As 3D printing becomes more accessible on a global scale, ensuring quality control and meeting production needs for customers’ end-to-end manufacturing workflows has become increasingly difficult. 3D Systems–known as the company that originated 3D printing –is keeping up with the pace of the market by linking Internet of Things (IoT) technology and 3D printing to gain smarter, real-time insights over the competition.3D Systems now provide best of breed digital manufacturing ecosystems that enable professionals and companies to optimize their designs, transform their workflows, bring innovative products to market and drive new business models.

The Challenge

Like most manufacturers, 3D Systems had a wealth of operational machine data designed for connectivity from various solutions but did not have a process or system in place to make the insights actionable.

For example, to better serve their customers the organization needed a way to effectively monitor and track printers’ nitrogen levels and temperature control variances to ensure that customers could complete projects and deliver high-quality products. 3D Systems also lacked visibility into the service requirements of the printers. To improve customer service and uptime, they needed to be able to remotely diagnose and, in some cases, remotely service the printer, enabling faster repairs and further gains in overall machine productivity.

The Approach

3D Systems began exploring different IIoT platform solutions to simplify the connection of machines and data insights. By doing so, their employees could monitor printers from any location and gain valuable insight and actionable intelligence into the printers’ utilization and materials status. Intrigued by the interface, reporting functionalities, unmatched ability to scale and analytics capabilities, 3D Systems chose the ThingWorx Industrial Innovation platform against other top-tier competitors.

Initially, 3D Systems began pilot testing ThingWorx for 40-60 printers to gain better visibility into the fleet of systems, improve response time to customer inquiries and leverage data from customers’ Industry 4.0 technologies in place. With just this initial testing phase, the analytics and reports provided by ThingWorx provided a quick return on investment and proof that this new offering was a critical business need for their customers.

The Solution

Since implementing ThingWorx, 3D Systems has expanded their use of IIoT to optimize internal operations with new capabilities including real-time remote monitoring and event driven notifications. With these capabilities, the company can better predict, identify, assess, and remedy issues in the performance of their products in real-time.

By evolving their service model, 3D Systems can better service their customers and provide an unprecedented level of support that had not been available previously. These services now allow 3D Systems to diagnose and resolve an issue faster, improving customer productivity while reducing machine downtime.

Through IIoT and remote connectivity capabilities provided by ThingWorx, 3D Systems now proactively provides customer service and support. For example, the Asset Advisor application, or 3D Connect Manage, can monitor the health of each printer’s laser and identify a degrading laser before it loses performance or stops working all together. As soon as the laser shows sign of failure, ThingWorx Asset Advisor sends a text or email notification alerting 3D Systems that the laser needs to be replaced before a customer even realizes there was an issue to begin with. With these preventative features in place, field teams can dispatch personnel less often because the technical assistance center can resolve many jobs remotely and save travel costs eliminating the need to travel to and from customer sites.

Looking to build on the technological advances made possible by ThingWorx during the pilot testing, 3D Systems plans to eventually connect 1,000 legacy machines.

With this increase in connectivity, 3D Systems can utilize the ThingWorx analytical capabilities to gain more insight into their machines and further help customers optimize their businesses. Moving forward, they will implement ThingWorx solutions into all new products to further operational efficiency goals and continue to differentiate themselves from competitors.

"Since connecting to the ThingWorx platform, we have already seen vast improvements in our ability to collect pertinent information and resolve customer issues with greater speed and efficiency. When ThingWorx launches with all of our legacy machines connected, that’s when it will really shine, and provide us with more information than employees have ever had visibility into before.”"
Mark Hessinger, Vice President Global Services, 3D Systems

According to analysts IDC, 23% of manufacturing service leaders have adopted a proactive maintenance approach. Have you?

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