This week I was at Euromold in Frankfurt. It is a great opportunity to meet everybody in the 3D printing industry and see the machines and their materials. As far as I know there is no comparable trade show in the US except maybe RAPID. But if you compare RAPID to Euromold than RAPID is a tiny industry gathering and Euromold a real trade show. I would recommend Euromold any day over RAPID.
One of my missions was to see if anybody can help us in improve our sorting process. The sorting of products is very much manual work at the moment. And since the volume of unique products rolling out our production facilities is growing rapidly we can improve in this area.
I talked to many suppliers of QA systems and test equipment and it is clear that our challenges are unique. None of the suppliers I talked to had a solution or even thought about the problem.
It is clear that high volume one-off production is bringing new challenges to manufacturing. I do not know any company that does similar stuff than we do. And if they exist I would love to get to know them. There are many things we need to solve to become more scalable as a service. Some of the things on my mind are:
- Part routing and scheduling including prioritization and capacity management
- Smart and efficient tray / build packing
- 3D printer remote control
- High speed part identification and sorting
- Automated QA / production validation
Scaling production for Shapeways is much more than adding production capacity. Actually making sure parts are made just-in-time and shipped on time to the right customer with perfect quality is quite a challenge. It is interesting to find that the available solutions in the market are very limited to non-existing to help us in those areas.