When Emerson launched metal additive manufacturing (AM) in 2013, the software tools available were spread across multiple packages, ultimately leading the company to need 10 different programs to go from design to print-ready file. As the company’s metal AM division grew, it began looking for a better AM software solution to reduce data translation between programs and maintain the highest data integrity possible. Emerson chose 3DXpert software by Oqton to support its fleet of metal printers. 3DXpert is an all-in-one integrated software for industrial additive manufacturing and is part of Oqton’s best-in class cloud-based, AI-enabled manufacturing OS for flexible design and production environments. By using 3DXpert, Emerson reduced inefficiencies in its metal additive manufacturing workflow leading to double the part production.
3DXpert streamlined our process and workflow greatly. We eliminated a ton of in-and-out of software operations, which has helped us reach our goals of maintaining top data integrity and eliminating redundancy from our workflow. Beyond that, the support we have gotten from the 3DXpert team is simply first-class.
R&D Manager, Additive Manufacturing,
Emerson Automation Solutions
Increase 3D Data Integrity with Streamlined AM Software
The Emerson Additive Group is a globally run production program. According to Tom Gabriel, Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Emerson, U.S.-based product development teams must fully prove out process and design prior to releasing files for production printing.
Emerson prints critical service components for control valves, where quality and repeatability are paramount. With its previous multi-software workflow, completing all steps of file preparation involved unwanted yet unavoidable format conversions to move files from operation to operation. 3DXpert solves this problem by allowing users to import native CAD data and provide a complete suite of design and preparation tools. This both ensures the highest data quality and makes routine operations faster and easier.
01 Import Native CAD Data
For Emerson, the ability to leverage native CAD geometries answered one of the primary interests of the company to improve data integrity. It is no longer necessary to translate anything to .STL or .STEP, which typically results in differing geometries from CAD to the printer. By cutting these processes, Emerson has also eliminated the amount of geometry fixing required to get a file from one platform to the next. Beyond the labor and time savings of no longer translating files into different programs, Gabriel says 3DXpert performs operations far faster than Emerson’s previous solutions: “From concept to part ready-to-print, we’ve reduced about 50% of the downtime we previously had, so we are twice as fast,” said Gabriel.
In total, the all-inclusive tool suite of 3DXpert has replaced eight other software packages at Emerson, offering a single platform from which to create support structures, orientate parts, add lattice structures, run build simulation, output distortion compensated models, and modify print parameters. The unique 3D Zoning capabilities of 3DXpert also allow users to assign different build technologies to different zones in order to meet performance specifications. With tools available in 3DXpert, Emerson has also integrated the 3DXpert metadata into their current product lifecycle management software, ensuring data integrity, revision, and release control for production. Beyond the breadth of toolsets within 3DXpert, Gabriel says the capabilities are deeper too: “The tools within 3DXpert are far superior to what we had previously. The ability to drive automation within the tool helps us eliminate repeated processes,” he said.
02 Slicing and Labeling Designed for Serial Production
3DXpert saves Emerson significant time on part slicing while ensuring consistent results. Prior to 3DXpert, the workflow for adding serial numbers to its production parts demanded that Emerson slice jobs in production and add serial numbers manually. This meant re-slicing every part before every job, even if that part had been produced previously. This was problematic both for efficiency and repeatability. “If you slice the same job twice, you’re not getting the same result,” explains Gabriel. This discrepancy is a result of how the part is located with its given scans and vector layout.
Given the complexity of the parts Emerson produces, slicing these jobs was previously very time consuming. “There were times when we were slicing files and it would take a day and a half,” said Jason Reuther, Powder Bed Fusion Design Specialist at Emerson. “With 3DXpert the same operation takes just a couple minutes.”
With the Smart Labeling feature in 3DXpert, Emerson can slice individual parts and save them in a parts library with a label placeholder for serialization. “This greatly simplifies our production scheme because now we can pull in files that are already sliced and simply update the labels,” said Gabriel. The labels are then sliced separately, which translates to time savings on every job cycle and a tremendous new source of workflow efficiency for Emerson. And because all parts are pre-sliced and saved within a library, Emerson now gets the same result on every print.
03 Expert Service and Support
Beyond the product itself, Gabriel says the support and customer service of the 3DXpert team has been a major part of Emerson’s positive experience. “The 3DXpert team is probably one of the easiest, most respectful software development teams that I have ever worked with,” he said. “The development they do and their willingness to make enhancements is phenomenal.”
As an example, Gabriel highlighted a challenge Emerson faced with a highly complex geometry: “The 3DXpert team not only understood our needs, but they were able to provide a solution that simplified the geometry creation and enabled us to handle these complex geometries with ease. The solution they provided is fast, accurate, and easy to manipulate. I can’t emphasize enough the support from 3DXpert to ensure that Emerson is successful in what we’re doing.”
04 Compatibility Across Metal Printing Platforms
Emerson previously required two different build preparation software programs to output job files to each machine type because they use multiple print platforms. Because of 3DXpert’s compatibility across metal hardware brands, this step has also been eliminated, allowing Emerson to transition between printers within 3DXpert and maintain data integrity to the very end.
3DXpert is available to anyone in need of an improved metal additive manufacturing workflow, regardless of machine provider. Contact Oqton for more information.
Increased Data Integrity and New Workflow Efficiency
Single AM workflow software works across metal printing platforms
50% reduction in process inefficiency to produce parts twice as fast
Cut software packages from 10 to 2 improves ease of maintenance management
Consistent print results enabled by universal, one-time part slicing