Additive Manufacturing Quality Control Is an Investment, Not an Expense

Additive Manufacturing Quality Control Is an Investment, Not an Expense

Bright AM

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Additive Manufacturers can have a significant advantage over traditional manufacturers in several industries.

Here’s a real-life example. If an aerospace company needs a part from a casting supplier, the supplier might need to replace worn-out machines or retool or acquire new technology to make the part. That might extend lead time for more than a year and/or require a minimum order for the supplier to invest in the machinery needed to produce the part. TK Kallenbach, global executive advisor to Aerospace and Defense, pointed out that the minimum order might be a ten-year supply and take two years to get, and the plane using the parts may be obsolete before the supply runs out.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) allows the aircraft industry to get the parts they need more quickly and without having to commit to a ten-year supply that they may never need. It right-sizes the supply chain for current needs, and manufacturers can avoid the heavy capital expense of purchasing equipment that may sit idle after a job is complete.

However, none of that matters if Additive Manufacturers can’t produce the consistent quality needed to meet customer requirements, especially in safety-first industries like aerospace or medical. That’s why a quality control investment is not an expense, but a necessity.

Additive Manufacturers Must Produce Repeatable Quality

One of the biggest challenges for Additive Manufacturers is producing consistent—and repeatable—quality that’s cost-efficient. Consider these four practices that are essential for AM:

  1. Ensure repeatable quality from materials, printers, and operators.
  2. Guarantee quality regardless of environmental factors or location.
  3. Create consistent quality, often without direct input from the designer.
  4. Proactively recognize situations in which quality cannot be guaranteed.

Without a quality control investment, AMs can’t meet these standards. Quality will suffer, deadlines can be missed, costs can skyrocket, and profit margins can plummet. Worse yet, reputations can be ruined.

Dr. Moshen Seifi, director of Global AM Programs at ASTM International (formerly the American Society of Testing and Materials), stated that “methods for in-process monitoring and control, machine-to-machine variation, and rapid inspection methods for AM parts” are among the biggest problems facing AMs. There’s too much trial and error and too many after-the-fact corrective processes.

The quality control investment should be made by using end-to-end production pathway software that can monitor, manage, and qualify AM parts and products. Without a quality control investment in the right software, inconsistent results can occur.

Quality control can be expensive. The alternative, though, is worse. When there’s inadequate quality control investment, it leads to ongoing problems:

  • Higher variations in print components
  • More expensive and time-consuming post-processing
  • More waste, scrap, and rework
  • Undiscovered non-conformances in layers

When mistakes occur, it’s crucial to spot them immediately because non-conformances can be hidden by additional layers and go unnoticed until testing, when parts are completed. An investment in quality by using software such as Bluestreak | Bright AM allows for better tracking and for in-process control to react and correct deficiencies within the process instead of waiting until the end.

An investment in quality can also produce tangible results that reduce costs and increase efficiency. This creates more consistent parts and products and lowers your cost per unit. A manufacturing execution system (MES) and quality management system (QMS) can help you:

  • Minimize waste.
  • Improve communication.
  • Reduce errors, delays, and rework.
  • Analyze workflow.
  • Reduce lead time.

How Bluestreak | Bright AM Produces Higher Quality

Bluestreak | Bright AM is an innovative and extensible MES/QMS. It was developed for better manufacturing production control and workflow management and provides powerful quality control tools that drive quality management from the front office directly to the production floor.

Unlike other solutions on the market, Bluestreak | Bright AM was built for Additive Manufacturers. That means it has the built-in functionality required by AM that other MES, QMS, ERP, and MRP systems lack. Quality management is tied directly to individual operators on the shop floor.

Bluestreak | Bright AM eliminates one of the leading causes of errors in AM: inaccurate data. By eliminating data silos, providing accurate and real-time tracking, and automating complete audit trails, Bluestreak | Bright AM ensures that everyone has the information they need and that it’s always updated.

An End-to-End Solution for Additive Manufacturing

The Additive Manufacturing market is valued at more than $14 billion today and is expected to scale to $23 billion in the next eighteen months. This only happens if manufacturers can create consistent quality at scale. It takes a quality control investment to do that.

Bluestreak | Bright AM is a complete end-to-end solution for Additive Manufacturing. By managing the entire production pathway in a single platform, you can better control your quality, productivity, and efficiency. Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM today.

If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!