-to-end quality, from the front office to individual operators on the production floor. Because it is designed for the Additive Manufacturing industry, Bluestreak | Bright AM has functionality that other MES, QMS, ERP, and MRP systems lack.

How Is Bluestreak | Bright AM Different?

Here are just a few ways that Bluestreak | Bright AM is different from other QMS software solutions:

· Enhanced management of nonconformance scrap parts

· Advanced dispositioning and control of 3D-printed parts

· Extensive serialization functions for multiple parts with different serial numbers printed on the same build plate

· Advanced build plate ID functions

· Validation of dynamic part quantities moving on to the next step in processing

· The inherent flexibility to track the real-time splitting and combining of parts in the various operation steps within the work order to optimize the routing of work on the production floor.

Getting Rid of Your Poor Quality Control Management Habits

Bad habits can be tough to break without committing to change. MIT researchers have documented this. They note that when new behaviors are instituted, neurons in the brain fire. When the behavior occurs, these neurons quiet down but act up again when it’s finished. Over time, patterns form from the behavior in the brain. Poor quality control management habits become institutional knowledge and may not even be noticed.

There is hope, however. The American Society of Training and Development has found that the best way to beat ingrained habits is to shake things up and put in performance accountability. Committing to proactive QC using Bluestreak | Bright AM can refine your production process and create measurable accountability that leads to quality improvements.

The only way to be successful at AM is to ensure repeatable quality to guarantee that parts and products meet customer requirements. Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM today to learn more about breaking poor quality control management habits and replacing them with reliable and consistent quality.

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