Siemens PLM is developing an online collaborative platform to bring together on-demand product designers and 3D printing production vendors in a global marketplace. The platform is designed to provide a community capable of connecting all members of the 3D manufacturing community – from design to production – to “maximize resource utilization and access additive manufacturing expertise,” according to Siemens.
By linking part-buyers to micro-factories, the platform would let members find on-demand 3D part production where-needed across the world. The platform will also include collaborative capabilities to help streamline the co-innovation process and accelerate the adoption of 3D printing as a mainstream production method for industrial parts.
The platform will provide an online ecosystem made up of members – qualified by Siemens – that come from a variety of disciplines, including product designers, job shops, part buyers, 3D printer OEMs, material suppliers, expert services providers, and micro-factories. Members will be able to connect with other members to initiate co-innovation of products using the software tools for additive manufacturing.
A Three-Legged Market
Siemens envisions three aspects of the marketplace: additive manufacturing design, part production, and consulting. “There are three legs to the additive manufacturing platform. One leg is additive manufacturing end-to-end, so we can take a design and bring it to the world of additive manufacturing by reimagining or reshaping the design so it can be put together in a more manageable way. That’s the software,” Zvi Feuer, senior Vice President, manufacturing engineering software at Siemens PLM, told Design News.
Feuer emphasized that the marketplace will connect industrial buyers with industrial providers. “The second leg is the platform shares the knowledge we have at Siemens with those who need printed parts and those who make printed parts – real parts, not toys,” said Feuer. “Parts that can be mounted in real products. One of the parts might constrain the landing gear of an aircraft, or it could be spare parts.
As well as connecting buyers and producers, the market will be a place where companies can get consulting support for design, materials, or production solutions. “Third leg is consulting. We want to help companies to onboard digital printing into their operations,” said Feurer.
A Vision of Market Optimization
Feuer noted that these connections are already occurring, though informally. Siemens intends to formalize the process. “We’re having discussions with companies who are talking about how to find the best machine for this type of a part. They want to find out whether their part is printable,” said Feuer. “On the other side, we have people who are only using their machines 10% of the time. They have experience with printing and they would like to do more business.”
Siemens is going to vet the participants in the marketplace – more than a thousand of them. “Part of the platform we are building is going to be a certification of the participants. The consulting services will also be an integral part of the platform, and we’ll be working with companies all over the world,” said Feuer. “We would like to achieve a thousand-plus suppliers in the next five years, including OEM suppliers. We have relationship with large machine OEMs, and we expect that they will be part of this.”
The Marketplace Work in Progress
The details of the platform are still in the planning stages. Much of the function of the marketplace will be to solve problems as they’re identified. “This is something we’re still figuring out,” Aaron Frankel, senior marketing director, manufacturing engineering software at Siemens PLM, told Design News. “We talking with the potential participants and looking at where the friction is, and we’re going to adjust our plans and build prototypes to figure out the appropriate business model that will work for everyone.”
The germ of the idea for a global marketplace came from comments Siemens kept hearing about the scarcity of providers for those who need 3D printed parts, and the lack of sufficient customers for producers. “On the part-buying side, there’s a feeling there are too few suppliers,” said Frankel. “Then we’re hearing from manufacturing service providers they’re looking for new business opportunities, looking for designs of parts that lend themselves to additive manufacturing.”
Siemens also hopes the marketplace the drive additive-manufacturing design. The company wants to encourage the development of 3D print design. “It begins with the design. We need more designs that lend themselves to additive manufacturing. We need more designers thinking in terms of parts that lend themselves to additive manufacturing, and they need tools to create these designs,” said Frankel. “We’re going to take steps toward taking the friction out of the communication and elevate the overall knowledge of additive manufacturing so more companies can take advantage of it.”
“On the part buying side, there’s a desire for more visibility into certified manufacturers,” said Frankel. “We’re hearing from the service providers that there is too much time from delivery to payment. We’re trying to solve these issues.”
The digital platform is expected to launch in mid-2018. Interested participants are invited to contact Siemens PLM about early access.
Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.