ProCloud3D: Protected Cloud Slicing for Industrial 3D Printing
Sino-German Cooperation for Intelligent Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and Smart Services
As the digital revolution is spreading through our world’s globalized economy, its repercussions are making themselves felt across the manufacturing sector. Enormous potential still lies ready to be seized in nations and economies sharing data, information, and knowledge across physical and cultural borders. Researchers and practitioners are increasingly interested in the role that flexible products, manufacturing technology, and services will play in international cooperation. By establishing shared research and learning hubs and model factories, they are creating new foundations for lasting and constructive economic cooperation.
“Intelligent Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and Smart Services” represents a key research focus contributing to the strategic globalization of science and research, to the “China strategy 2015 to 2020” of Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research, and to the Ministry’s umbrella initiative “Innovations for Tomorrow’s Production, Services, and Work”. They all intend to bolster the technological competences, intensify the scientific dialogue between Germany and China, and expand the internationalization of teaching and research. The promotion of Sino-German partnerships is meant to create new impulses enabling companies and entire industries to respond proactively to changes in the global markets and to actively shape the momentous changes required in economies around the world.
Industrial additive manufacturing (AM) enables manufacturing enterprises to respond immediately to changing demand in their global competition. The technology has long left behind being limited to making metal or plastic prototypes and is increasingly being used to realize a new industrial paradigm: custom serial production.
The design data of 3D printed products is a particularly sensitive and valuable asset, as access to a digital model is all that is needed to produce a perfect physical copy of a product. Beyond this issue of outright product piracy, designers will require means to ensure that only the actually ordered number of their products is being produced, and produced to their actual specifications.
Objectives and Approach
This project group intends to develop a cloud-based platform that can handle all steps required for preparing industrial 3D printing processes in a fully automated, distributed, and encryption-protected form. Using the platform, the factories offering additive manufacturing services could be provided with the production designs and data their machines need in real time, while the protected digital models never need to be handed over permanently or in full to the manufacturing service provider.
The proposed platform will include a web frontend, a technology database with process parameters, a post-processor generating the machine code, the required hardware and software interfaces enabling the platform to communicate with the 3D printers on the ground, and a holistic security infrastructure providing protection for the entire solution.
The platform would create a new value chain held together by a complete license management system that authorizes, manages, and monitors all required data transfer and other process steps between the parties involved. A live demonstration system is being constructed to provide a tangible impression of the entire workflow from the digital 3D model via the cloud to the additive manufacturing provider.
Innovations and Prospects
The project taps into several of the unique capabilities of the 3D printing technology to overcome the potential end user’s reservations and encourage the use of external providers of industrial 3D printing services by allaying their concerns about the safety of their intellectual property and the viability of their competitive standing.
This research and development project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the Innovations for Tomorrow’s Production, Services, and Work (funding number 02P18X010) and implemented by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA). The author is responsible for the content of this publication.