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How the Pandemic Changed The Way We Develop Products For the Better 

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This submit used to be written through Ian Ferguson, Formlabs’ SLS Engineering Lead

It used to be overdue January 2020 once we first were given a choice from our manufacturing unit in Shenzhen, China that the federal government used to be shutting down amenities because of the unfold of an unknown virus.

We have been ready for the two-week shutdown. Our provide chain had the redundancies in position to permit our manufacturing unit to head offline with out impacting the supply of our printers and resins to our shoppers. We have been able for the ones two weeks, however nobody can have been able for that unknown virus, COVID-19, to fully close down the arena now not only for weeks, however for months.

No corporate used to be in a excellent place to close down operations for an unknown time frame, however it used to be in particular unhealthy timing for us. Past simply making sure the continued manufacturing of our present product lineup, we have been additionally in the course of bringing two new flagship printers to marketplace, the Shape 3L and Fuse 1. Beneath standard cases, this may contain a continuing presence of design and production engineers on the manufacturing unit running carefully with the contract producers to run consistent assessments, iron out issues, and ramp up manufacturing. We had by no means attempted to take care of this crucial procedure remotely and, frankly, have been not sure lets.

For the product groups, launching those new printers and more than a few new resins went past overcoming logistical problems brought about through the brand new standard of far off paintings. We have been pressured to reconsider and re-approach the processes and workflows that we have got had in position for the simpler a part of a decade.

And that’s simply what we did. By means of digitally remodeling our up to now extra hands-on workflows and methods, we have been ready to fulfill our manufacturing targets and create higher efficiencies alongside the way in which. Right here are some things we’ve discovered during the last yr that we’ll be sporting on with lengthy after the pandemic ends.

Digitizing our workflows 

Traditionally, we’ve been very planned about spending money and time to ship crew participants to our factories to convey our merchandise to marketplace. It’s now not simple (or affordable) to ship dozens of engineers and product designers around the globe to supervise the manufacturing procedure.

Going digital all the way through the pandemic confirmed us that the similar high quality of labor may well be accomplished over a Zoom name and in-person at the production line. By using far off collaboration gear, we stored numerous money and time from now not sending engineers all over the world.

Past simply video calls and collaborative to-do lists in Asana, we additionally carried out 24/7 webcams at particular issues at the manufacturing line to raised track production. Engineers may just name into the ones webcams to look at what used to be happening at any given time. This enabled our crew to have that very same hands-on solution to our paintings while not having to have boots at the flooring within the manufacturing unit.

The crew extensively utilized Onshape, a cloud-based design collaboration tool, to tweak designs remotely. With Onshape, sharing designs for particular portions inside the context of the entire meeting used to be a very simple and protected method to spend much less time on technical drawings.

Our crew additionally went past bettering how we collaborate — we additionally digitized how we take a look at our merchandise. All through the pandemic, Formlabs advanced its personal production line tool to accomplish calibration assessments. The tool additionally uploads to the cloud all the information that comes again from those assessments. This we could Formlabs observe person printer standing in real-time, to find problems remotely, and debug issues with no need to be there.

The calibration steps we carry out are a large a part of our secret sauce that makes our printers paintings. After inspecting this knowledge we’d frequently “secretly” clear up issues through connecting to printers remotely over the web to replace code, repair recordsdata at the printer that may well be flawed for some explanation why, or take hold of information that may now not have made it into the cloud

We needed to consume our personal pet food

The Fuse 1 is a fancy device that calls for masses of customized parts to perform. When the provision chain crumbled, we encountered a disadvantage not unusual amongst our shoppers: we had a necessity for distinctive portions, however no method to get them manufactured.

Naturally, we grew to become to three-D printing to design, take a look at, and bring those customized portions. In truth, we grew to become to the Fuse 1 itself. Dozens of the interior parts of the Fuse 1 — together with sensor covers, door handles and extra — have been produced on early variations of the Fuse 1.

We didn’t want a virulent disease to grasp that three-D printing is a formidable method to prototype and in the long run produce end-use customized portions, however it did assist us empathize with our shoppers at a brand new degree. It additionally helped us combine our personal era into our product design and production procedure extra deeply than ever sooner than.

Taking a look Forward 

No person can have been ready for what the previous yr had in retailer for the arena. Regardless of the usaand downs, we have been ready to stay agile and eager about our project to pressure our targets ahead, and in the long run, accomplish them, which incorporated bringing our industry-leading three-D printers to marketplace. What we discovered during the last yr will proceed to have an effect on and fortify our product building workflows when existence is again to “standard.”

Most likely the most important lesson that we’ve discovered, on the other hand, is that agility and versatility are the hallmarks of a resilient crew. Instilling those values inside of an organization’s tradition guarantees that it doesn’t matter what the arena throws at us, we will be able to be able to triumph over it and proceed to ship for our shoppers.

Formlabs is increasing get right of entry to to virtual fabrication, so someone could make anything else. Headquartered in Somerville, Massachusetts with places of work in Germany, Japan, China, Singapore, Hungary, and North Carolina, Formlabs is the pro three-D printer of selection for engineers, designers, producers, and resolution makers world wide. Formlabs merchandise come with the Shape three, Shape 3B, Shape 3L, and Shape 3BL powered through a sophisticated type of stereolithography (SLA) referred to as Low Power Stereolithography (LFS)™ three-D printing, Shape Wash and Shape Remedy post-processing answers, Fuse 1 SLS three-D printer, and Shape Mobile production answer. Thru its Manufacturing unit Answers providing for business customers, Formlabs supplies the factories of the following day with the versatility and flexibility wanted for hard, evolving business packages. Formlabs additionally develops its personal suite of high-performance fabrics that proceed to push the bounds for three-D printing, in addition to best-in-class three-D printing tool. For more info consult with formlabs.com. 


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