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Digital manufacturing could eliminate warehouses, create on-demand production

Lucas Mearian | May 18, 2016
As digital manufacturing grows, so do cyber threats to online data.

HP, which considers its 3D printer line an open platform, is collaborating with Arkema, BASF, Evonic Industries and Lehmann & Voss & Co. on materials its Jet Fusion printers will be able to use in the future. It is also working with Siemens to incorporate its Product Lifecycle Management software as a tool and with Autodesk and Materialise on developing the 3D printer software for the Jet Fusion line.

Nigro said "the cloud" will be key to not only digital manufacturing but 3D printing in that it will offer cheap compute and data storage services that can drive advances in additive manufacturing.

"Our devices will be cloud connected," Nigro said. "We won't be able to see what people are printing, but will be able to get information back to refine our systems."

"We're poorly connected and poorly interoperable," Vickers said. "Everyone is producing digital information..., but they're not interconnected and interoperable. We have digital devices and analog thinking."

With the cloud comes cybersecurity concerns

Bartels cautioned that with the cloud comes cybersecurity issues. While the cloud helps connect disparate 3D printing and traditional manufacturing systems to enable greater analytics, it also opens the industry up to malicious attacks or IP theft.

encoded manufacturing parts HP 3D Printing. 
A gear printed by HP's new Jet Fusion industrial printer has invisibly embedded  unique identifying information that, when scanned, shows up in a computer inventory system. Credit: Lucas Mearian

The U.S. government needs to make cybersecurity in manufacturing its next top priority under the RAMI Act, Bartels said.

NASA's Vickers agreed, saying gone are the days when product plans were stamped "secret" and stashed away in a safe. At the same time, he worries that too much sensitivity to security will stifle advances.

"Two weeks ago, we explained to our agents what we were doing with digital manufacturing. My request to them was try not to slow us down too much with too much regulation," Vickers said.


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