How to Improve 3D Printing Operations with IoT

Luke Smoothy
How to Improve 3D Printing Operations with IoT
Illustration: © IoT For All

Digitalization is now revolutionizing manufacturing, allowing businesses to act more quickly and make better decisions. Today’s manufacturers have access to a variety of fresh data thanks to technologies such as IoT which can assist with increased efficiency.

Data is now considered a critical part of additive manufacturing for establishing part traceability, understanding AM processes, and making decisions during the product development lifecycle. It can be used by businesses from their 3D printers, or IoT data, in real-time to boost performance.

How Does IoT Data Benefit 3D Printing?

Over the past ten years, 3D printing has developed into an established, production-ready technology. Many machines today are interconnected with IoT devices, which means they are always producing data. Depending on the manufacturer and model of the 3D printer, the specifics of this data can vary substantially, but in general, it refers to the printer’s vital signs that are recorded by sensors, such as:

  1. Remote Monitoring and Control: IoT allows users to remotely monitor and control 3D printers. This is particularly useful for manufacturers and businesses that need to oversee multiple printers from a centralized location. Operators can check the status of the printing process, make adjustments, and receive notifications in real time.

  2. Predictive Maintenance: IoT sensors can be integrated into 3D printers to collect data on various components and their performance. This data is then analyzed to predict when maintenance or component replacements are needed. This helps prevent unexpected breakdowns and downtime, minimizing any material waste and unexpected costs.

  3. Quality Control: IoT-enabled 3D printers can use sensors to monitor the quality of prints during the printing process. If any defects or deviations from the desired specifications are detected, the printer can adjust its parameters in real time to ensure that the final product meets the required standards.

  4. Material Management: IoT can be used to manage and track the usage of printing materials, such as filaments or resins. Sensors can measure material levels and reorder supplies automatically when they run low. This ensures uninterrupted printing operations.

  5. Workflow Optimization: IoT can be used to automate and optimize the workflow for 3D printing. It can help prioritize print jobs, schedule printing times based on energy costs, and manage multiple printers simultaneously, making the process more efficient and cost-effective.

  6. Data Analytics: IoT generates a wealth of data related to 3D printing processes. This data can be analyzed to identify trends, improve printing parameters, and optimize resource utilization. It also aids in process optimization and quality enhancement.

  7. Integration with Other Systems: IoT technology in 3D printing can be integrated with other manufacturing and supply chain systems, such as inventory management, order processing, and product design. This integration streamlines the entire production process.

  8. Sustainability and Energy Efficiency: IoT can help monitor and optimize the energy consumption of 3D printers, contributing to sustainability efforts. By intelligently managing power usage, 3D printing operations can reduce their environmental impact.

  9. Customization and Personalization: IoT can enable the customization of 3D printed products based on user preferences or specific requirements. Users can interact with IoT systems to design and modify products, and 3D printers can produce personalized items accordingly.

  10. Security: With the increased connectivity of 3D printers, ensuring the security of data and intellectual property is crucial. IoT in 3D printing also involves implementing security measures to protect against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Checking The Parameters for 3D Printing

When it comes to IoT data, many parameters can be monitored, and each organization is best placed to determine which ones are most important to them. They all share the requirement for dashboards that are simple to set up since doing so enables them to quickly access the data that is crucial for a given print job and to stay on top of their KPIs. Due to the extensive configuration capabilities of software platforms, businesses can independently modify their dashboards without the need to engage outside specialists.

Having access to all machine data in a single MES is a huge leap forward in technological innovation and enables operators to receive ongoing feedback. You can make better planning judgments because you have a comprehensive understanding of their performances and capabilities thanks to the dashboards’ constant updating.

Additionally, businesses can use the data they get to make better decisions using AI. For instance, the AI of the Manufacturing OS offers the best nesting arrangements, which reduces the amount of time needed to prepare a build and increases daily productivity.

By integrating IoT with Direct Machine Control (DMC), users can obtain an industrial automation solution that is even more effective. These systems examine the information provided by IoT-connected devices and can alter machine operations in response to the findings. For instance, a print operation can be started, stopped, or paused remotely by the DMC.  Because accurate machine control decreases waste and enhances throughput, DMC systems have significantly improved manufacturing productivity and efficiency.

IoT and 3D Printing Applications

Having real-time data on printer performance and material utilization is advantageous for any manufacturer that offers a multitude of capabilities, for instance, allowing them to monitor machine availability faster, minimize downtime, and react promptly to demand changes.

By combining all the data, they will be able to assess their overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and, if necessary, make improvements. It is also why it is becoming more adaptable for a wider range of applications, from manufacturing and prototyping to automotive and aerospace industries.

However, sectors with strict regulations, including the energy and healthcare sectors, get extra advantages. It is essential for these manufacturers to carefully monitor their machines and print processes in order to comply with tight rules regarding the traceability of their products.

They can identify and fix any problems that come up during printing, ensuring that the printed product complies with these specifications, thanks to IoT data.

IoT’s Future Role in Additive Manufacturing

IoT has transformed additive manufacturing, and due to further technological advancement, the 3D printing business is anticipated to grow immeasurably over the coming years. This paves the way for more 3D printing manufacturers to have better control over the process and improve its efficiency, dependability, and cost-effectiveness thanks to real-time machine monitoring.

Luke Smoothy
Luke Smoothy - Founder and Director, Get It Made
Luke Smoothy is the Founder and Director of Get It Made, a leading manufacturing business providing an unrivaled suite of manufacturing services from CNC machining to injection molding and 3D printing. Luke has worked on thousands of complex proje...
Luke Smoothy is the Founder and Director of Get It Made, a leading manufacturing business providing an unrivaled suite of manufacturing services from CNC machining to injection molding and 3D printing. Luke has worked on thousands of complex proje...