Improving quality control is one of the biggest challenges in Additive Manufacturing, especially in safety-conscious applications such as aerospace or healthcare. Regardless of industries, however, quality control requires tight integration of processes, systems, and materials.
- Specifications and Parameters
- Build Layouts
- Part Files
- Calibration and Qualification
- Build Variances
- Supplier Quality
- Recyclable Materials
- Environmental Controls
In many cases, there’s simply too much waste, scrap, rework, or post-processing because of legacy systems that don’t adapt well to the rigors of Additive Manufacturing.
Why Is Quality Control So Difficult in Additive Manufacturing?
Additive Manufacturing demands precision, so why is quality control so difficult? There are several reasons.
In many Additive Manufacturing facilities, quality control belongs to a department. It’s not a company-wide program that applies to every phase and every employee.
Rather than thinking of quality control as an after-thought (checking up on what’s been created), you must have it embedded so deeply within the culture that it becomes second-nature to everyone involved in the production pathway.
Resistance to Tech
People get used to doing things a certain way. Even when they know that there are better solutions, they tend to resist change and continue to use inefficient legacy systems. This can cause employees to accept current processes and poor results as unavoidable.
Inefficient processes also become part of the routine. For example, paper records and spreadsheets are still common, which can lead to errors, lost or misfiled paperwork, and information silos. This poor information flow often leads to operators using outdated specifications or working off old CAPAs.
No matter what situation you put employees in, they’ll adapt over time. When they get used to high error rates, waste, or scrap, they assume that’s the way it’s always going to be. They get frustrated with systems and poor information workflow, and it can affect their motivation.
Trying to adapt legacy software always leads to problems, and the lack of software integration to create efficient processes adds to the frustration.
Ignoring the Warning Signs
The warning signs of poor quality control are easy to spot but often ignored. If you’re experiencing any of these, they’re symptoms of a bigger problem in your facility.
- Excessive scrap, waste, rework
- Excessive post-processing
- High maintenance/support costs
- Failed audits or lengthy audits
- Missed deadlines/budgets
- Customer complaints
Any of these warning signs can significantly impact your cost-per-piece and hurt your profit margins. Together, they can create an untenable situation that too many Additive Manufacturers consider normal. There is a better way to control quality, and it’s easier than you might think.
The Solution to Improving Quality Control
Improving quality control requires consistency, attention to detail, and real-time data. The right quality management system and manufacturing execution system (QMS + MES) built for Additive Manufacturing can increase quality, lower costs, and reduce audits by as much as 50%. A paperless, real-time software solution makes sure the latest data is available to everyone, from the front office to shipping.
“More sophisticated process monitoring and agile feedback control are required to enable end-product to be better quality and faster process.” —University of Texas
The first step in improving quality is providing more efficient control of your processes, systems, and materials. That’s exactly what Bluestreak | Bright AM does.
Bluestreak | Bright AM: The Quality Solution in Additive Manufacturing
Bluestreak | Bright AM is an innovative and extensible real-time QMS + MES solution that is built exclusively for the Additive Manufacturing industry. It has powerful QC tools and built-in functionality that other MES, QMS, ERP, and MRP systems lack.
Bluestreak | Bright AM manages the entire production pathway with connected and consistent production floor controls. Data synchronization occurs in real time, so everyone has the most current data available. Quality management is tied to individual operators on the shop floor, creating an organization-wide QC culture.
The Bluestreak | Bright AM Difference
Bluestreak | Bright AM understands the unique needs of Additive Manufacturing. That’s why it allows for advanced quality control, including such processes as:
- 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
These functions are part of the Bluestreak | Bright AM software but are unavailable in other software solutions. All of this provides greater control of the production process and improves overall quality control.
If you’re looking for a way to streamline your operations, improve quality control, and increase your profitability, Bluestreak | Bright AM can help make your operation more efficient and more profitable.
Bluestreak | Bright AM is designed exclusively for the Additive Manufacturing industry. Our best-of-class MES and QMS solutions bring quality control management to new levels. Contact Bright AM today for a free demo!