Materialize’s new CO-AM software platform looks to the industrialization of 3D printing

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Additive manufacturing software developer Materialize has announced its new CO-AM open software platform, a comprehensive 3D printing process management tool for industrial users.

Aimed at high-volume manufacturers, CO-AM is a cloud-based program that provides access to a wide variety of software tools (including third-party tools) for planning, managing, and optimizing production workflow. 3D printing.

The platform sports an open architecture that allows users from industries such as aerospace, automotive, medical, and energy to bring together the software tools they use most every day. It also provides easy access to a facility’s production data so users can continuously monitor and improve their workflows.

According to Materialise, CO-AM is a “significant step” towards the company’s goal of offering its entire software portfolio in the cloud.

Bart Van der Schueren, CTO of Materialise, said, “CO‑AM provides new opportunities for AM users to innovate at unprecedented levels with their favorite software solutions. This open platform will allow the AM community to co-develop solutions that create competitive advantages for individual businesses and empower entire industries. At the same time, this business model generates new revenue streams for hardware and software partners. »

Materialize 3D printing facility in Leuven, Belgium. Photo via Materialize

The push towards mass production

While low-volume functional prototyping remains the main application of 3D printing, companies are increasingly opting for mass production. Unfortunately, large-scale production still requires an abundance of manual controls, and isolated data streams make it difficult to achieve the consistent quality required for mass production of identical parts.

Materialize’s CO-AM is designed to solve these problems, by connecting various software tools and bringing them together under one open, cloud-based platform. The backbone of CO-AM is a data lake that communicates with all integrated production tools and tracks the status of the shop floor.

By allowing users to monitor and analyze manufacturing data, CO-AM enables machine operators to develop and store their own workflows in a knowledge database that can be reused over and over again. It is also equipped with AI capabilities that can continuously improve workflows for better yields and part qualities.

CO-AM’s open ecosystem

So which technologies and which tools will be compatible with CO-AM’s open architecture? As it stands, Materialize aims to offer more than 25 software applications on CO-AM. This includes an integrated version of the company’s Magics print preparation software, AM Watch for in-shop data collection, and Build Processors to enable connectivity with over 150 different 3D printers.

Third-party software developers will also be able to connect their programs to the platform. Materialize has already announced two such software partners: AM-Flow, which specializes in end-to-end workflow automation, and CASTOR, a 3D file filtering system capable of analyzing parts for 3D printability.

“The next stage of change in the AM industry is automation,” says Stefan Rink, CEO of AM-Flow. “There are many digital dots to connect to create a complete automation value chain. Partnering with other solution providers in this chain is a prerequisite for the growth and scalability of additive manufacturing production. AM-Flow is very happy to be one of the first partners of the Materialize CO‑AM platform. »

Going forward, Materialize invites 3D printing software vendors to integrate their programs with CO-AM for selected pilot projects. Software partners will receive a software development kit (SDK), application programming interfaces (APIs), and staging environment for fast and easy software development and integration. The firm will provide expanded access to CO-AM over the coming months.

Omer Blaier, CEO of CASTOR, concludes: “CASTOR partners with Materialize to capture and deliver the full potential of AM to manufacturers. By integrating our solutions on a unified CO‑AM platform, we can offer a unique combination of technical intelligence and automation, identify suitable candidates for additive manufacturing among thousands of parts and get to the final product at the within a single solution, in a transparent way.

Castor's 3D printing analysis software.  Image via Castor Technologies
Castor’s 3D printing analysis software. Image via Castor Technologies.

The sphere of additive manufacturing software

The world of 3D printing software is as rich and diverse as the hardware world. Last month, 3D printer maker Ultimaker launched a beta version of its new open-source slicing software, Cura 5.0. According to Ultimaker, the latest Cura has an improved engine that allows users to deploy variable line width when slicing and hit a new threshold for thinner and faster 3D prints.

In addition, the French software start-up Spare Parts 3D (SP3D) recently signed a joint R&D contract with the University of Research in Automated Production (LURPA) of the École Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclaythe and the French Agency of Defense Innovation (DIA). The partners will work on the “RAPID” project, which will see SP3D’s proprietary DigiPart platform used to create software capable of automatically transforming 2D drawings into 3D printable models.

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The featured image shows a Materialize 3D printing facility in Leuven, Belgium. Photo via Materialize.

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