Why Additive Manufacturers Need Real-Time Production Tracking
Updated: May 23
Bright AM Reading Time: 3 minutes Part quality in Additive Manufacturing (AM) can be highly variable without robust quality control. Inadequate dimensional tolerance, rough surfaces, and defects can frustrate manufacturers and customers.
Making well-informed control decisions can be difficult, particularly for measuring melt pool, scan track, and layer characteristics. All too often, adjustments are made based on heuristics and previous fabrication runs, which don’t lend themselves to process improvement and can significantly increase build runs.
This all leads to more errors, scrap, waste, rework, and post-processing. What solves many of these problems? Real-time monitoring and control. It starts with the data collection process and visibility during the production pathway.
Additive Manufacturing demands reliable methods to detect, identify, and eliminate defects. The data being generated continuously at every stage of AM production can help if there’s a process in place to record, store, and share it in real-time.
Manufacturing real-time production tracking provides monitoring insights into every step on the shop floor. It creates traceable production paths and allows for more rapid process optimization.
One of the biggest concerns in manufacturing is conformance with specifications. In Additive Manufacturing, it’s especially crucial because failing to catch a nonconformance at one stage of the build process can be compounded, as layering occurs on top of parts. If nonconformances aren’t identified and corrected at every stage, errors may go unnoticed until testing occurs on a final product. Correcting a defect at that stage likely means scrapping parts and starting over.
Manual data collection via spreadsheet is inefficient and doesn’t catch errors until it may be too late.
Visibility into the production pathway is essential. It’s necessary that everyone involved in the production chain—from the front office to the individual operators and machines—have access to accurate, real-time data at every step. It’s the only way to ensure that you can see every part on the production floor: where it is, who did what, and if it meets the quality standards that you need.
This visibility is crucial for managing quality control and audits. For example, qualifying and certifying machines and operators are fundamental tasks. However, they often get overlooked or documentation isn’t completely filled out to verify qualification. If unqualified personnel works on a build, it may cause problems when it’s time to verify compliance. Even if everything is done correctly, it still takes time to evaluate each step to prove compliance in a manual process.
Capturing all your data in real-time in a paperless workflow can cut your audit times in half. That prevents frustration and reduces any potential downtime.
Manufacturing Real-Time Production Tracking and Quality
What happens when your quality control program isn’t working properly? It can be painful to even think about, as it can result in high production costs, failed audits, and a loss of confidence by your customers. It almost always leads to more scrap, waste, rework, and lower profit margins. In some cases, it can even push projects into the red.
Now, let’s flip it around. What happens when your quality control programs are working?
Lower production costs
Meeting all specifications for work orders
Passing quality control audits as quickly as possible
Staying on top of who, what, and why on the production floor
Keeping production on schedule
Minimizing or eliminating rework
Manufacturing real-time production tracking using Bluestreak | Bright AM ensures better quality control and more repeatability in your AM process.
Can My MRP/ERP Program Handle Additive Manufacturing?
That’s a question that many Additive Manufacturers ask because they find out that the tools they’ve been using are not optimized for the precise production control that Additive Manufacturing needs.
Most systems are designed for subtractive manufacturing, not Additive Manufacturing, and lack the capacity to track AM processes efficiently.
Bluestreak | Bright AM Provides Better Manufacturing Real-Time Production Tracking
Bluestreak | Bright AM can integrate with your existing ERP or work independently. Because it was designed exclusively for Additive Manufacturing, it can provide the real-time data and granular production control that you need.
Here’s how Bluestreak | Bright AM can handle Additive Manufacturing in a way that legacy software solutions can’t. AMs need to track material batches and blends, as well as disparate parts being produced together (WIP), with unique serial numbers for each part. Bluestreak | Bright AM can do just that.
The Bluestreak | Bright AM intelliPlan solution simplifies process work orders by allowing the building of sophisticated processes for new work orders on the fly and updating the process right from the source. Material, machine, and build requirements are embedded in the work order, and batch parts are automatically routed to verified machines with optimal scheduling.
Is It Time for a Change?
Your Additive Manufacturing process is only as good as the parts that it produces consistently. If your production process lacks the manufacturing real-time production tracking that you need to meet customer specs at your target margins, it’s time for a change.
Bluestreak | Bright AM™ is an MES + QMS software solution specifically designed to manage and optimize the unique requirements of Additive Manufacturing’s production of parts and powder inventory usage. Contact us today for a free demo!