Digitally certified parts can build trust and protect IP
Budge cites three key enablers for the future spread of additive manufacturing in the oil & gas and marine sectors. The first is to convince potential users of the benefits. The second is to boost trust in 3D-printed parts (Figure 3). The third will be a growing number of success stories to spur general acceptance.
“The speed of our machines will drive change by showing the benefits clearly,” he suggested. “They can mean a digitally certified part being available in two hours, for example, rather than having to wait a week or more.”
When it comes to trust, certification is key for any application of additive manufacturing with acceptable risk, Budge stressed. Aurora has been developing digitally certified parts. These are certified by the machine as they are being printed. “An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) can register a part with us, providing a digital file of its design, and our machines anywhere in the world can electronically transmit details of how close a part being made is to the original design,” he explained. For example, a machine might report to the OEM that it is making a part that is only 99% like the OEM design. The OEM can then investigate and decide whether it needs to enforce its intellectual property rights.
“Additive manufacturing does not want to end up in the same position as the music publishing industry in the late 1990s when there was widespread piracy of digital music,” stressed Budge. “If OEMs are offering digital libraries of parts designs, they need to be protected. Just like iTunes, OEMs could have their own storefront for parts designs.”
External certification can secure industry acceptance of printed parts
Beyond digitally certifying parts, external certification is necessary to assure end users that their manufacture makes them fit for purpose and compliant with external standards.
Aurora Labs has worked with DNV GL since 2017 to establish a framework to achieve this. “With the framework now in place, we will be working with different clients, with DNV GL doing the external certification,” said Budge. The aim is to develop processes by which DNV GL can independently and systematically qualify or certify parts made by Aurora Labs’ machines.