Editor’s note: This article is by David Breitgand, a team lead at IBM Research – Haifa
the middle of Australian cotton harvest, each day of picking amounts to
hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs. When a critical $900 water
pump breaks down, this could mean a 20 percent loss of the crop due to dry spindles. What options
does the farmer have when the local dealership doesn't have any pumps in stock?
This is where
Software Defined Manufacturing (SDM) in the Cloud offers a simple, elegant
solution. The dealership turns to the services of the cloud manufacturing
community to identify an optimal manufacturer for the broken pump parts. The
digital model is sent to the community member that can produce the custom part
via 3D printing. The pump part is then produced to order and shipped to the
is just one example of how new platforms are combining digital manufacturing like
3D printing with cloud computing and the Internet of Things
(IoT). Although it may sound like a futuristic scenario, scientists at IBM
Research in Haifa, Israel are already working to
make this vision a reality
Our research, aimed at the B2B
sector, combines digital manufacturing with the Internet of Things and cloud to
bring about new benefits. The goal is to build a cloud based platform that will
connect small and large factories in a cloud and offer tenants all the
advantages of the entire infrastructure. Smart middleware will optimize where
and when manufacturing should take place. Beyond that, control centers can
automate the entire process to coordinate discrete manufacturing at optimum
Using the system, member businesses
will benefit from infinitely variable manufacturing resources programmed to
work together. By connecting “smart factories” to the cloud, participants who
formerly had access to only one 3D printing process will be able to automatically
outsource to other members that use any of the other processes or materials
Made to order with 3D printing
Small volume, “made to order” items
that used to be prohibitively expensive are already within financial reach. A 2012 report "Manufacturing
the future: The next era of global growth and innovation" by McKinsey &
Company suggests that about 10 percent of all Western manufacturing enterprises
will move from a "made-to-stock" to a "made-to-individual"
model by 2020, with 3D printing playing the pivotal role in in this transition.
About 25 basic technologies for additive
manufacturing exist today, covering a wide range of materials and physical
processes. Among the processes are extrusion, injection, lamination, laser
sintering, electron beaming, and light processing. And the materials range from
plastic, pure metals, and metal alloys to concrete. The variety of
technologies and the speed at which they evolve make it impractical to have all
of them in-house. Collaboration across enterprises in the cloud, where each
enterprise has some technology expertise, makes its use much more efficient for
all parties involved.
Say, for example, there is a small
textile factory in Ireland, where the factory engineer wants to experiment to
improve the efficiency of a legacy weaving machine. Normally, it would take
weeks of modelling to create a prototype. But if the factory is a member of the
SDM cloud-based community, CAD experts in India can provide prototypes for
the trials and these can be manufactured on a local 3D printer within a week.
Once the correct design is selected, the factory can use the same SDM cloud community
to locate an appropriate tool grade steel printer in Europe,
and have the parts produced and shipped within days – all at minimal cost.
A new era for manufacturing
The new face of manufacturing is
defined by a confluence of long-standing trends in manufacturing and
information technologies, including: universal connectivity, cloud computing
delivery models, smart digital manufacturing machines, and plant automation.
Together these are bringing about a digital revolution in manufacturing.
As network bandwidth becomes more
accessible and affordable, manufacturing capabilities for machines, plants, and
enterprises are interconnecting to form a global grid of manufacturing
resources. These resources can be consumed "as a service" through
their virtualized interfaces on the cloud.
As the manufacturing machines themselves
become smarter with technologies such as additive manufacturing (also known as
3D printing), universal manufacturing facilities become feasible. Now that
printers can switch between objects they produce almost instantaneously, the
setup time due to retooling becomes very small in contrast to traditional
production lines. This introduces agility and versatility that never before
existed, allowing faster response to market demands.
In short, the new face of
manufacturing is a globally interconnected grid of smart manufacturing machines
and cloud based business processes. These software defined value networks can
manufacture anything, anywhere, by sending a digital model for the object to
the appropriate network member. And our
system design architecture is nearing completion and we expect to have a
prototype ready for live demonstration in the coming months.
Labels: 3D printing, cloud, David Breitgand, IBM Research - Haifa, Internet-of-Things, SDM, software defined manufacturing