US20210256580A1 - Digital Traveler - Tracking and Identification for Additive Manufacturing - Google Patents

Digital Traveler - Tracking and Identification for Additive Manufacturing Download PDF

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US20210256580A1
US20210256580A1 US17/163,522 US202117163522A US2021256580A1 US 20210256580 A1 US20210256580 A1 US 20210256580A1 US 202117163522 A US202117163522 A US 202117163522A US 2021256580 A1 US2021256580 A1 US 2021256580A1
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digital
traveler
cad
cad model
production
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Bryan C. Norman
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Bryan C. Norman
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Priority to US75049907A priority
Priority to US13/134,581 priority patent/US8515826B2/en
Priority to US201113374062A priority
Priority to US15/893,179 priority patent/US10089662B2/en
Priority to US16/134,717 priority patent/US11010800B2/en
Application filed by Bryan C. Norman filed Critical Bryan C. Norman
Priority to US17/163,522 priority patent/US20210256580A1/en
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F30/00Computer-aided design [CAD]
    • G06F30/10Geometric CAD
    • G06F30/12Geometric CAD characterised by design entry means specially adapted for CAD, e.g. graphical user interfaces [GUI] specially adapted for CAD
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions
    • G06Q30/0601Electronic shopping
    • G06Q30/0621Item configuration or customization
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B33ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY
    • B33YADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, i.e. MANUFACTURING OF THREE-DIMENSIONAL [3-D] OBJECTS BY ADDITIVE DEPOSITION, ADDITIVE AGGLOMERATION OR ADDITIVE LAYERING, e.g. BY 3-D PRINTING, STEREOLITHOGRAPHY OR SELECTIVE LASER SINTERING
    • B33Y50/00Data acquisition or data processing for additive manufacturing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B33ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY
    • B33YADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, i.e. MANUFACTURING OF THREE-DIMENSIONAL [3-D] OBJECTS BY ADDITIVE DEPOSITION, ADDITIVE AGGLOMERATION OR ADDITIVE LAYERING, e.g. BY 3-D PRINTING, STEREOLITHOGRAPHY OR SELECTIVE LASER SINTERING
    • B33Y80/00Products made by additive manufacturing

Abstract

As Additive Manufacturing technology improves, a significant number of commercial enterprises will adopt Additive Manufacturing technology for at least some aspects of their electronic commerce sales and industrial production capacity utilizing additive manufacturing. Software system, tools and data processing methods therefore pose significant obstacles to the widespread adoption of industrial-scale Additive Manufacturing. As such, computer implemented methods and systems enabling commercial opportunities for both electronic commerce and Enterprise or industrial-scale additive manufacturing (AM) workflow management are both desired and required as an enabling technology for the widespread adoption of Additive Manufacturing, especially at-scale where the larger the volume of throughput, creates more reliance on automation. The Prior Disclosure, a Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise method and system focused primarily on the Mass-Customization aspects of the overall invention while illustrating what the system does through subsequent processing of the 3D CAD Models generated by the Co-Design method. The figures and illustrations also disclosed workflow technology particularly useful for the production portion of the invention or the “Digital Manufacturing Enterprise” portion of the invention. The prior disclosure provided both the Made-To-Order portion of a system for providing and enabling e-commerce adapted to enable Co-Design of 3D CAD Models and data preparation and delivery or transfer to a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system arranged for Additive Manufacturing workflow management. The overall system can at least therefore, be split into two distinct inventions each performing portions of the methods described and providing utility for adoption of Additive Manufacturing in both e-commerce and production operations. The prior disclosure additionally provided sufficient illustrative examples of the data processing controller modules and systems to further split portions of the overall Made-to-order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system into additional discrete inventions each providing commercial utility apart from the other portions. In this manner, each portion of the invention may be performed by discrete computing devices and each portion potentially operated by different commercial entities or a single entity and where the discrete systems and their computing hardware are communicatively coupled with one another in the performance of the invention. Additionally, it is necessary for an agnostic commercial Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise software solution for Enterprise or Industrial-scale Additive Manufacturing to be developed that is agnostic, meaning it is compatible with all manufacturers' technologies without prejudice in order to allow the commercial user to integrate and utilize many different AM technologies when operating fleets of AM equipment. Additionally, Additive Manufacturing machines from different vendors provide different processing methods and different materials. In fact, there are many competing Additive Manufacturing technologies and methods, and each has advantages and disadvantages over competing technology. Commercial users of AM technology must therefore use multiple different AM machines deploying multiple different AM technologies to produce products or parts in different materials depending on their manufacturing and engineering needs. Additionally, commercial organizations utilizing such systems can share production resources in an automated networked method to achieve higher machine utilization through edge manufacturing (distributed manufacturing) which also has the benefit of reducing carbon footprint, lead time, reduces shipping cost, transit time and eliminates import/export duties and tariffs while creating local jobs for production.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • The present application is a continuation-in-part application of Co-Pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 16/134,717 filed Sep. 18, 2018, and U.S. Pat. No. 10,089,662 Filed Feb. 2, 2018, which claims priority to U.S. Ser. No. 13/374,062, filed Dec. 9, 2011, which claims priority to U.S. Ser. No. 13/134,581, filed Jun. 10, 2011, which claims priority to U.S. Ser. No. 11/750,499, filed May 18, 2007, which in turn claims priority to the U.S. Provisional Ser. No. 60/747,601, filed May 18, 2006. Each of the above-referenced applications is incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates generally to Manufacturing and the software systems utilized by manufacturers for Operations Planning and Management including but not limited to Enterprise Resource Planning, Product Data Management, Product Lifecycle Management, electronic Production Planning and scheduling also known as MRP II, Manufacturing Execution Systems, Computer Aided Design, Computing, Computer Servers, networking, the internet, websites, 3D CAD Kernels, electronic commerce and what has been termed “Industry 4.0” “The next Industrial Revolution”, also known as 3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing, Additive Freeform Fabrication or Direct Digital Manufacturing. The field of the invention therefore covers a broad range of technologies and their novel combination and adaptation for Additive Manufacturing. The invention therefore provides a novel solution for executing computerized operations for receiving, aggregating, analyzing, sorting, organizing, grouping, nesting (packing) and scheduling activities in a manner that is particularly useful for Additive Manufacturing and wherein the workflow performed is conducted in a manner that results in treating the 3D CAD Model files and the geometry they contain as the object being electronically processed by the system and therefore providing meaningful, practical, useful application for industrial-scale or “Enterprise-scale” workflow management for Additive Manufacturing. Furthermore, the present invention also addresses aspects of distributed manufacturing, Just-In-Time Manufacturing, edge manufacturing and On-Demand Manufacturing by the methods described in the invention in a manner particularly useful to and in conjunction with Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing technology as well as electronic commerce, mass-customization and Co-Design methods.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • The Thomas registry lists more than 1,000,000 manufacturers and estimates predict that the number is greater than 10,000,000 worldwide. It is predicted that a significant number of these commercial enterprises will use Additive manufacturing technology for at least some aspects of their industrial production capacity and since the fundament tenant of all AM technology requires and utilizes 3D CAD models as a base input for processing and preparing the geometry for production, each company adopting AM will require software system solutions, used in conjunction with AM machines (3D Printers) in order to operate their own Additive Manufacturing facility and fleets of AM machines. Therefore, a computerized workflow management solution for Additive Manufacturing fulfills the function of a critical enabling technology for widespread adoption of AM. Organizing this substantially complex activity for large numbers of 3D CAD Model files and the 3D CAD Model geometry within them and each representing orders for products can only be accomplished digitally. Accordingly, a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise workflow management system is both necessary and desirable, solving many technical and practical issues for widespread adoption of Additive Manufacturing. In prior disclosures related to this invention, a Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise software system was disclosed providing a number of useful solutions to the widespread adoption of Additive Manufacturing including Co-Design and workflow management methods for the 3D CAD models produced by the Co-Design method and transferred to the system for further processing. The prior art provides this workflow by means of a modular controller system comprised of subsystems comprised of computer code that are each responsible for various processing subroutines in the overall performance of the invention. As such, utility can be found in the various subsystems previously disclosed and providing commercial utility as stand-alone-inventions but also combined to perform the overall Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise methods taught by the prior disclosures. These methods, systems and subsystems may be combined and or utilized by one or more commercial users in their deployment and carrying out the spirit of the invention.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The fundament nature of Additive Manufacturing requires the use of 3D CAD models. The data within the CAD Model files is used by Additive Manufacturing “printers” as an input for instructing the Additive Manufacturing device to generate the geometry described within the 3D CAD Model computer file. Since each competing AM technology has its own file processing software, which are often incompatible, a commercial organization requires a 3rd party agnostic solution for the management of industrial-scale or “enterprise-scale” additive manufacturing workflow management and as such, a computerized software system that adapts traditional manufacturing workflow management processing activities to be applied to 3D CAD model files using computerized processing steps provides substantial utility to the commercial user engaged in Additive Manufacturing. The AM workflow management solution must provide automated or semi-automated workflow management processing methods that include analyzing 3D CAD Model geometry and production criteria and as a result of the processing and analysis, dynamically causing the data contained in a plurality of discrete 3D CAD model files to be aggregated, analyzed, sorted, arranged, batched and nested into “tray” files for production scheduling. The invention, the methods used and resulting workflow applies the processing activities directly to the 3D CAD models and the geometry described within the 3D CAD Model files, treating each 3D CAD model file as the objection processed by the system and enables a commercial user to deploy a commercial Enterprise Additive Manufacturing operation in order to receive, process, and transform 3D CAD Models, in a high-mix/high volume production operation, into parts and products produced, at least in part by additive manufacturing. The invention automates and virtualizes most, if not all the back-end processing necessary for large-scale or “Enterprise” Additive Manufacturing workflow management.
  • This patent application, its specifications and claims separate and describe the modular nature of the Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Workflow Management System for Enterprise or industrial-scale additive manufacturing (AM). The modular software controllers arranged to control general computing hardware in the performance of computerized operations for dynamically receiving and processing a plurality of 3D CAD Models and associated production criteria. The processing generally results in organizing activities for 3D CAD Models according to the production criteria and processing steps outlined herein. The output of the workflow of the invention is used to instruct, at least in part, AM equipment to generate physical copies of the geometry derived from the 3D CAD Model files received, organized, and output by the system.
  • Since the key tenant of any additive manufacturing management system is the input of 3D CAD model files and the subsequent processing of the 3D CAD model files, the system processing represents virtual data preparation of the 3D CAD model. Managing a significant volume of 3D CAD model files therefore fundamentally requires a digital management system. Such activities and operations are highly dynamic and challenging to accomplish and therefore a major consideration of any such Digital Manufacturing System must include an adaptation of production scheduling methodologies for the processing and preparation for print production of 3D CAD Models-conducting “pre-Flight” activities. The production scheduling system is therefore responsible for receiving and aggregating 3D CAD Models and production criteria, converting the 3D CAD models and production criteria into “jobs” and determining a capacity plan based on job requirements and production constraints and then dynamically processing the. jobs based on the production criteria and capacity constraints for production on available production resources. The processing of the jobs by the system includes multiple steps after job acceptance. The constraints include but are not limited to the material selections required for the physical version of the product, the physical location for delivery (geospatial location), computed build-time estimates for each “job” or batch tray file, how may “job” files will fit within the printable area or bounding box of each Additive Manufacturing Machine and current production jobs in the queue and other concepts generally understood in manufacturing or industrial engineering.
  • In order to accomplish these and other tasks, the invention is therefore comprised of modular software controllers arranged to control general computing hardware in the performance of computing operations for dynamically processing a plurality of 3D CAD Models as a set of preprocessing steps prior to production. The modular software controllers intended to be installed on networked computers. The primary function of the system is to receive and aggregate 3D CAD models files and meta-data for each respective 3D CAD model describing production criteria. The system is arranged to receive and aggregate the 3D CAD Models in a production buffer or queue (a print buffer). The Meta Data and 3D CAD Models represent production jobs within the system. The system is further arranged to programmatically parse the meta-data and analyze the 3D CAD Models geometry to obtain production criteria for each production job and subsequently utilize the production criteria and operational system parameters received by a commercial user to organize the 3D CAD Models based on the production criteria.
  • The organizing steps of the system include but are not limited to sorting the aggregated production jobs and corresponding 3D CAD Models into production queues according to the production criteria previously obtained by the analysis and assigning each production job and its corresponding 3D CAD Models to production queues based on the production criteria. The system additionally provides modular controllers for production scheduling the production jobs and organizing the 3D CAD Models according to at least one production schedule determined by the system. The system further provides modular controllers to sort and arrange the production jobs and corresponding 3D CAD Models into subset groups of 3D CAD Models according to the production schedule and or production criteria. The system additionally provides modular controllers for dynamically nesting or “packing” the 3D CAD Model geometry into batches of 3D CAD Models fitting within the printable area or bounding box of an indexed and defined Additive Manufacturing printer device and storing the nested or packed arrangements of 3D CAD Models as “tray files” and making the output tray files available for assignment to a 3D Printer device where the data within the tray files is used, at least in part to instruct an Additive Manufacturing device to fabricate the geometry within the tray files.
  • The system further provides modular controllers for dynamically generating part traceability features as 3D CAD geometry affixed to or adjacent to each 3D CAD Model in order to make each part identifiable after production in a high mix production environment. The system further provides interfaces for input, by a commercial user to define system operating parameters for each modular controller. The systems and methods include local and distributed or de-centralized just-in-time manufacturing and provide for communications by method of encryption, treating each 3D CAD Model contained in the 3D CAD Model files received by and processed by the system as the objects being processed in the workflow performed by the system in an automated or semi-automated fashion. The methods and systems additionally provide software modules for retrieving revision controlled CAD Model data from Enterprise Product Data Management systems and or Product Lifecycle Management Systems and software modules to enable the presentation of said content by e-commerce as well as generating and preparing web-compatible 3D views of the 3D CAD Models and renderings as well as enabling web-based co-design of the 3D CAD Models that are transferred from the co-design system to the additive manufacturing (AM) workflow management portion of the system. The system an it's novel commercial utility hereafter referred to as a Made-to-Order-Digital Manufacturing Enterprise (MTO-DME) system and embodied in a commercial software system entitled Digital Factory.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a personal computer or workstation [100] utilized by a CAD Designer or engineer to create a CAD Model, using a CAD Design software package of the types available from many commercial providers [101]. The Base 3D CAD Model is uploaded to the system of the present invention. The system deploying the method of the present invention, shall allow for the input of any geospatial/3D geometry design produced in a plurality of design software tools including but not limited to Solidworks, Inventor, Rhino, Strata-Studio Pro, Maya, CATIA, PRO-E, Alias Wave Front, Alias Sketch, Lightwave 3D, DesignCAD, Enovia Amapi, Carrera 4, Hexagon, Shade 3D, Poser 6, Axel Core, Recon 3D, Anatomica 3D, Adobe Dimensions, DelCAM, Form-Z, Mechanical Desktop, Pilot 3D, Solidthinking, Unigraphics, TouchCAD, as well as Solidworks, Inventor, Rhino, Strata-Studio Pro, Maya, CATIA, PRO-E, Alias Wave Front, Alias Sketch, Lightwave 3D, DesignCAD, Enovia Amapi, Carrera 4, Hexagon, Shade 3D, Poser 6, Axel Core, Recon 3D, Anatomica 3D, Adobe Dimensions, DelCAM, Form-Z, Mechanical Desktop, Pilot 3D, Solidthinking, Unigraphics, TouchCAD an online tools such as OnShape.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates an embodiment of the Co-Design configuration interface for setting up and configuring Co-Design features. The interface enables the ability to define constraint features, parameters, specifications, and values [102] as well as a description of the product [103]. The interface and its functionality additionally enable a user to define regions and zones for each defined constraint to be applied on the base 3D CAD Model [104] and provides advanced constraint definition tools [105]. When the Save button [106] is pressed, the system stores the configured parameters for the current constraint, the current constraint or “feature” name, and associated values related to the 3D CAD Model in the system [107]. The Co-Design interface additionally provides the ability to test the configured constraint features [108]. The User may then “publish” the co-designed 3D CAD Model having the Co-Design features associated with by publishing the 3D CAD Model as a product in the Web Shopping cart system [109].
  • FIG. 2 illustrates an embodiment of the Co-Design configuration interface for setting up and configuring Co-Design features or constraints. The interface enables the first commercial user the ability to define constraint features, parameters, specifications, and values [102] that are referenced as CAD Kernel functions within the system to alter the geometry of the base 3D CAD Model during a Co-Design session, as well as to input a description of the Constraint features and a description of the product [103]. The interface and its functionality additionally enable a user to define regions and zones for each defined constraint to be applied on the base 3D CAD Model [104] and provides advanced constraint definition tools [105] or any geometric modifier possible by CAD Kernels. When the Save button [106] is pressed, the system stores the configured parameters for the current constraint, the current constraint becomes a modification “feature” having a name, and associated values related to the 3D CAD Model in the system [107]. The Co-Design interface additionally provides the ability to test the configured constraint features as a co-designer or consumer user would see the product in a browser session [108]. The commercial user may then “publish” the base 3D CAD model having one or more constraints as a co-designed 3D CAD Model having the Co-Design features associated with by publishing the 3D CAD Model as a product in the Web Shopping cart system [109] or course, the commercial user may also publish the 3D CAD Model without defining any constraints or the consumer user may opt not to configure any of the defined constraints and purchase the design as-is.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of a web page commonly referred to a product fly page in e-commerce parlance. The web page reflects an electronic shopping cart system adapted to enable the Co-Design method within the cart interface. The web page showcases a product that is represented by one or more 3D CAD Models [110]. The Interface provides a viewing option prepared by the system and caused to be displayed on the user device by the system [110] within the ecommerce page where previously configured constraint features are displayed graphically to the user as options for altering the geometry of the base 3D CAD Model [111] according to the constrain definitions previously defined by the seller and where the constraint features defined are associated with graphical elements relating to defined geometric modifiers available from the 3D CAD Kernel(s) associated with the system. The user intending to acquire the product, may alter the design by interacting with the interface which in turn occurs by the user selecting visible functional icons that case the system to apply functions that alter the base 3D CAD model utilizing computer instructions present in the modular controllers of the system. The user may see not only the 3D view of the CAD Model but also see a rendering of the 3D CAD Model [112] also prepared by the system. When satisfied, the user having Co-Designed the 3D CAD Model representing the product may request to obtain the product represented by the 3D CAD Model as well as other functionality [113] [114].
  • FIG. 4 illustrates the computing operations performed by the modular e-commerce system controller [183] portion of the invention in FIG. 5. The modular system generates and causes to be displayed, at least portions of a website or web page on the users/customer device and may include a browse and search function for searching the catalog of products [114]. The system receives a selection of the product through the system-provided interface [115] and the modular system prepares and causes to be displayed on the user device, the consumer customization interface demonstrated in FIG. 3 [116]. The system processes commands for applying the geometric alterations to the base 3D CAD Model [117] and the user is iteratively provided an updated view of the alterations caused to be performed by the user which are processed by the system [118]. The system accepts a request to place the order to obtain the product [119]. Of course, e-commerce systems also accept other information such as payment types, shipping location information, quantity and other common information needed for processing an order. As denoted by the illustration, the system may provide the functionality by API.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates processing steps performed by the modular input/output controller system [157] for coordinating system commands between a user/customer and other modular controllers contained within the system. The “input/output” control system in FIG. 5 demonstrates certain commands performed by or functions of the I/O control system. The system processes requests to obtain a product represented by the 3D CAD model [120] and processes the actual 3D CAD model data files, processes catalog browse requests [121] and product selection requests in order to then display the product in the flypage and initiates the user interface [122]. The modular controller also processes requests for the base 3D CAD model for a user session for presentation in the web interface [124] and causes the system to process 3D CAD Model geometry alteration requests [125] through a 3D CAD Kernel or “engine” which is also a modular controller within the system. Throughout the Co-Design process, the I/O system iteratively processes subsequent Co-Design modifications to the base 3D CAD model through the 3D CAD Kernel as requested, depending on the selected function [126]. Finally, the I/O system provides an execution command that initiates a process for manufacturing command [127] that causes additional system steps to be performed. The I/O system modular controller initiates a set of subroutines to produce a physical copy of the 3D object by Additive Manufacturing, triggering processing steps that are novel to the Co-Design systems and methods.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates processing steps performed by the modular 3D-Viewer controller system [158] which provides functions that includes establishing a design session for each user of the system when accessing a web page [128], and receiving requests from a modular I/O controller system to process a base 3D CAD model in a manner that creates a web-compatible version of the base 3D CAD Model [129] and causes a web-compatible view of the 3D CAD Model to be displayed on the user device [130] and iteratively causes additional web compatible views of the 3D CAD model to be displayed on the user device as needed during a Co-design session in a web page. Of course, as demonstrated, the displayed 3D CAD model may take the form of a 3D representation of the CAD model from the system or a system generated pixel-based rendering of the 3D CAD Model by methods such as Raytracing, radiosity, Phong shading or Gourad shading or other methods.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates processing functions performed by the modular database controller system, (not to be confused with a database controller) including; retrieving 3D CAD models from the database or file system [132] and receiving requests from a system to parse 3D CAD models through a 3D CAD Kernel [133] for varying functions as well as delivering 3D CAD models to other modular controllers [134] such as the web viewer module which may request a 3D CAD model from the database and or file system based on a co-design session initiated in a website. The dataset and or file system and associated controllers may also store temporary 3D CAD model data in a database or file system for each unique customer [135] as well as fetch additional 3D CAD models for a user during a design session [136] or for processing by other processing controllers and modules [137], receive and store temporary 3D CAD Models [138], storing “meta-Data” parameters necessary for print processes [139], storing nested tray files for production [140], storing 3d printer printing device parameters and capabilities [141] and storing remote or geospatially located 3D printer device capabilities [142] such as those available from a remote product facility.
  • FIG. 8 illustrates processing steps performed by the 3D Kernel or engine controller system [159] including; requesting that a 3D CAD Model be retrieved and “parsed” by the Kernel, meaning it is processed to accomplish a geometry change according to a selected function [143]. retrieved 3D CAD Models from a database or file system [144], performing a mate function [145] which is essentially joining two or more 3D geometries virtually or rather merging data of two 3D objects in a manner that defines their relative position to one another, an output command to store 3D CAD models in a buffer or file system or database [146] transferring 3D CAD model data to a web-viewer module for further processing in order to parse and prepare an iterative updated web compatible view of a 3D CAD model during a Co-Design Session [147] and process iterative requests for such tasks [148] including unique customer sessions in a co-design system [149], iteratively updating the web view after each processed function is performed [150], processing traveler geometry functions [151] using the 3D Kernel to generate the 3D Geometry containing the traveler information defined in the traveler feature, [152], providing 3D CAD Model analysis comprising parsing 3D CAD model data file and processing it, using the 3D CAD Kernel or engine to determine the models physical performance based on material selections [153] and enabling the configuration of co-design constraints by a commercial user within a browser session that define Co-Design features against a base 3D CAD models uploaded to the system [154].
  • FIG. 9 illustrates the modular nature of the overall Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system comprised of containerized or modular controllers. Each controller comprised of software arranged for performing computing steps on general computing hardware and arranged to provide an array of processing functions in a manner particularly useful for Additive Manufacturing. It is additionally illustrated that the system is interconnected between the modular controllers exemplifying that the system controllers are designed and arranged to provide input and output of data by and between the modular controllers regardless of physical computing location.. In particular, attention is drawn to the Application Programming Interface (API) [182] module which, according to commonly understood computing practices provides methods to enable the various modular controllers to be able to communicate between each other and for 3rd party users to integrate and control the system. The figure divides the made-to-order portions, on the left side of the figure, from the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system or Digital MES portion of the invention on the right side. Each containerized application working in and arranged to function in conjunction with other modular controllers. The arrangement and use of the various portions of the invention may therefore be used or not used by the commercial user of the system and likewise by a 3rd party user using the system.
  • FIG. 10 illustrates, 3D CAD Models described in computer files and representing “products” stored in a database [184] or file system. Examples of the products include a spaceship top [185], a heart-shaped pendant or charm [186], an anniversary ring [187], a message band [188], an airplane model [189] and a football charm [190]. Of course, the database or file system can also be a PDM/PLM system as employed by Commercial Enterprises. Revision controlled documents are available from PDM/PLM systems.
  • FIG. 11 illustrates an exemplary configuration of a deployment model of the invention comprising; a group of server devices providing database functionality for bulk storage and retrieval operations of the operation of the system [191], the e-commerce system operating on a separate computer server [192], Search functions [193] operated on a separate computing device, a 3D Printing print server [194] operated on a separate computing device, a file server [195] operated on a separate computing device and storing 3D CAD models, the Co-Design system operated on a separate computing device, a 3D file buffer for temporary storage and retrieval of 3D CAD model data [197], a web server [198] enabling a plurality of users simultaneous access to the operations of the system over a communication network [199] where the computer servers, utilizing the modular controller software performs the invention. The physical location of each server is not relevant to the functionality of the system.
  • FIG. 12 illustrates access to the invention by users utilizing a home PC [200], a notebook computer [201], a mobile cellular device [203] which communicates through a communication network [210] enabled by a the web server [212] to provide system functionality demonstrated within the dashed line of an array of computer servers performing the functions of the invention utilizsing the software and general computing hardware. The figure additionally illustrates a distributed manufacturing server device [213] enabling communication with geospatially located additive manufacturing facilities. Each remote manufacturing facility having at least one computing device [204] and each remote facility [205] having Additive Manufacturing device(s) [206] for production of products from 3D CAD Model build files transmitted to the remote facilities and received from the system [211] over a communication network. The remote facilities accessing the Digital MES portions of the system over the communication network, using the computing device at each facility or bureau. The figure additionally illustrates Additive Manufacturing devices located locally and available for production of parts by additive manufacturing from build files prepared by the system. For example, these machines might include a wax printer [207], a DMLS printer [208] or a plastic printer [209]. The system functionality is illustrated herein to enable distributed manufacturing. Distributed Manufacturing denotes that each of the remote computing devices is also using the Digital MES portion of the invention at their location for aggregating, organizing, arranging, scheduling and packing tray files for production on local printer devices.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates an abbreviated or simplified representation of the operational model of the invention. A CAD designer creates a base 3D CAD Model [213] and uploads it to the system. The system is configured to receive and store the model as a product and to present an online catalog of such 3D CAD Models to consumers on a web page in an e-commerce fashion. The consumer is able to make a selection of a product represented by one or more 3D CAD Models from a catalog of 3D CAD models presented on the web page and may receive and have displayed on the users computing device, an interface [216] that includes the Co-Design interface. The invention is exemplified as a computing system [217] handling the computerized operations and workflow management of the invention and arranged to transfer build files generated by the system to a 3D Printer device [215] for output. In this figure, a Solid-Scape wax casting pattern for Lost Wax Investment Casting.
  • FIG. 14 illustrates an exemplary embodiment of a commercial use case of the invention for design, sale and manufacture of custom Class rings including; the design of 3D CAD Models [218] designed in any 3D CAD Modeling package and comprising a core of a ring [221], a bezel or crowns [222], a gemstone [223], a combined gemstone and crown [224], a core with a casting sprue [225], shank art panels [220], a core having a shank suppressed [226] in a web view, a complete 3D CD Model representing a class ring [227] and an array of 3D CAD models held within a database [228] and representing optional configurations available for the class ring and an interface [219] for the selection, Co-Design and purchase of the product—represented by 3D CAD Models within the system.
  • FIG. 15 illustrates a general concept for a class ring comprised of multiple interchangeable 3D CAD model parts. Each part mated to the core [232] by a part mate function controller and representing a left-hand shank [2], a bezel [230], a right-hand shank [231] and a core [232]. Each panel interchangeable by computer function within the system performing the Made-To-Order portion of the invention.
  • FIG. 16 illustrates a configured feature for text. The text feature [234] is configured in the Co-Design interface as a feature to the base 3D CAD model, which is in this case, a class ring bezel [233].
  • FIG. 17 illustrates a gemstone which is common in jewelry. The inclusion of the 3D model of gemstones within the system is a necessary feature because otherwise the ring products would appear odd to the users in an e-commerce environment and therefore included for visual representation only because gemstones are in many cases natural made and not 3D printed.
  • FIG. 18 illustrates a gemstone [235] 3D CAD model mated by a part mate controller to a 3D CAD model of a bezel [236] and having a configurable text feature as an extrusion in 3D [237].
  • FIG. 19, illustrates a novel commercial business model for on-demand manufacturing by additive manufacturing of class rings or other custom jewelry including consumers shopping online [238] via website enabled by the invention and served to the consumers by the method and system [239] which is used to generate Co-Designed 3D CAD Models and prepare them for production by 3D Printing. In the case of jewelry, 3D printing [240], in this example, produces a wax pattern [241] which is used for lost-wax investment casting [242] and then prepared and packaged for shipping to the customer [243] by customary delivery methods [244]. The business model is applicable to many other market verticals
  • FIG. 20 demonstrates system processing steps performed by the modular production system controller or “production system”. The system is programmed to use general computing hardware to perform the processing steps. The orders are represented by a 3D CAD Model and meta-data describing the production criteria for the 3D geometry. The processing steps include; receiving orders for production queuing [245], analyzing the production needs for the 3D CAD model [246], determining an organization production plan for the 3D CAD models locally [247] and remotely [248], determining quality ratings of remote production facilities [249] and using the quality data to make a determination to use a remote facility indexed in the system [250], selecting a 3D printer device indexed within the system locally or remotely [251], routing orders through additional processing steps through the system based on the analysis performed an organization production plan determined by the system [252] the order for production according to production scheduling techniques [252] and generating and providing an estimated delivery time based on estimated production lead time [253]. The controller additionally enables commercial users to input production equipment information including quantity, type, materials [014] and other criteria utilized by the system for organizing, arranging, scheduling, and routing 3D CAD Models through the system [254]. The figure also illustrates the production system including a Product Data Management System, Product Lifecycyle Management System and ERP functionality along with the Additive Manufacturing Production System functionality.
  • FIG. 21 demonstrates system processing steps performed by the nesting system modular controller [162] which performs system processing steps of; parsing and analyzing 3D CAD model geometry within 3D CAD model files for orientation, determining the optimum build angle to minimize build time for the model based on the analysis [256], re-orienting the 3D CAD model geometry for nesting and staking operations based on the determination [257], passing the data off to the stacking system modular controller [258] and accepting commercial user input for parameters for the nesting system operations [259].
  • FIG. 22 demonstrates system processing steps performed by the stacking system modular controller [161] which performs system processing steps of; receiving re-oriented 3D CAD model file geometry for production [260] from the nesting system [258], electronically and virtually adding the 3D CAD Models received to an arrangement of 3D CAD model files [261] based on a build envelope or printable area defined in the system [262] or reaching a preset limit and writing a completed nested arrangement of a batch or group or subset group of 3D CAD models to a “tray” file [265] which is a nested arrangement of the batch or group of individual 3D CD model files combined in a single computer file and representing a build file for production by an additive manufacturing device.
  • FIG. 22 illustrates the result of the system processing steps performed by the stacking system modular controller [161] and nesting system modular controller [162]. The figure reflects a nested and batched arrangement of 3D CAD model file geometry fitting with the printable area or bounding box of a 3D Printer device based on parameters defining the printable area or bounding box of an Additive Manufacturing device and processing steps of the nesting system [015] [259] and stacking system [265] for the printer device.
  • FIG. 23 illustrates a class ring core [268] and an appendage [269] commonly known to one known in the casting manufacturing industry as a sprue. A sprue is used as a flow path for molten metal in the lost-wax investment casting process. The sprue in this case provides two benefits, a casting sprue function, and a digital traveler feature function. The Traveler feature function is highlighted to reflect its function and that it may be suppressed from view in the web browser during a Co-Design Session.
  • FIG. 24 illustrates the class ring core [270] and the sprue appendage [271]. The sprue has numerical values which are also 3D geometry generated on the sprue geometry [272] which were generated by the digital traveler system modular controller [163] processing steps. In this figure, the digital traveler geometry would be output by a 3D printer device enabling the easy identification of an individual order within a larger array of individual orders [266] output by the system. The Digital Traveler geometry is an update to the base 3D CAD model performed by the system in a manner that may occur before nesting and stacking operations such that the geometry is included in the analysis of the nesting and stacking operation resulting in nested batches of 3D CAD models.
  • FIG. 25 illustrates several versions of digital traveler geometry, methods and locations including; the class ring sprue geometry [273], an appendage [274] or direct part marking [275]. The Digital Traveler geometry in each case enabling part tracking and identification information to be generated dynamically by the system modular controllers during system workflow performed to prepare production.
  • FIG. 26 illustrates an exemplary production scheduling interface of the invention. Each Additive Manufacturing device [276] indexed within and representing a production resource available to the system is presented, along with its production schedule. Each additional machine in the production resource list is also reflected in the system such as machine 6 [279]. Each black bar represents a production scheduled bath job of 3D CAD models prepared and arranged for production by the system in a nesting operation, in a sequence of jobs and assigned to each Additive Manufacturing device [277]. Each job bar represents a “tray” file of properly nested or “packed” arrangements of 3D CAD Models. The chart or graph [278] represents production utilization statistics for each machine such as machine number 1 [276] which is shown selected so as to present the statistics for that particular AM machine. The production system including production scheduling adapted to perform in a manner particularly useful for additive manufacturing.
  • FIG. 27 illustrates system processing steps performed by the modular traveler controller system or Digital Traveler controller and performing processing steps for; receiving a production request for processing a 3D CAD Model during a production subroutine routing [280], parsing production criteria required to be converted to geometry related to the unique order [281], submitting a request from the controller to a 3D CAD Engine to generate the data as geometry [282], waiting for the 3D Kernel or engine to generate the geometry [283] and update the 3D CAD Model file with the geometry and routing the production command to the next processing step in the production subroutine [284]. The modular controller also provides an enables traveler definition as geometry to be defined in an interface including traveler geometry, location relative to the 3D CAD Model and what information to be converted to geometry [285].
  • FIG. 28 illustrates system processing steps performed by the modular material matching controller including; receiving processing requests from the production controller to analyze the design intent of a 3D CAD model and its corresponding production criteria information [286], parsing the database of indexed production resources for 3D printer devices meeting the production criteria [287], sending the 3D printer device information for 3D printer devices meeting the production criteria to the system production scheduling controller [288] and storing information in the database for recall [289]. The modular controller also having and providing a commercial user with an interface to define material criteria, in a manner, associating it with 3D printer devices indexed within the system and therefore design intent [290]. For example; a Wax Solid-Scape 3D printer device may be associated with a material selection by a consumer user selecting gold or sterling silver where the wax is needed to cast the gold or silver.
  • FIG. 29 illustrates system processing steps performed by the modular remote manufacturing controller including; analyzing remote manufacturing facilities and capacity indexed within the system for capabilities to produce the 3D CAD Model remotely [291] and providing the analysis information to the production scheduling system controller [292], sending requests to the quality rating system subroutine modular controller to compare past production event quality to database characterization for the remote facility selected [293] and storing information in the database for recall by the system. The remote manufacturing controller module also provides an interface for external production facilities to create a profile within the system and to input facility production capabilities, equipment, materials, and quantities of equipment [295]. The production capabilities of the remote facilities input by remote commercial user manufacturers being made available to the systems production scheduling controller for production scheduling activities performed by the system.
  • FIG. 30 illustrates system processing steps performed by the modular quality rating controller including; receiving inquiry requests from the production scheduling controller for quality information [296] where the quality rating information is comprised of characterized ratings based on past production jobs, analyzing the past quality information for reputation data based on remote factories connected to the system [297] and making the resulting information available to the production scheduling system [298] during order processing as well as storing information in the database related to the quality metrics [299]. The system also providing an interface for customers to input quality ratings based on orders placed by the users to establish a past work quality rating within the system [300].
  • FIG. 31 illustrates the overall integrated workflow of the Made-To-Order portion and the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system. The figures demonstrates that the system is comprised of modular controllers including a website modular controller, a I/O modular controller [302], a 3D web viewer controller [303], a database system controller [304], a 3D CAD Kernel or Engine [305], a production scheduling system controller [306], a stacking system controller [307]. A nesting system controller [308], a traveler geometry generation controller [309], a quality rating system modular controller [310], a remote manufacturing system controller [311], a material matching system controller [312] and a payment gateway system [313]. An Interface for defining digital travelers [314] and processing steps to generate traveler geometry [501], an interface to input special needs for the functionality of the nesting system [315], a method to input quality ratings [316], q method for the commercial user to define production resources, printers, materials and system functionality [317], define co-design constraints [317B] and define materials for design intent [317A]. The figure also demonstrates the general arrangement of the workflow describing the generation of 3D CAD Models or copies of 3D CAD Models via a website and subsequent system processing steps for manufacturing that begin with a process for manufacturing subroutine that begins the production planning, and execution portions of the workflow of the invention.
  • FIG. 32 illustrates an exemplary deployment of the invention outlined in previous disclosures including a website, displayed on a domain, offering by e-commerce [313] to retail customers, by a commercial user, enabling Co-Design [314] of 3D CAD Models and the commercial sale [315] of products based on the 3D CAD Models and produced at least in part by Additive Manufacturing through the invention.
  • FIG. 33 illustrates a figurative exemplary embodiment of the nature of the invention as a commercial software system entitled Digital Factory and the Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise statement on the software box and representing a computerized system for both Co-Design AND Digital Workflow Management.
  • FIG. 34 illustrates an exemplary interface for defining and configuring a digital traveler feature for a base 3D CAD Model uploaded to the system, in this case, a casting sprue containing digital traveler geometry
  • FIG. 35 illustrates the system controlling a fleet of additive manufacturing machines demonstrating the expandable capacity of the system for providing a flexible production system comprising the invention [325] and Additive Manufacturing production hardware exemplified as a metal AM printer [322], a wax printer [323] and a plastic printer [324] and or multiple discrete machined coupled or available to and indexed in the system representing production resources.
  • FIG. 36 illustrates a tray file, as prepared by the nesting [162] and stacking system [161] software controllers that results in a tightly packed arrangement of 3D CAD Models organized for production by the system. The arrangement is compiled by the system as a “tray” file [267] containing many CAD models and in this case also reflecting traveler feature geometry [266] also generated by the traveler system controller [163].
  • FIG. 37 illustrates an exemplary Additive Manufacturing device.
  • FIG. 38 illustrates the retail view of the Co-Design interface of the system which is the consumer-user version of the of the constraint definition system exemplified in FIG. 2.
  • FIG. 39 illustrates a payment processing gateway for performing commonly understood payment processing steps prior to allowing the 3D CAD Model(s) to be transferred to the production queue of the system.
  • FIG. 40 illustrates a letter from Additive Manufacturing Expert Todd Grim supporting the development of the invention to the United States Military.
  • FIG. 41 illustrates a support letter from Additive Manufacturing Experts Dr. Joe Beaman and Dr. Richard Crawford supporting the development of the system to the United States Military.
  • FIG. 42 illustrates a support letter from software and Manufacturing Experts Blain Wallace supporting the development of the system to the United States Military.
  • FIG. 43 illustrates a support letter from Dr. V. Jorge Leon, Manufacturing Engineering department head at Texas A&M University supporting the development of the system to the Texas Emerging Technology fund.
  • FIG. 44 illustrates a support letter from Jan Ripen, Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center supporting the development of the system to the Texas Emerging Technology fund.
  • FIG. 45 illustrates a graded college paper received by the applicant of which an A was received for a business management class during an MBA program for the development of the invention.
  • FIG. 46 illustrates the commercial nature of the invention embodied as system entitled Digital Factory displayed on an internet domain www.digitalfactory3d.com.
  • FIG. 47 illustrates the invention embodied as commercial software system entitled Digital Factory displayed at the domain www.digitalrealitycorp.com.
  • FIG. 48 illustrates an exemplary page of the proposal submitted to the United States Military for the development of invention under Small Business Innovation Research Grant Proposal MDA05-019 B053-019-0706 circa 2005.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • In following specifications, details and descriptions various embodiments will be described and set forth in order toto provide a thorough understanding of the embodiments. However, it will be apparent and therefore understood to one skilled in the art that the embodiments related to the disclosure that the embodiments may be practiced without the specific details in various ways not outlined herein. In other instances, well-known methods, procedures, modules, and controllers have not been described in detail so as not to obscure the embodiments and therefore do not constitute a definition of all possible embodiments. Additionally, it should be recognized that embodiments of the invention disclosed may be implemented according to various protocols and systems capable of providing the functionality described herein. This includes the use of an Application Programming Interface protocol and web-based interfaces; however, it should be appreciated that various other similar frameworks, protocols, and/or mechanisms may also be employed to accomplish the inventions intent.
  • Terminology
  • As used herein, the term Scheduling should be understood to refer to a type of timetable for the use of production resources and processes required to produce goods by Additive Manufacturing Machines (Manufacturing Devices).
  • As used herein, the term routing should be understood to refer to the determination of the route to be followed by each 3D CAD Model/Build File and meta-data being transformed from input/raw material into a final product (Object) and the routing of the data packets and files digitally being transferred between computing devices.
  • As used herein, the term aggregating should be understood to refer to the “collecting” of build files in a queue and or the collecting of 3D CAD Model files in a file buffer or memory or hard drive.
  • As used herein, the term build file should be understood to refer to a computer file containing 3D CAD Model Geometry used to instruct an Additive Manufacturing Machine (Manufacturing Device) to build the geometry of the object defined in the build file.
  • As used herein, the term production criteria should be understood to refer to the physical size required for the output of the build file, the quantity of duplicate copies of the object to be produced from the build file, the manufacturing media (material) in which the object defined in the build file must be produced, the type of Additive Manufacturing Machine (Manufacturing Device) required, the physical or geospatial location of the Additive Manufacturing Machine (Manufacturing Device) and or facility operating the Additive Manufacturing Machine (Manufacturing Device).
  • As used herein, the term database should be understood to refer to an organized or structured collection (set) of data held in a computer, generally stored and accessed electronically from a computer system, especially one that is accessible in various ways including the storage of a ledger of records for Additive Manufacturing. Such ledgers may be public or private depending upon the desired participants. The database is controlled by a Database management system (DBMS) which is the software that interacts with end users, applications, and the database itself to capture, store, retrieve and analyze the data.
  • As used herein, the terms “additive manufacturing device” and “3D Printer” should be understood to refer to any manufacturing device that serves to produce a three dimensional output object from a digital file using techniques that may include, but are not limited to, fused deposition modeling, fused filament fabrication, direct ink writing, stereo-lithography, digital light processing of photopolymers, powder bed 3d printing, electron beam melting, selective laser melting, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, laminated object manufacturing, directed energy deposition, electron beam freeform fabrication and any form of Additive material deposition to generate an object.
  • As used herein, the term organizing should be understood to refer to the sorting of aggregated build-files by production criteria into subset groups according to production criteria.
  • As used herein, the term stacking should be understood to mean “packing of the geometry of 3D CAD models contained in build files into the virtual printable area or bounding box of an Additive Manufacturing device for the purpose of optimizing the utilization of the Additive Manufacturing device for production.
  • As used herein, the term Nesting refers to and should be understood to mean the “action” of analysis, by a computer system and determination by the computer system, of the optimal orientation of the geometry of the 3D CAD models and the subsequent “arrangement”, performed by the computing system of a batch of 3D CAD Models that will fit within the bounding box or build envelope of an additive Manufacturing Machine in order to maximize the efficiency of machine utilization and where the build envelope criterion used by the nesting operation is defined by the user of the system and where the output is a single computer file comprising a “nested” or “packed” arrangement of a batch of 3D CAD Model geometries fitting within the printable area or bounding box.
  • As used herein, the term Tray File should be understood to refer to densely nested or “Packed” arrangements of build files according to production criteria and or scheduling criteria in order to maximize productivity or machine utilization of the available printable area or build envelope of an Additive Manufacturing Machine (Manufacturing Device).
  • As used herein, the term distributed manufacturing, also known as distributed production, cloud producing, edge manufacturing and local manufacturing should be understood to refer to a form of decentralized manufacturing practiced by enterprises using a network of geographically dispersed manufacturing facilities that are coordinated using information technology In this case, each facility comprising a node on a network and each node having Additive Manufacturing Machines and a controller for managing the production of objects from Build Files received by the controller or node.
  • As used herein, the term co-design or Participatory design should be understood to mean an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. end-users, merchants, designers, manufacturers) in the design and manufacturing process to help ensure the result meets end user needs, is producible and may or may not violate design intent (fit, form function or strength of materials. In this case additionally meaning generating a 3D CAD Model and transmitting/transferring the 3D CAD Model as a build file to an order aggregation device for Additive Manufacturing.
  • As used herein, the term Product Data Management (PDM) System or Product information management should be understood to mean a software business function often [018] within product lifecycle management that is responsible for the management and publication of product data. In software engineering, this is known as revision control.
  • As used herein, the term Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) System should be understood to mean a software system for the engineering aspect of a product and for managing the entire lifecycle of the product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture. PLMPLM, therefore, providing a product information backbone to companies and their extended enterprises. Additionally, in this case, meaning a method to speed up product development processes.
  • As used herein, the term Application Programming Interface (API) should be understood to mean a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and tools for building software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication among various components. The API is usually related to a software library and provides remote computing devices programmed to use the API to manipulate resources and obtain transaction and data from the device hosting the API program & protocol. It is a way to hook multiple computers together for co-processing tasks or transferring data.
  • As used herein, the term 3D Kernel or 3D Engine should be understood to be a 3D modeling software component used in computer-aided design package for geometric modeling. The 3D Kernel provides capabilities including model creation and editing utilities for both parametric modeling (Solid modeling) and mesh modeling (Polygon modeling). 3D Kernels may be any number of software packages or modules designed to generate geometry.
  • As used herein, the term 3D Viewer System should be understood to be a workflow method for converting 3D CAD Models or build files of any 3D CAD Model format into a web-compatible view format for viewing in a browser.
  • As used herein, the term ERP or Enterprise Resource Planning ERP should be understood to mean a category of business management software—typically a suite of integrated software applications—that an enterprise can use to collect, store, manage, and interpret data from many business activities including manufacturing.
  • As used herein, the term Module should be understood to be part of a program. Programs are composed of one or more independently developed software modules that are not combined until the program is linked. A single module can contain one or several routines. In this case one such link method is an Application Programming Interface (API).
  • As used herein, the term traceability should be understood to mean the tracking of objects processed by the invention for the purposes of information determining information about the part, the date of manufacture, customer information, lot number, serial number, heat number or other traceability criteria desired by the user of the system or the recipient of the object, including a means to physically identify the marking.
  • As used herein, the term Traveler should be understood to mean data or documents carried along a work order's lifespan from entry for production through shipping to a customer. When a manufacturing “job”, in this case a 3D CAD Model and production criteria, are released for production, the traveler and the 3D CAD Model are routed from station to station throughout the electronic production process where the system tracks progress until the item is produced, inspected and the job completed.
  • As used herein, the term Digital Traveler should be understood to mean software module or process for first receiving data criteria designated that should be generated as geometry for each build file processed by the system. The geometry generated by the Digital Traveler module based on pre-defined criteria and available in multiple geometric forms. The Digital traveler geometry aiding in identification of objects produced in a high-volume/high-mix additive manufacturing environment.
  • As used herein, the term Material Matching should be understood to mean a material identifier comprising an identifier electronically stored in a database, a computer file or file system correlating to Additive Manufacturing Materials and comprising a “virtual” ledger of materials available for generating an object from by Additive Manufacturing. The materials may additionally be correlated to Additive Manufacturing device types including Make, Model and Brand such that the Material and Hardware can be identified and matched to a build file being processes by (traveling) through or being “routed” through an electronic production system.
  • As used herein, the term website or web site should be understood to mean a collection of related network web resources, such as web pages, multimedia content, which are typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. Websites can be accessed via a public Internet Protocol (IP) network, such as the Internet, or a private local area network (LAN), by a uniform resource locator (URL) that identifies the site. Websites are typically dedicated to a particular topic or purpose, ranging from entertainment and social networking to providing news and education. All publicly accessible websites collectively constitute the World Wide Web, while private websites, such as a company's website for its employees, are typically part of an intranet. Web pages, which are the building blocks of websites, are documents, typically composed in plain text interspersed with formatting instructions of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML, XHTML). They may incorporate elements from other websites with suitable markup anchors. Web pages are accessed and transported with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which may optionally employ encryption (HTTP Secure, HTTPS) to provide security and privacy for the user. The user's application, often a web browser, renders the page content according to its HTML markup instructions onto a display terminal.
  • As used herein, the term E-commerce should be understood to mean the activity of buying or selling of products on online services or over the Internet. Electronic commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web for at least one part of the transaction's life cycle. There are three areas of e-commerce: online retailing, electronic markets, and online auctions. E-Commerce can be used for Business to Consumer, Business to Business or Business to business to consumer transactions.
  • As used herein, the term control system should be understood to mean a system that manages commands, directs, or regulates the behavior of other devices or systems. Control systems, comprising software commands can control other software programs. In the case of an Application Programming Interface, the control system is a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and tools for building software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication among various components. The API is usually related to a software library and provides remote computing devices programmed to use the API to manipulate resources and obtain transaction and data from the device hosting the API program & protocol. It is a way to hook multiple computers together for co-processing tasks or transferring data.
  • As used herein, the term Quality Rating System should be understood to mean tools designed to or arranged to assess, improve, and promote quality of manufacturing production. In this case, a means to manage the production quality of objects built on Additive Manufacturing Devices operating as a fleet in a facility or in a distributed network of production facilities each operating as a production node in the network and each having a fleet of additive manufacturing devices. The data collected by the quality rating system being stored in a database comprising a ledger of past production performance of each machine or facility (node) in order to analyze, asses and improve future production quality based on past performance criteria as part of a distributed or “edge” based additive manufacturing network.
  • As used herein, the term Product Browse module should be understood to mean a software module for accessing, retrieving and presenting structured data, from a database comprised of a catalog of information pertaining to a product or object available from one or more electronic catalogs of objects available to be physically obtained from the one or more electronic catalogs by means of additive manufacturing. The module typically used as part of an electronic commerce system or electronic catalog system such as a PDM/PLM system, including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Product Search module should be understood to mean a software module for accessing, retrieving and presenting structured data, from a database comprised of a catalog of information pertaining to a product or object available from one or more electronic catalogs of objects available to be physically obtained from the one or more electronic catalogs by means of additive manufacturing. The module typically used as part of an electronic commerce system or electronic catalog system such as a PDM/PLM system, including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Manufacturer Interface should be understood to mean an interface used by a commercial user. The interface is provided by a software module that generates the interface and enables the system to receive input and configuration options and variables from the commercial user or manufacturer. The criteria input into the interface by the commercial user, provides a mean of for configuring the workflow of the system.
  • As used herein, the term Constraint Configurator should be understood to mean a software module designed for enabling the configuration of geometric modifiers for altering the geometry of 3D CAD Models in a co-design methodology. In this case, for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD model received by the system. The base 3D CAD Model designed in any 3D CAD application. The module is configured to receive 3D CAD Models from a user, generate an interface, responsive to the uploading of the 3D CAD Model and to present a configuration interface. Within the interface are tools for definition customization features and for the user to input parameters and values defining constraints as customization features. The constraints stored are saved and or stored in the system in a manner associating them with the base 3D CAD Model for presentation to a second user, typically a client or customer, and enabling the second user, using the previously designated constraints to alter the geometry of the base 3D CAD model in order to generate a derivative design. The 3D CAD Model derived from the base 3D CAD model. The 3D CAD Model being generated and or made available as a build file to an [019] additive manufacturing production scheduling and planning system arranged to receive such information from the Co-Design system including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term displacement map module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived geometric modifier for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The geometric modifier also referred to as a customization feature accessible for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The modifier function being made available at least by means of an API and by presentation in a browser. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term extrude module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived geometric modifier for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The geometric modifier also referred to as a customization feature accessible for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term emboss module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived geometric modifier for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The geometric modifier also referred to as a customization feature accessible for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term font module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived geometric modifier tool for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The geometric modifier also referred to as a customization feature accessible for altering the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Part Mate module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived geometric modifier for joining two or more geometries of a base 3D CAD Models to form an assembly. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Suppress on print module should be understood to mean a modifier for designating a modifier against one or more 3D CAD Models and then suppressing a geometric feature of a 3D CAD Model assembly during fabrication. The feature referring to a portion of the geometry of a base 3D CAD Model or one or more additional 3D CAD Model geometries in an assembly. In this context, an example being a 3D CAD Model of a Gemstone. The Gemstone, in this case, being generated and presented to one user and suppressed when generating a build file. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Upload Artwork module should be understood to mean a method for electronically receiving one or more raster images. The module providing a mean to the constraint system to receive artwork for generating, by means of the displacement mapping module, geometry on the topology surface of a base 3D CAD Model received by the system. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Sketch Design module should be understood to mean a mathematically derived 2-Dimensional sketch that may be converted, by means of a geometric modifier, such as the extrude module or text module for generating geometric features on a base 3D CAD Model. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Stretch/Skew/Smorf Module should be understood to mean a computer function for altering a base 3D CAD Model, as a geometric modifier, by selecting and dragging vertices, handles or faces of base 3D CAD Models. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Paint Surface Module should be understood to mean a method for generating a texture map for a received base 3D CAD Model or a base 3D CAD Model first altered by another constrain modifier. The method arranged to provide color to the surface of a model in a co-design environment. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Constrain Module should be understood to mean a mechanism for receiving and storing structured data as part of a co-design system. The constrain module enabling the system to receive designations and values defining variables that may be modified in a co-design session. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Sales Commission system should be understood to mean a software module for enabling payment to a designer of a 3D CAD Model, the 3D CAD Model being received, by the system and made available for presentation to 3rd party users as part of an Omni-channel sales and distribution (Additive Manufacturing) system. The Module comprising executable computer code that generates a displacement map according to a pre-defined co-design constraint representing a customization features including by means of an API.
  • As used herein, the term Preflight should be understood to mean the process of confirming that the digital files required for the printing process are all present, valid, correctly formatted, and of the desired type. The basic idea is to automate the preparation of the files to make them feasible for production and subsequently organize and generate a plan of operations for systematically causing the conversion of the received CAD files and production criteria into physical objects, at least in part by additive manufacturing.
  • As used herein, the term Mass-Customization should be understood to mean a manufacturing technique which combines the flexibility and personalization of custom-made products with the low unit costs associated with mass production, in this case, at least in part by Additive Manufacturing.
  • As used herein, the term Finite Element Analysis refers to the most widely used computerized method for solving problems of engineering and mathematical models. Typical problem areas of interest include the traditional fields of structural analysis, heat transfer, fluid flow, mass transport, and electromagnetic potential. The FEM is a particular numerical method for solving partial differential equations in two or three space variables (i.e., some boundary value problems). To solve a problem, the FEM subdivides a large system into smaller, simpler parts that are called finite elements. This is achieved by a particular space discretization in the space dimensions, which is implemented by the construction of a mesh of the object: the numerical domain for the solution, which has a finite number of points. The finite element method formulation of a boundary value problem finally results in a system of algebraic equations. The method approximates the unknown function over the domain. The simple equations that model these finite elements are then assembled into a larger system of equations that models the entire problem. The FEA then uses vibrational methods from the calculus of variations to approximate a solution by minimizing an associated error function. FEA analysis is usually performed using a CAD Kernel or 3D Kernel comprising the math libraries necessary to perform the functions described for a given 3D CAD model.
  • Introduction
  • The Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise invention can be described as a first part or a “made-to-Order” part and a second part or a “Digital Manufacturing Enterprise” part. The Made-To-Order portion of the prior disclosure provides an electronic commerce method and Co-Design method adapted an arranged to define, generate, compile and or transfer 3D CAD Model files and associated production criteria to an order acceptance and workflow management system in a manner particularly useful for Additive Manufacturing. The Digital Manufacturing enterprise portion of the system is arranged and configured to provide data processing and workflow management of the received 3D CAD Models in a manner also particularly useful for additive manufacturing. Furthermore, the figures provide and disclose the modular nature of the invention as being a software system comprised of a plurality of modular controllers. Each modular controller is demonstrated to be comprised of computer programming for controlling general computing hardware in the performance of the invention. The figures also provide processing steps performed by each modular controller as well as a workflow of the overall system in an embodiment of the invention however; additional embodiments of the invention are possible based on the modular nature of the invention. As such, this patent application describes such additional embodiments along with declarative and exemplary embodiments of the invention. As such, the following disclosure details the portions of the invention and their novel utility to enable commercial use for Additive Manufacturing.
  • Made-to-Order
  • Consumes are no longer seeking just products but rather “experiences”. This includes online experiences and “authenticity”. The Made-To-Order portion of the invention creates a compelling shopping experience for the buyer by combining both Mass Customization and a “product-Central-Focus” for an immersive shopping experience.
  • Joe Pine, author of “Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition.” The author states; “that the most innovative companies are rapidly embracing a new paradigm of management—mass customization—that allows them the freedom to create greater variety and individuality in their products and services at desirable prices.” According to the Author, “Every customer is unique. Every customer deserves to get exactly what they want, at a price they're willing to pay—and increasingly desire it in today's Experience Economy where life increasingly revolves around their unique wants, needs, and desires. Companies therefore must mass customize their offerings to offer low-cost, efficient customization, and 3D printing offers the means for any company today to mass customize their physical goods. Plus, when customers involve themselves in designing their own individual offering (ideally through a design experience), it becomes authentic to who they are. That too fits in with today's Experience Economy, where authenticity has become the new consumer sensibility—the primary buying criterion by which people choose what to buy and who to buy from. There are few if any technologies that fit better in with today's consumer.”
  • In one embodiment, the Made-To-Order portion of the invention provides a Co-Design method for the co-creation or co-development of 3D CAD Models for custom Class Rings. The 3D CAD Models represent the actual product and are used to manufacture the final product utilizing the 3D CAD Model file data. The Co-Design system enables a base 3D CAD Model to be modified within a web browser during an ecommerce session by a consumer user, based on pre-defined constraint or customization features defined by a commercial user. The constraints and their definition along with the interface and the procedures enable the Co-Design system to generate CAD Model geometry changes to the based 3D CAD Model geometry of without the advanced knowledge of CAD/CAM or engineering technology which are typically beyond the understanding of the majority of consumers. As such, the Co-Design method provides a novel way for the average consumer to personalize a product where the actual product requires, by design, that the geometry be modified. To facilitate this, the system provided a mechanism to provide a display of the design on the consumer's computer by preparing the view such that any computer may display it along with providing the interface and controls to cause the instructions to be executed to change the geometry.
  • In the Co-Design system, the consumer bypasses the Engineer who must design or alter the revision-controlled 3D CAD model. This is because the Constraints were arranged such that the consumer may make any change desired, based on geometric or engineering constraints such that they do not violate design intent. Design intent may include the strength of the part, the fit or form of the part or colors. This ensures that the resulting 3D CAD model geometry generated by Co-Design will perform as intended even with the modifications. This is critical to ensuring quality control and customer satisfaction. For example, the ability for the item to not break is predicated on the material choice and the thickness of the part. The consumer has no knowledge of this and therefore cannot ensure that their geometry changes will not violate the design intent. For this reason, the Co-Design system encompasses this technology in enabling the commercial engineer or designer to ensure that the features that are capable of being adjusted will not interfere with structural integrity or other necessary criteria. The resulting 3D CAD Models from the Co-Design portion of the invention are processed by the computerized system with the output intent to produce them by Additive Manufacturing and therefore the invention provides the output data comprising a computer file containing data for instructing an Additive Manufacturing machine to fabricate the geometry within the file. In order to deliver the Co-Design system for generating and processing a large number of 3D CAD Models for production, it is necessary to do so digitally considering that 3D CAD Models are by their nature, electronic and intangible. The fundamental tenant of the Co-Design system is that it must receive, store, alter and transmit or transfer 3D CAD Models and associated production criteria from an e-commerce environment in order to automate the workflow and thereby remove most if not all of the human activity. In order to do this, certain processing steps, organizing activities and supporting computing processes must be adapted to e-commerce to provide the digital information and processing activities that result in beneficial utility of the Co-Design system.
  • Enabling the Co-Design system to be utilized by a commercial user in an e-commerce environment allows a very large number of simultaneous users to access the system and Co-Design 3D Cad models. Those resulting 3D CAD Models are transferred or transmitted (routed) to the order aggregation device and as such, potentially a very large number of 3D CAD Models are being generated and transferred or transmitted (routed) to the order aggregation device.
  • The Made-To-Order portion of the invention provides “authentic” compelling shopping experiences to consumers for products online in a manner that appeal to the sensibility of consumers. In this way, the Made-To-Order portion of the invention enables the consumers to engage in shopping experiences that they would not have otherwise been able to enjoy due to the limitation of Computer Aided Design software systems and their deployment methods as previously disclosed. It is the engagement in the Co-Design of one's individual “product” that entices engagement and appeals to consumer sense of personal desire or attraction for the “item” they are buying.
  • In one embodiment, the system and method disclosed perform the computing operations demonstrated for the e-commerce portion and Co-Design portions of the system may be split. In this configuration, the modular system generates and causes to be displayed, at least portions of a website or web page on the users/customer device [113] and may include a browse and search function for searching a catalog of products [114]. The system receives a selection of the product through the system-provided interface [115] and the modular system prepares and causes to be displayed on the user device, the consumer customization interface demonstrated in FIG. 3 [116]. The system processes commands for applying the geometric alterations to the base 3D CAD Model [117] and the user is iteratively provided an updated view of the alterations caused to be performed by the user which are processed by the system [118]. The system accepts a request to place the order to obtain the product [119] and by design and configuration of the system compiles a finalized 3D CAD model and transfers (routes) the 3D CAD Model and production criteria to an order aggregation device arranged to receive such data. Of course, e-commerce systems also accept other information such as payment types, shipping location information, quantity and other common information needed for processing an order and therefore the Co-Design & E-Commerce system retains that processing capability.
  • In one embodiment, the modular system includes a controller for preparing web-compatible views of Base 3D CAD Models received by the system as shown in FIG. 7, which provides functions performed by the system that includes establishing a design session for each user of the system accessing a web page [127], an receiving requests from the I/O system to process a Base 3D CAD model in a manner that creates a web-compatible version of the base 3D CAD Model [129] and causes the web-page to display the web-compatible view of the 3D CAD Model on the user device [130] and iteratively may process additional web compatible views of the 3d CAD model as needed for the design session in the web page. Of course, as demonstrated, the displayed 3D CAD model may take the form of a 3D representation CAD model or pixel-based rendering of the 3D CAD Model by methods such as Raytracing, radiosity or Phong shading.
  • In one embodiment, the web-view preparation modular controller may additionally prepare a low polygon model of the original high-polygon model stored in the system. This may be required for a number of reasons including data transmission rates, original file sizes and enabling the Co-Design system to perform the operations using the client hardware for the operation of the co-design method.
  • In one embodiment, the modular system will utilize a database and or file system on a computing device or multiple computing devices as demonstrated in FIG. 7. The Database will also have associated specific processing functions from other modular controllers within the system of varying types. In some cases, there maybe multiple databases and or file system on multiple computing device depending on deployment methods of the system. The database and file management system and associated controllers provide for retrieving 3D CAD models from the database or file system [132] and receiving requests from a system to parse 3D CAD models through a 3D CAD Kernel [133] for varying functions as well as delivering 3D CAD models to other modular controllers [134] such as the web viewer module which may request a 3D CAD model from the database and or file system based on a co-design session initiated in a website. The dataset and or file system and associated controllers may also store temporary 3D CAD model data in a database or file system for each unique customer [135] as well as fetch additional 3D CAD models for a user during a design session [136] or for processing by other processing controllers and modules [137].
  • Therefore, the novelty of the e-commerce portion of the system is the manner in which the Co-Design system is incorporated into a webpage for the purpose of e-commerce and various processing arrangements of the modular controllers, including the “triggering” function of the I/O system to process the order to route the 3D CAD Model for manufacturing in FIG. 6. The execution of the “route” for manufacturing subroutine of the modular controllers and systems causes the Co-Design system to transfer or “transmit” a manufacturable “copy” of the 3D CAD Model from a Co-Design Session to a modular controller and system arranged to receive and store 3D CAD Models [138] depending on the arrangement of the modular controllers. For example, if the system is deployed across multiple computer servers, those servers may be located in different geographical locations requiring the 3D CAD Model to be transmitted or transferred to a remote computer running the modular controller for further processing steps as demonstrated in FIG. 12. As such the Co-Design system is performing the operation of preparing a production job for additive manufacturing by “routing” (sending) the 3D CAD model for production by AM. An order aggregation device, represented by a computer hard drive, memory or other data storage device must therefore receive the 3D CAD Model.
  • In one embodiment a computing device having a database and or file system for processing 3D CAD Models for manufacturing by e-commerce may also utilize traditional e-commerce data and associate the data with the 3D CAD Model in a manner that can be recalled, with the 3D CAD model. In this manner, the adapted Co-Design system transmits or transfers (routes) the 3D CAD model and additional production criteria for automated or semi-automated manufacturing. This data or “Meta-Data” can include an address for delivery, a quantity of specimens, a material, a color or other parameters that are not geometric in nature but are none-the-less needed for some aspects of further system processing. For example, the Meta-Data may reflect a manufacturing media or “3D Printing Printer media” in a manner that associates the manufacturing media in a correlative manner to a material in which the consumer/user requested the object. In some cases, the correlation may reflect the final material and not the printing material as demonstrated in prior disclosure where 3D Printed Wax is used for Lost Wax Investment casting of Gold, Silver and other precious metals for Jewelry applications. As such, the correlation ensures that the manufacturing media is wax even though the customer selected a precious metal.
  • In one embodiment, the system may include and or utilize a modular controller comprising one or more 3D CAD Kernels or engines as shown in FIG. 8. The 3D CAD Kernel or engine, as described in the prior art is typically a commercial software system such as ACIS or Parasolid however; such a module may also be unique or custom meaning someone programmed the unique functionality. In the current invention, the 3D CAD Kernel is the processing engine that receives commands to perform various functions on 3D CAD Model data programmatically. It is the function that is requested that defines the output of the geometric alteration or other information that the system produces as an output after receiving the input functions. The invention has been described to include an I/O system that connects the user to the modular system. In this case, the 3D Kernel is utilized to cause certain geometric functions to be processed for a particular 3D CAD Model within the browser. As such, the modular functionality of the system includes requesting that the 3D CAD Model be retrieved or “parsed” by the Kernel, meaning it is processed to accomplish a geometry change according to the selected function [143]. The 3D Kernel may also be used to perform certain processing tasks for models retrieved from a database or file system [144] and in fact more than one 3D CAD Kernel may be used for various tasks and associated with various computing devices performing the methods described.
  • Computer CAD Kernels operate based on function calls to the kernel. Each function requires a “hook” into the command and must define what the command is requesting of the kernel and the object to which it will process the command against—meaning it must know what file it will apply the transformation to. One such command is a mate command [145] which is essentially joining two or more 3D geometries virtually or rather merging data of two 3D objects in a manner that defines their relative position to one another. Another function is what to do with the output of a request. For example, a 3D CAD model may need to be stored in a buffer, file system or database [146] for further process. A 3D Kernel may also, in conjunction with a web-viewer module parse and prepare an iterative updated web compatible view of a 3D CAD model during a Co-Design Session [147] and process iterative requests for such tasks [148] including unique customer sessions in a co-design system [149] including iteratively updating the web view after each processed function is performed [150]. Finally, a 3D CAD Kernel may be used in conjunction with a web system, an I/O system a web viewer system and other systems to enable the configuration of co-design constraints within a browser session that define Co-Design features against a base 3D CAD model [154].
  • In one embodiment, modular controllers comprising software performing computing steps on general computing hardware may be arranged to provide an array of processing functions for Co-Design as well as other operations as shown in FIG. 9. As previously mentioned, the Co-Design system utilizes one or more Modular Controllers including a 3D Viewer Module, a Website Module, an I/O control system module, a database system and or file system controller module and one or more 3D CAD Kernels for altering geometry of Base 3D CAD Models during a design session in a browser. As previously described, it is also necessary to define the functions that will be utilized and called to within the 3D CAD Kernel. Each Customization characteristic or operation therefore has and requires a unique software function to be configured to perform various tasks within the CAD Kernel or Engine to alter 3D CAD geometry. FIG. 9 demonstrates an array of such modular controllers and their function as well as other modules that perform various portions of the overall modular Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise System.
  • In one embodiment, the Co-design system contains a modular controller set for performing various geometry modification functions. On such set of functions and modules provides for displacement mapping on a Base 3D CAD Models [171], extrusion of geometry on base 3D CAD Models [172], embossing geometry on base 3D CAD Models [173], 3D font geometry on base 3D CAD Models [174], part mating of multiple 3D CAD Models [175], a suppress on print module [176], an upload artwork module for obtaining images for operations such as displacement mapping [177], a sketch design module [178], a skew/stretch/Smorf module which essentially allows random squishing like clay modeling of the geometry on base 3D CAD Models [179], a vertex paint module [180], a constraint definition module as previously explained [181]. In fact, processes may be defined for any function available within the 3D kernel.
  • In another embodiment, the modular system may additionally include an API/scripting module [182]. The API/scripting module enables developers to utilize the various operations of the system by programming 3rd party computers to access and perform functions of the system on remote computer systems. In this manner, the Co-Design system may be utilized by discrete websites and or on discrete domains, utilizing portions of the system as needed according to commonly understood methods and activities when utilizing an API.
  • In one embodiment, the Modular system may additionally provide modular controllers for a sales commission system [155] that enables users to contribute content to a website deploying the method of the invention. In this manner, individual contributors may be paid a sales commission for products produced by additive manufacturing utilizing the methods based on their 3D CAD Model contributions being converted to physical products through the system an where the purchase by a 3rd party results in the sales commission. As demonstrated in FIG. 9, the I-O system is communicatively coupled to the other system modular controllers enabling use by users, via a website of the entire systems functionality as required, needed and intended.
  • In another embodiment, the modular system may additionally provide an I-O system [157] that enables intercommunication by and between users and enables the execution of function within the system based on user input. The 1-0 controls system, also referred to as an I/O system in FIG. 6 provides input by users, via a website [183] for the purpose of causing system executable commands to occur based on user input and as demonstrated in FIG. 9, the I-O system is communicatively coupled to the other system modular controllers enabling use by users, via a website of the entire systems functionality as required, needed and intended.
  • In another embodiment, the modular system controllers may include a 3D viewer system
  • [158] providing the functionality demonstrated in FIG. 7. It is important to note that 3D viewer system, as described in the specifications of prior disclosure enables multiple display methodologies. The methods utilized by the 3D Content Central were exemplary and not intended to represent all such technologies. Merely altering the protocols and display method or device location would have no impact to the scope of the intended invention.
  • In another embodiment, the modular system controllers may include one or more 3D Engines [159] also called 3D Kernels which provide libraries for CAD geometry analysis, transformation and other functionality commonly understood in such 3D CAD Kernels. The 3D CAD Engine may provide 3D CAD Model analysis according to the functionality described in FIG. 8. The analysis comprising parsing 3D CAD model data and processing it, using the 3D CAD Kernel or engine to determine the model's physical performance based on material selections [153]. In this manner, the system is performing a quality check of the 3D CAD Model geometry. It is important to make the distinction that this type of analysis is normal and routine at CAD workstations used by Engineers however; the deployment model of the disclosed invention provides automated or semi-automated workflow and therefore the analysis is performed by the system in an automated or semi-automated manner based on system parameters are defined by the commercial user.
  • In another embodiment, the modular controllers of the system may provide for a payment gateway. A Payment Gateway is part of an e-commerce system for enabling payment authorization. As a result of payment authorization, the system may be programmed to proceed with processing the 3D CAD model for manufacturing according to the method described in FIG. 5 where the customer places the order [119]. In this manner, the processing of the order triggers a subroutine to execute a process for manufacturing subroutine [127] which then transfers or causes otherwise, a 3D CAD model or 3D CAD Models to be deposited or stored in an order aggregation device arranged to receive such information. It should also be noted that according to prior disclosure, the payment authorization may or may not be required to initiate the process for manufacturing subroutine. Additionally, the module or controller may be located on a remote computer and therefore the method of processing the 3D CAD models for manufacturing is the method taught and the payment pre-requirement is merely a customary step in e-commerce however; providing a website arranged to accept payments for processing 3D CAD Models as a triggering step and the adaption of an e-commerce system to programmatically deliver a 3D CAD Model on acceptance of payment is also taught by the invention—which may include a Co-Design interface an Co-design system for altering the geometry of base 3D CAD models.
  • In another embodiment, the modular controllers of the system may provide for one or more databases and file systems for storing 3D CAD Models representing products [162]. The 3D CAD Models are design representations of products as demonstrated in FIG. 10. Accordingly, the “products” are stored in a database [184] or file system. Since all AM machines and technology require 3D CAD models for operation, the invention is only limited by what data can be adequately described in 3D CAD Models. Examples of products include a space ship top [185], a heart-shaped pendant or charm [186], an anniversary ring [187], a message band [188], an airplane model [189] and a football charm [190] and may also include, but not be limited to the following product categories:
    • Custom-made jewelry or fashion products, Custom-made toys,
    • Custom-made tools,
    • Custom-made statues and art products,
    • Custom-made aircraft parts (both full size and scale),
    • Custom-made motorcycle parts,
    • Custom-made medical implants,
    • Custom-made automotive parts,
    • Custom-made helmets and hardhats,
    • Custom-made pulleys and drive equipment,
    • Custom-made belt buckles,
    • Custom-made computer housings,
    • Custom-made handgun and rifle parts,
    • Custom-made shoe inserts,
    • Custom-made jewelry pendants & lockets,
    • Custom-made picture frames,
    • Custom-made decorative residential products,
    • Custom-made medallions,
    • Custom-made coins,
    • Custom-made plaques,
    • Custom-made aerospace products including both structural and non-structural component(s),
    • Custom-made electrical & electronic housings,
    • Custom-made pet products,
    • Custom-made chocolates,
    • Custom-made cookware,
    • Custom-made promotional or specialty advertising products
    • Custom-made jewelry or fashion products, Custom-made toys,
    • Custom-made tools,
    • Custom-made statues and art products,
    • Custom-made aircraft parts (both full size and scale), Custom-made motorcycle parts,
    • Custom-made medical implants, Custom-made automotive parts, Custom-made helmets and hardhats,
    • Custom-made pulleys and drive equipment, Custom-made belt buckles,
    • Custom-made computer housings, Custom-made handgun and rifle parts, Custom-made shoe inserts,
    • Custom-made jewelry pendants & lockets, Custom-made picture frames,
    • Custom-made decorative residential products, Custom-made medallions,
    • Custom-made coins, Custom-made plaques,
    • Custom-made aerospace products including both structural and non-structural component(s), Custom-made electrical & electronic housings,
    • Custom-made pet products, Custom-made chocolates, Custom-made cookware,
    • Custom-made promotional or specialty advertising products
  • In another embodiment, the modular controllers of the system are deployed across multiple computing devices that are communicatively coupled to one another as demonstrated in FIG. 11. In this exemplary configuration, a server device provides the database for bulk storage and retrieval operations of the operation of the system [191] utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures and the specifications above. The e-commerce system may run on a separate computer server [192] utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures. Search functions [193] may be operated on a separate computing device utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures. The print server [194] may be operated on a separate computing device utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures and performing the function of an order aggregation device. The file server may [195] may be operated on a separate computing device and warehouse 3D CAD models referenced by the database utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures. The Co-Design operations may be operated on a separate computing device and use a 3D file buffer for temporary 3D CAD model data [197] utilizing the modular controller software modules described in FIG. 9 and outlined operationally in other figures. A Web server may provide the ability for the system to be made available to a plurality of users [198] and enabling a plurality of users simultaneous access to the operation of the made-to-order system over a communication network [199] for serving web pages or portions of web pages performing the methods described. The Made-To-Order system of the invention outlined by the dashed line in FIG. 11 represents the combined operating systems performing the invention.
  • In another embodiment, the entire Made-to-Order system, its' modules and controllers may entirely be operated on a single computer and perform all steps utilizing processing resources available from the single computing device.
  • In one embodiment, access to the invention may be performed by a user utilizing a home PC [200], a notebook computer [201] or mobile cellular device [203] which communicates through a communication network [210] and enabling the web server [212] to provide system functionality.
  • In one embodiment, the system is arranged to receive 3D CAD Model files in any commercial format and convert the geometry into a useable format for additive manufacturing and or for display, within a website, to a customer/user. The system processing the 3D CAD Model to generate a web-compatible view of the 3D CAD Model using a 3D Viewer module (FIG. 5C). The resulting geometry is then displayed on the user's device in conjunction with the Co-Design Interface. The viewer can be one of many formats as previously disclosed. At the time of first disclosure, the WebGL format did not exist however; the previous disclosure surmised that any potential web viewer technology would be useful to the process. As such the WebGL viewer can be included as a format that is prepared for Browser viewing from the original 3D CAD Model uploaded to the system or any other format. The display on the user device may also be a rendered as previously disclosed (Rasterized).
  • In one embodiment, the first commercial user offering products in the electronic commerce system submits a base 3D CAD Model from the first user device to the system. After submitting the design to the system, the user is then presented a constraint definition interface (FIG. 9). The user defines the constraints against the Base 3D CAD Model such that each “feature” comprises a constraint having variables and parameters assigned to it for altering the 3D CAD Model. The user configures constraints for altering the geometry of the base 3D CAD Model. Upon completing the set-up, the user saves the model now having one or more customization features for presentation to a second user/customer in the database/file system (FIG. 5D). The Commercial user may then “Publish” the 3D CAD Model such that is will be made available for configuration in the ecommerce environment a plurality of second users/customers.
  • In one embodiment, the system additionally has a test configuration button allowing the first commercial user to emulate accessing the system as a second user/customer. In this manner they are presented an interface that resembles the second user/customer experience.
  • In one embodiment the system is accessed through a website or web portal over the internet (FIG. 5A). The website or web-portal enables the user to request one or more 3D CAD Models representing products in the system. In practice the user/customer, accessing the system is accessing the digital representation of a product or products, which will ultimately be physically manifested through Additive Manufacturing. The Customer/user is then presented with at least one of a browse page, comprising a catalog of 3D CAD Models available from the system, a flypage of a particular product from the catalog of products in the system and the Co-Design Interface based on previously designated constraints in the system (FIG. 18). The Co-Design Interface has controls designed to enable the configuration of the 3D CAD Model based on the constraints (FIG. 5B). The customer/user is then able, using the constraint controls interface, displayed in the web page, to modify the 3D CAD Model representing the product. The modifications, processed by the system, causing geometric changes to the base 3D CAD Model according to the inputs received by the user and processed by the system. Other modifications alter the meta-data of the 3D CAD Model such as the final material. In the example of custom jewelry, the materials may include gold, silver, platinum or steel. The geometric alterations to the 3D CAD Model are performed by one or more implementations of 3D CAD Kernels (FIG. 5E). The resulting geometry generated as a result of the co-design session is then saved as a unique 3D CAD Model for production. The Co-Design system utilizes one or more 3D CAD Kernels and a plurality of modification subroutines configured to access the one or more 3D CAD Kernels (FIG. 19).
  • In another embodiment of the co-design method, the web interface may display one or more web-compatible views of the 3D CAD having prepared the data for display using WebGL. The displayed model is a CAD model compatible with the browser and without deviating from the spirit of the invention.
  • In another embodiment of the co-design method, the web interface may display one or more “rendered” raster image(s) of the 3D CAD Model instead of the actual 3D CAD Model. The raster version is a photo. In such a deployment method, the updates to the 3D CAD Model may be made before updating a rendering and then updating the web view using the rendering and without deviating from the spirit of the invention.
  • In another embodiment, WebGL has allowed for path tracing (raytracing) in the browser using hardware acceleration. As such the displayed model may in fact be a real time or near-real-time rendering of the 3D CAD Model using Path Tracing rendering (Raytracing). This method would give hyper realistic views of the 3D CAD Model complete with texture information obtained from Meta-data and without deviating from the spirit of the invention.
  • In another embodiment, the co-design interface and or product database may be made available through an API or Application Programming Interface such that a 3rd party website may embed the co-design interface into their own website. The co-design system may exchange data of any kind available from the system deploying the method via the API by one or more second computers accessing it.
  • In another embodiment, the system may make the catalog of 3D CAD Models available and accessible from the database though an API or Application Programming Interface. In this embodiment, the catalog is linked to a website that is generated by a remote computer system such that the catalog data is shared with the remote computer for presentation in a shopping cart system for ecommerce. The API would allow the data interchange to place orders for CAD Models from the remote system wherein the 3D CAD Model is never actually stored on the 3rd party website displaying the shopping cart to the customer/user.
  • In another embodiment, which is the co-design system is located on the 3rd party commercial user computer, using the disclosure methods for co-design and e-commerce from previous disclosures. The co-design system and or a shopping cart system contain a plurality of 3D CAD Models. The 3rd party system is connected to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the prior disclosure. In this manner, a 3rd party user (customer/user) may co-design a 3D CAD Model on the 3rd party commercial users website and then after requesting the object from the system, the 3rd party commercial users system transmits (routes) the data including the CAD Model and meta-data to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the modular system independently operated by the same commercial user or an additional and separate commercial users having a computing device, utilizing the modular portion of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the system which is arranged to receive 3D CAD Models and production criteria. In this manner a plurality of 3rd party users may create e-commerce systems and co-design interfaces which may transmit the 3D CAD Models and production criteria to the remote production system.
  • In another embodiment, the Co-Design system may utilize multiple 3D CAD Model geometries in multiple 3D CAD Model files hereafter referred to as an assembly. The multiple 3D CAD Model geometries in the assembly 3D CAD model represent a product available to be obtained through the Co-Design portion of the system. In this embodiment, each of the 3D CAD Models discrete geometry may have one or more discrete customization features that may be altered utilizing the Co-Design methods from prior disclosures. As such, assemblies may be obtained through the method in multiple materials because the system includes the ability to define production criteria for each 3D CAD Models portion of the total geometry that is used in material selection. Thus, when each 3D CAD models portion of the total geometry is sent to and or received between Made-to-Order portion and Digital manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system including by means of an API, the order includes the production criteria for each geometry from the multiple 3D CAD Model geometries collectively referred to as an assembly (FIG. 12).
  • In another embodiment, the Co-Design system may receive one or more CAD Model files and or multiple geometries in one 3D CAD model file and collectively representing an assembly of multiple geometries. The system may make it possible to define constraints against each individual geometry portion within the assembly. The system may additionally make it possible to define material selections to be defined against each portion of geometry. The system enabling the multiple geometry components to be transferred to a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the modular system into a production queue system arranged to receive the multiple geometries and the multiple material designations for fabrication by additive manufacturing. The receipt of the assembly 3D CAD Model data occurring in an order aggregation device in a manner such that each respective portion of the assembly 3D CAD model geometry and corresponding production criteria are maintained Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Portion of the system.
  • In another embodiment, the system may allow publication of the 3D CAD Models into the catalog without defining any co-design constraints or defining constraints that are not reflected in the final 3D CAD Model design output by the system and transferred to a production queue along with the meta-data. In this manner, the second user/customer has the option of requesting to obtain the geometry as-is or first configuring the design for personal preferences. In both cases, the geometry and meta-data are transferred to a production queue arranged to receive the information and process the CAD Model for manufacturing. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether the customization step of the CO design process occurs or not the result is a 3-D CAD model and data pertaining to the production requirements of a physical object are combined and added to order aggregation device, essentially entering a production queue. The production queue and production management system are therefore operating independently of the Co-Design system. The production Management system therefore; operating as an independent system for downstream processing of the received 3D CAD model geometry.
  • In one embodiment, the Co-design invention may be used in the design, sale and manufacture of custom Class rings. Class rings are a consumer jewelry product worn by students and alumni to commemorate their graduation, generally for a high school, college, or university. The Made-To-Order portion of the invention provides the ability to produce custom class ring products without the customary sales, manufacturing and distribution methods. Traditionally, class ring companies utilize campus representatives who have territory. Competing Class ring companies fight for contracts to provide class ring products to school districts and or universities. One method of order entry is triplicate order form collected by a sales rep from a campus. In this manner, students receive and take-home brochures, convince their parents to spend their money, fill out a triplicate form and return the form to the campus. The order forms are collected by the sales reps and returned to the factory for processing. This is a laborious and time-consuming method which is one factory as to why it takes months for class rings to be delivered to students.
  • Customization options for class rings are derived from catalogs of printed and or online catalogs of images of the products. Consumers may browse a catalog and make selections of the various options. The summary of these options provided through a website or via an online website provide a summary of option chosen by a customer for the final design of the customer's product. Unfortunately, traditional manufacturing methods require the production operation to produce the rings economically from pre-designed options. In many cases, these pre-designed options are available from small injection molded art cavities that are combined, much like a puzzle, to create a mold for injection of wax for lost wax investment casting. There is no correlation between what the customer sees on the website or in the catalog as a photograph or image and the product on the factory floor. Instead the list of selections is used by a human to pull the small molds from drawers of components for the “mold”. The variety of mold parts is extensive, including first names, last names, art panels, years and other options however; the library of option is not infinite an the variety of options is limited by what the factory has available in the tool library of small mold components.
  • Due to the complexity described, there are limited options available to consumers; the production lead times are long and the potential for mistakes is significant. Additionally, due to the number of people involved in the process, labor and sales commissions drive up the costs of the products to the end consumer. Essentially, the entire process is both complex and inefficient. Errors are common due to misspellings of names, especially on triplicate forms. Essentially, what the customer sees is not exactly what the customer gets. The process is disembodied—meaning that there are broken steps in the chain where pictures may misrepresent the final product, nothing directly connects the product manufactured to the product ordered and therefore there are often mistakes.
  • In one embodiment, the Made-To-Order portion of the invention may be used by a commercial user to create a compelling and disruptive design-to-order system for custom class rings designed on-line in a browser and manufactured, at least in part by Additive Manufacturing. This Mass-Customization of class rings advantageously creates a system and method that enables what is manufactured to be exactly what the consumer selects, sees, customizes and buys. Furthermore, the invention also offers to improve customer satisfaction by enabling additional customization options to be offered and because the method and system eliminates much of the tooling, molds and labor in the entire process, the method and system have significant commercial viability. Finally, class rings are a perfect example of such a system because class rings are by nature completely unique from order to order in most cases. Furthermore, the online shopping experience is arguably a more compelling experience because it involves the customer in designing their own individual class ring, making the experience authentic to the user.
  • In one embodiment, the process for offering custom class rings using the invention is exemplified by FIG. 13. In this manner, a CAD Developer creates a base 3D CAD Model [213] and uploads it to the system. The system is configured to present an online catalog of 3D CAD Models to consumers on a web page in an e-commerce fashion. The consumer can make a selection of a base 3D CAD Model from a catalog of 3D CAD models and is presented with an interface [216] that includes the Co-Design interface previously described. The Made-To-Order portion of the invention [217] handles the operations of the Co-Design system including enabling the interface to be generated, causing the 3D CAD Model to be displayed on the consumer device and processing the design changes as geometry changes to the base 3D CAD model. Upon completion of the design, the 3D CAD model and meta-Data related to the 3D CAD model are transferred to a 3D Printer device for output. In this case as a wax casting pattern for Lost Wax Investment Casting.
  • In one embodiment, the commercial use of the invention for Class ring configuration and representation in preparation for manufacturing of a 3D CAD model is demonstrated in FIG. 14. The base 3D CAD Model design is represented by a core 3D CAD Mode [218] designed in any 3D CAD Modeling package. The core of the ring [221] is configured in the constraint configuration interface by the commercial user by creating customization features for the base 3D CAD Model as demonstrated in FIG. 2. Additionally, class rings are also constructed of art panels or “shanks” [220] and bezels or crowns [222] and gemstones [223]. The presentation of the configuration interface [219] is generated by portions of the system enabling the co-design and e-commerce portions of the method to 3rd party consumers. The database of the system may receive a plurality of core and shank or panels [228] representing base product designs and receive a plurality of configurations of customization features set up for each base design and stored in the system.
  • In one embodiment, the invention provides for 3D CAD models to be constructed of multiple 3D Model geometries that are defined and mated relative to each other. In this manner, the Co-Design system can assemble a class ring from multiple 3D CAD models of mated geometries. A plurality base 3D CAD Model and other components of the class ring include the bezel are received by the system, stored by the system and available for configuration by consumer users. The multi-part 3D CAD Model or “assembly” represented in FIG. 15 is comprised of multiple interchangeable parts. Each part mated to the core [232] and representing a left-hand shank [2], a bezel [230], a right-hand shank [231] and a core [232]. Mated parts that are identically attached may swapped by the system upon request by the user. In one embodiment, a library of alternate shanks may be constructed by 3D CAD Modeling and uploaded to the system, enabling the user to “configure” the panels at will based on available options. It is important to note that the 3D CAD Model resulting from this workflow is generated, by the system and deposited or transferred/transmitted to a system for manufacture using the data directly for manufacturing the product. In this manner, what the consumer sees is quite literally what the consumer gets.
  • In one embodiment, the sub-component 3D CAD models or shanks and bezels may themselves be configured to include Co-Design features. For example; the bezel in FIG. 16 may include a base 3D geometry and a configured feature for text. The text feature [234] is configured in the Co-Design interface of FIG. 2 as a feature to the base model, which is in this case, a bezel [233]. FIG. 17 reflects a gemstone which is common in jewelry. The inclusion of the 3D model of gemstones within the system is a necessary feature because otherwise the ring products would appear odd to the user however, gemstones are not typically 3D printed. FIG. 18 reflects a gemstone [235] 3D CAD model mated to a 3D CAD model of a bezel [236] and having a configurable text feature [237].
  • In one embodiment, the mating functions, the text functions and the configuration options of the Co-Design system are performed by the Made-To-Order portion of the software of the system comprising modular controllers programmed to perform the functions using general computing hardware as previously described and demonstrated. When exemplified by FIG. 19, the overall system and methods describe both a novel commercial solution for on-demand manufacturing by additive manufacturing but also a novel business model and method for the design and manufacture of custom class rings. The business model is comprised of consumers shopping online [238] via website ecommerce served to the consumers by the method and system [239] which is used to generate Co-Designed 3D CAD Models and prepare them for production by 3D Printing. In the case of jewelry, 3D printing [240], in this example, produces a wax pattern [241] which is used for lost-wax investment casting [242] and then prepared and packaged for shipping to the customer [243] by customary delivery methods [244].
  • In one embodiment, the Made-To-Order portions of the invention provides and enable the Co-Design of a design representations in an e-commerce fashion and further is arranged in a manner to include data preparation operations and data transfer and transmittal of the 3D CAD Model geometry and associated production criteria in a manner useful, in particular for additive manufacturing. The commercial benefit of the product being understood as to provide and enable both the e-commerce and Co-Design methods novel for Additive Manufacturing and for enabling such novel methods to be commercially available on a domain an or website of commercial users thereby enabling the commercial operation of the methods outlined herein. As such, the Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system as described has been divided as a separate invention according to the embodiments described and stands apart from the manufacturing workflow management portions of the system. In this manner the specifications thus far describe the “Made-To-Order” portion of the prior disclosure.
  • In one embodiment the Co-Design portion or Made-To-Order portion of the system and the e-commerce portion of the system have commercial utility for providing at least portions of an electronic marketplace containing and or associating 3D CAD Models representing products available from the marketplace, the items including a plurality of items, wherein each item of the plurality has indexed and associated with the item at least one 3D CAD model file, the 3D CAD model file(s) containing manufacturing instructions to generate an object representing the item from the catalog associated with the electronic marketplace. Furthermore, the system provides a mechanism by which, responsive to a selection of one of the items of the plurality, providing instructions to, at least in part, control (instruct) an additive manufacturing device to generate a physical copy the object using the manufacturing instructions described in the 3D CAD model file(s) associated to the selected items and meta-data to do so. In this manner, the system also provides functionality as a stand-alone platform for electronic commerce and Mass-Customization by electronic commerce, utilizing Additive Manufacturing. In this manner the system prepares the data for controlling the manufacturing hardware to transfer the data for use by an AM machine. Likewise, the system may be used in conjunction with additional software systems designed for AM. It should now be apparent to one skilled in the arts of manufacturing, CAD design, programming, networking, computing, 3D printing and manufacturing that the embodiments disclosed herein are applicable to a wide variety of durable goods. It should also be apparent that a user may choose not to personalize a product prior to purchase through the system and that a commercial user may make for sale products that do not include Co-Design constraint features defined for a base 3D CAD Model. In both circumstances, what is prepared and transferred, by the system, is a 3D CAD model describing a geometric object and containing information to instruct a 3D printer device to generate a physical representation of the object by additive manufacturing. A such, the embodiments described herein describe a novel system useful for Co-Design e-commerce, mass customization of durable goods products and useful to a wide variety of industries for converting digital assets to physical goods on-demand, without tooling or molds by additive manufacturing. As such, the embodiments are also capable of utilizing the full gamut of available additive manufacturing technologies. Lastly, the Co-Design and e-commerce system have been separated from Digital Manufacturing workflow management operations described and embodied herein.
  • In another embodiment the Co-Design portion of the invention provides for the user to also re-publish derivative configurations into an electronic marketplace using the Made-To-Order portion of the invention for purchase, to share the design with others [113] and or be paid a sales commission from the system [155].
  • Therefore, the Co-Design portion and corresponding system software processing modules are arranged to adapt and modify a web shopping cart or ecommerce system and method to provide for additional processing parameters and steps for delivery and performance of the Co-Design method for preparing data and delivering data in a manner particularly useful for Additive Manufacturing workflow. Furthermore, the Co-Design method itself being embedded within the website provides a novel implementation of Co-Design methodology. It is therefore the deployment of a website or web page that enables the Co-Design method in conjunction with ecommerce methods and is additionally configured to store, process and deliver information and data output of the Co-Design method in a manner useful, in particular, for additive manufacturing.
  • Of course, the normal functionality of an e-commerce system is still present within the system of the prior disclosure and or portions of the normal operation of a traditional e-commerce system, having checkout carts, a page for payment information, quantity and other parameters including shipping address along with the adaption for the added Co-Design operations and data preparation for additive manufacturing including transmitting the data or transferring the data to an order processing system arranged to receive and process 3D CAD Models for additive manufacturing.
  • It should now be apparent that the Co-Design method may stand apart as an invention that is arranged to provide at least portions of a web page on a domain of a commercial user for the purpose of electronic commerce utilizing an electronic marketplace providing e-commerce where the system performs processing steps and is arranged to generate copies of 3D CAD Model files along with meta-data describing production criteria for a customer-specific copy of a 3D CAD Model in a manner that is particular suited for additive manufacturing. This made-to-order portion of the system additionally provides a method of co-design for altering base 3D CAD models received and stored within the system and arranged to provide the output of the 3D CAD Model generated by the system during a co-design session and the necessary meta-data to adequately describe the geometry for manufacturing by Additive Manufacturing and by transmitting or transferring the 3D CAD model file(s) from such e-commerce site to an order aggregation device arranged to receive such information. The Made-To-Order portion additionally describes generating at least portions of a web page on a user device and doing so in commercial fashion, enabling 3D Printing or additive manufacturing for E-Commerce. In this manner, the Made-To-Order portion of the invention dramatically affects inventory, tooling, molds and other manufacturing activities related to providing a wide array of products to customers by eliminating these concerns since the products exist only as 3D CAD Models.
  • In another embodiment, the Co-Design portion of the system may receive a 3D CAD Model file and not receive a Co-Design feature configuration by choice of the commercial user. The system still enables the 3D CAD model to be published within the system and made available in the e-commerce website. The Made-To-Order system still provides the 3D CAD Model file and production criteria in a manner particularly useful for additive manufacturing.
  • In another embodiment, the customer/user, accessing the website may see options for Co-Design and simply decline to alter the base 3D CAD model geometry utilizing the Co-Design interface and select to acquire the object as-is. The Made-To-Order system still provides the 3D CAD Model file and production criteria in a manner particularly useful for additive manufacturing.
  • Organizing large quantities of these customized or Co-Designed 3D CAD Models for production presents an entirely different set of obstacles. It is therefore also necessary to provide a method for aggregating, organizing, arranging and nesting the output of the Made-to-Order portion of the system for production based on a number of criteria and in a manner that is useful in particular to Additive Manufacturing. As such a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system is also required as an enabling technology for widespread adoption of Additive Manufacturing.
  • Digital Manufacturing Enterprise
  • In one embodiment the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the invention provides commercial utility apart from the Co-Design/ecommerce portions of the invention in a manner particularly useful for Additive Manufacturing. In such an embodiment the modular controllers as illustrated in FIG. 9 provide the ability to split the functionality. The Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system is therefore comprised of a website [183], a manufacturers interface [156] providing a commercial user access to the system through an input/output control system [157] through the website. The system provides modular controllers for processing the 3D CAD models including a production scheduling system controller [160], modular controllers for stacking [161] and nesting [162] operations of 3D CAD model files and creating packed arrangements of 3D CAD Models, a digital traveler system [163], a material matching system [165], a remote manufacturing system [166], a quality rating system [167] and an Scripting/API module system [182] enabling commercial users to integrate with the system. The interface and system functionality are arranged to enable the commercial user to configure the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Portion of the system to carry out the processing steps performed by the system.
  • In one embodiment the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the invention provides a commercial user with a Manufacturers interface [156] for the input by the commercial, of criteria including 3D Printer device parameters and capabilities [141], receiving and storing both local and remotely located production facility information [142], receiving instructions for defining processing and or calculating requirements by FEA for material stresses [153], receiving facility and equipment capacity instructions, materials and other production criteria [254], receiving operating parameters for the nesting system [264], receiving operating parameters for the stacking system [265], receiving operating parameters for the digital traveler system [285], receiving operating parameters for the material matching system [290], receiving operating parameters for the remote manufacturing system [295], receiving quality information from prior customers in order to establish work quality ratings within the system [300] and other parameters for operation.
  • In one embodiment, the types of information the system may receive from the commercial user may include, 3D printer device profile information that comprise, 3D printing materials producible by the device, the printable area or bounding box of the printer device, the quantity of identical modules of the 3D Printer device and where the profile represents a production resource available to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system and its processing steps and capabilities.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system additionally includes a production scheduling system [306]. The production scheduling system is comprised of a modular controller [160] comprising computer programming arranged to control general computing hardware in the production scheduling of 3D CAD Models. The production scheduling subsystem comprises an interface as illustrated in FIG. 27. The production scheduling system utilizes the 3D printer devices indexed within the system as production resources for scheduling operations [276] of nested batches of 3D CAD Model files as demonstrated in FIG. 23. The nested batch of 3D CAD Model files is comprised of discrete 3D CAD Models [266] individually representing orders within the system and fitting with the bounding box or build envelope [267] of a 3D Printing device representing a production resource within the system and scheduled according to the production scheduling criteria and assigned to a production resource [276] within the system. Each nested “tray file” is generated by the system, utilizing the stacking module [161] and nesting module [162] to generate the tray file. Therefore, the tray files are represented by the production scheduled batch [277] within the system and representing each nested arrangement of 3D CAD Model files as illustrated in FIG. 23.
  • In one embodiment, the production scheduling system may additionally provide production statistics [278] for each indexed production resource according to production scheduling concepts understood by one skilled in the art.
  • In one embodiment, the Production scheduling system may additionally be supported by a remote manufacturing subsystem [166]. The remote manufacturing subsystem is responsible for enabling remote production facilities to interface with the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system and enabling each remote production facility to create a profile within the system. The profile enables the user to input facility production resource information like the commercial user including production resources that are indexed within the system [295]. The remote manufacturing facilities indexed production resources are made available to the production scheduling system by the processing steps of the remote manufacturing subsystem. The Remote Manufacturing system analyzes remote facility capacity capability [291] and makes the available production resource information available to the production scheduling system [292] for determining and using available remote production resources for fulfillment of orders.
  • In one embodiment, the remote manufacturing system may additionally process the remote manufacturing resource information utilizing a quality rating subsystem [167] where the quality rating system receives the remote facility information for consideration of using the remote facility for production [293] and stores such information within a database for recall by the production system.
  • In another embodiment, a quality rating subsystem [167] may receive information from a remote manufacturing subsystem [296] and process the request by analyzing past quality for the remote production facility [297] utilizing a DMS or Distributed Manufacturing score to determine if the remote facility may receive the order and making the results available to the production scheduling system controller. The quality rating system may additionally store quality rating information for recall by the system and additionally, enables the system to receive quality rating information from customer users based on previous work history in order to establish a quality rating within the system [300]. I such an embodiment, the Quality Rating system allows data regarding objective reputation characterization to become the basis for future automated or semi-automated transactions in the distributed manufacturing (remote manufacturing) selection of the system. In such an embodiment, the quality rating system enables, encourages, and monitors quality ratings and reviews of production facilities participating in the distributed production operations of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system.
  • In one embodiment, the quality rating system enables the commercial user to set “levels” to which a particular remote or distributed Manufacturing facility or supplier may receive orders from the system. As such the embodiment provides a means for building trust between many companies using the method and system of a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system. In such an embodiment, the system provides a means for the commercial user to establish feedback criteria categories such that the categories represent various parameters relative to manufacturing such as on-time delivery rating, quality of product, defects found after receipt, on-time payment, canceled orders due to late discovery of production issues and other types of useful information. Ratings left by 3rd party users within the system regarding past performance are used by the system to create a numerical scale called the DMS score.
  • In one embodiment, the DMS rating generated will provide a weighted average based on time of old jobs and newer jobs so that the quality of work from each company on the system can be weighted against the quality of their work recently. Poor performance on recent work carries a higher weight than good performance historically. Likewise, good performance recently will help provide a more positive score than poor work that is very old. In this embodiment, canceled orders shall be represented as several times a particular company using the system has canceled an order or failed to pay for an order. The overall method and spirit of the embodiment provides a method to enhance quality and customer satisfaction in a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise distributed manufacturing method performed by the system.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may additionally comprise a material matching subsystem [165]. In such an embodiment, the subsystem provides organizing capabilities to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system. The system receives a request to analyze design intent for the product comprising the material. The subsystem then queries and generates a list of production resources indexed within the system matching the printer device meeting the material requirements specified in the order production criteria [287]. As a result of the analysis, the material matching system module may make the selection list of production resources available to the production scheduling system [188] for the purpose of organizing 3D CAD model files within the order aggregation system into subset groups of 3D CAD models according to the material required to meet the design intent. Additionally, the material matching system enables the commercial user to input and correlate materials to design intent for products and materials. In this manner, the system is capable of dividing aggregated orders into subgroup aggregations or “batches” of CAD Model files according to material specification for each 3D CAD Model file representing production jobs within the system.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system includes modular controllers for generating nested “tray” files of 3D CAD model file geometry fitting within the printable area or bounding box of 3D Printing devices defined by a commercial user and indexed within the system. The “tray” files are comprised of tightly “packed” arrangements of 3D CAD Model geometry as demonstrated in FIG. 23. The operation of the “packing” is performed by subsystems including a Staking system [162] and nesting system [163]. The stacking system and nesting system work collaboratively to receive, process analyze and re-orient and arrange 3D CAD model files in order to optimize the printing process by tightly packing nested arrangements within a bounding box or printable area. The performance of the operation is provided by and outlined by the processing steps of the Nesting system in FIG. 21 including receiving a request to process and analyze a 3D CAD model file [255], causing the nesting system to parse the 3D CAD Model file using one or more 3D CAD Kernels available to the system in order to obtain the geometry and size of the 3D CAD Model file. The nesting system then performs a calculation to compute the optimum build orientation of the 3D CAD model geometry that will result in minimizing the print time and or maximizing printer utilization and then re-orients the geometry of the 3D CAD Model according to the angle determined by the processing steps [258] for staking and nesting and then makes the re-oriented geometry data available to the staking system for further processing [258]. The subsystem additionally provides commercial user input for defining production manufacturing parameters for the operation of the nesting system [259]. In conjunction with the nesting system, the stacking system [161] performs processing steps including receiving the re-oriented 3D CAD Model geometry [260] from the nesting system for production [260] and adds the 3D CAD model geometry representing the order as needed to maximizing production capacity of the selected 3D Printer device meeting the production criteria of the order and fitting the geometry of the 3D CD Model matching the order within the printable area or bounding box the printer device [261] and continues to add 3D CAD Models until the build envelope is full or reaching a preset limit [262] based on commercial user input [265]. The stacking system additionally “writes” a computer file called a “build tray” to the system for production [264]. The build tray files represent nested or packed arrangements of 3D CAD model files intended for production by a printing device resource meeting the production criteria for each model in the nested batch. Therefore, each tray file is also a batched arrangement of many 3D CAD Models intended to be produced by a single machine in a single print job.
  • The problem of nesting for an Additive Manufacturing system is based on the number of 3D CAD Models that will fit within the bounding box or build area of the Additive Manufacturing Device selected for production. In the prior art software methods that electronically perform this process analyze the geometry of the CAD Models related to queued Jobs, computing the best build angle to minimize the build time of the queued jobs and based on the analysis results, the system then re-orients the geometry of the 3D CAD Models. The system then electronically positions the re-oriented 3D CAD Model geometry within the virtual build envelope and repeating the process until the build envelope is full or the system reaches a preset limit set by a user (a constraint). When the subroutine is completed, the now fully nested “tray” file is written to the system as a Build File for production and placed into a production queue. The output build file containing the nested geometry of the CAD 3D Models from the batch such that the output file can then be transferred to (assigned to) a 3D Printer Device (queued) to produce the entre batch as a single operation.
  • In one embodiment, the stacking [161] and nesting [162] systems are regulated and controlled by input of special needs and production parameters defining the nesting operation [259] and stacking system [265]. In practice the build envelope is based on data received by the system defining the Additive Manufacturing equipment's available print area or bounding box also defined in the system [254]. In the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise System the nesting operation [308] works in conjunction with a Stacking operation [307] collaboratively responsible for the task of arranging a batch of 3D CAD Models submitted to the system by analyzing and then generating a nesting solution for a batch from the total aggregated jobs in the queue. The Nesting or packing operation is therefore automatically combining many 3D CAD Model geometries within the virtual bounding box area of 3D printer(s). The automation of the system is a substantial leap forward over manually nesting 3D CAD Models. Prior solutions required a human to manually select, locate and orient each 3D Model in the virtual build envelope.
  • In one embodiment, the nesting and stacking system utilizes one or more CAD Kernels or “engines” [305] to parse each 3D CAD model file, determine its size and orientation and compute an optimal build orientation that allows more 3D Models to be nested for production within the build envelope of an additive manufacturing device. The kernel(s) arranged to perform the analysis and perform the re-orientation of the geometry. Of course, many various CAD Kernels are available as previously described and may be used to perform these tasks.
  • In one embodiment, the result is that the system “packs” the batch of models into a single file prepared for fabrication. The tray files are then assigned to machine queues where they are scheduled for production utilizing the selected machine and where the selected machine, having been chosen, by the system based on the machines capabilities as defined previously by the commercial user within the system utilizing the commercial user interface to provide the input by the commercial user of the system. In this manner the files are prepared for fabrication on a particular production resource. The production Scheduling subsystem utilizes estimated times to fabricate the batch being determined by the production criteria defined in the system for the machine. This criterion may include the Z-axis build rate per unit time. In this manner, a production schedule slot may be determined because the time to print the batch is known because of the production criteria defined by the user in the system for the printer.
  • Therefore, in one embodiment, the packing and nesting subsystems may be used in conjunction with the production scheduling system to generate nested build files comprised of batches of 3D CAD model geometry and assign the batches to the production queue of one or more machines available to the system. In this manner, the system establishes a production schedule for when the next batch or tray file may be processed after the current batch completes and in doing so dynamically generates a production schedule.
  • In another embodiment, stacking and nesting subsystems may “pack” the batches as a stand-alone subsystem offering commercial utility as such a subsystem. In such an embodiment, the “nesting” subsystem may additionally make the 3D CAD model “tray” files directly downloaded able from the system by a commercial user for use in an AM printer. In such a deployment, the operation of the system may be used in conjunction with an Application programming interface (API) to transfer a batch of files to the system, enabling the system to “pack” or “nest” the batch and then return the nested tray file now containing the batch to the remote system utilizing the system and system requesting the operation. In such an embodiment, the system may additionally provide n web-based interface for the operation of uploading and downloading the batch to be nested and the nested or packed batches respectively. In all cases the system is a commercial application particularly useful for additive manufacturing at scale and provides commercial utility alone and or in conjunction with other modular systems outlined herein.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system is automatically routing and stacking 3D CAD Models representing products, including nesting operations into a batch order that maximizes the production capacity and delivery timeline for the products. In essence, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Nesting and stacking system is “packing” the 3D CAD Models together so that a “tray” of unique orders is combined into a file that contains many individual orders such that the available print area on an Additive Fabrication machine is efficiently and completely utilized. Of course, based on order volumes and forecasts, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may decide to limit how many 3D CAD modes it combines into a “tray” of orders to best manage the tradeoff between capacity and delivery time.
  • In one embodiment, each nested or “packed” tray file has then been prepared by the system for production scheduling on available production resources available to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system deploying the method of the invention may make use of multiple types of Additive manufacturing hardware simultaneously or concurrently or concurrently to manifest a plurality of components of an assembly that comprise a product that are by design or by desire, necessary to be made of different materials and assembled from the various from components after they are manifested on Additive Manufacturing machines. Examples of this material may include metals of varying natures, plastics or polymers of varying nature, waxes or even composites. Such varying needs require the embodiment of the present invention to encompass the entire gamut of Additive Freeform Fabrication hardware. The system carrying out the invention is therefore routing each 3D CAD model to a different 3D Printer device, by sorting a scheduling each discrete portion of the assembly represented by a 3D CAD model file to different production devices and or locations.
  • In another embodiment, products may require other Additive Fabrication Hardware depending on the desired mechanical properties of a particular product or part of a product or assembly. For example, a toy may be made of a single or multiple plastic parts or a similar constitution of metal parts. They may also be combinations of dissimilar materials and even dissimilar colors of similar materials. For example, a particular product may be made of an assembly of parts that are each unique both in dimensions and the material they are composed of. For example, a toy car may be made of a blue plastic body, black plastic wheels, a metal axle and a rubber bumper. To make each part would require a different Additive Freeform Fabrication machine to output each unique product. After manifestation through the Additive Fabrication hardware, the post processing of this example would include assembly of the constituent parts that together comprise the final product. To properly utilize the method of the invention, the system deploying the method would require a method to adequately relay the necessity to distribute the individual or constituent parts of an assembly to an appropriate Additive Fabrication machine for producing the parts in an automatic or semi-automatic methodology.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may additionally provide a Digital Traveler system module [163] providing a method for tracking or identifying customer-specific or product specific products which are processed through the subsystem.
  • The Digital Traveler system provides an interface as demonstrated in FIG. 35. The interface, resembles the Co-Design interface and enables the commercial user, using the system, via an interface to select a Digital Traveler function [218] and is presented with a digital traveler definition interface [320] enabling the user to define a digital traveler feature [321] for a base 3D CAD model [319] within the interface. The Digital Traveler system enables the commercial user to define the traveler location, geometry and information to be conveyed [285] by the commercial user. The digital traveler feature may take many general forms including but not limited to a casting sprue [273], a break-away tab [274] or direct part marking [275].
  • In one embodiment, the digital traveler system may convert and generate geometry for a traveler feature including traveler data into any type of geometry including but not limited to alphanumeric, hieroglyphic or art and translate or parse the data, barcodes or graphics in such as manner as to make it possible to attach or append the data to a 3D geometry representing a product. The system is further programmed to attach or append the data to a 3D product in an automated fashion wherein the data is parsed and or transposed as 3D geometry directly on a 3D product or part or affix the data to an appendage to the 3D part in such a manner that it becomes a part of the 3D geometry representing a part or product. This appendage or placard is then manifested along with the 3D product as part of the overall geometry of the part and shall become part of the object. The 3D geometry serves the purpose of providing order, lot or other specific data needed to identify the part after manifestation via Additive Manufacturing. In this manner, the Digital Traveler may additionally enable identification of discrete components that collectively describe a product when assembled and enable the identification of these parts as they relate to other components enabling the parts to be batched after production and therefore enable all parts relating to a unique production job to be identified post-production and readily and easily grouped together.
  • In one embodiment, the processing steps of the digital traveler system are automated in the following manner. The Commercial user accessing the system uploads a 3D CAD Model file intended to be made available from a catalog [280] and representing a product. The user defines the traveler [285] using the interface illustrated in FIG. 35. The commercial user then saves and publishes the 3D CAD Model making it available to be obtained by 3rd parties using the system. Upon placing an order, the traveler system receives a command to process the 3D CAD model for production. The system initiates a command to the traveler system which receives the 3D CAD model file for processing [280]. The traveler system then parses the order or customer unique information and generates the traveler geometry [281] by instructing a 3D CAD Kernel or engine [282] to generate the geometry according to the requirements defined by the traveler [283] and updates the 3D CAD Model file, now containing the traveler geometry and submits the updated 3D CAD model back to the system for additional production processing [284]. In this manner the Digital Traveler system and its processing steps also provide a quality control function that may, for example, prevent mix-up of orders produced in a high velocity/high-mix manufacturing environment.
  • Therefore, the nature and spirit of the Digital Traveler system is therefore to digitally automate the conveyance of information necessary to identify the order or unique customer to whom a product processed by the system belongs. This may include but not be limited to where to ship the product, how to cross reference the product with a database containing other information. Furthermore the data on the appendage may reflect manufacturer specific data including logos, artwork, text, barcodes, 3D data matrices, batch code, lot number, manufacturer's number, part number, location number, city state or zip code information or other alpha-numeric or other pictorial symbols conveying information that can be mathematically described in a manner that allows the data to be manifested through an Additive Freeform Fabrication process. It should be obvious that the system could be deployed to apply the data described throughout this patent to any product that is manifested via Additive Freeform Fabrication.
  • As such, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system has now been adequately described to provide processing capabilities in a novel method and arrangement that is particularly useful for receiving and processing 3D CAD Model files and Meta-Data according to production criteria and production scheduling in a manner that is useful for Additive Manufacturing. The processing steps included aggregating 3D CAD model files in an order aggregation device and processing the production requirements for each 3D CAD model file according to the production criteria defined in the meta-data for each 3D CAD model file in order to determine organizing steps for the 3D CAD Model files including sorting the 3D CAD Model files by production criteria including material selection and geographical location for delivery into subset groups of 3D CAD model files based on the production criteria and then arranging the 3D CAD model files into batches of 3D CAD model files and nesting the batches into tightly packed arrangements of multiple 3D CAD Model files fitting within the bounding box or printable area of a production resource. The system additionally compiles the nested or packed tray files into a single computer file containing instructions for causing, at least in part, an additive manufacturing machine to produce the CAD Models in the nested batches of 3D CAD models and scheduling the nested batches of 3D CAD model files on available production resources according to a dynamic production schedule determined by the system according to concepts of production scheduling understood by one skilled in the art.
  • In one embodiment, the production scheduling system, utilizes organizing criteria for the jobs comprising one or more of; 3D printing materials required for each object, the size of the object to be printed relative to the build envelope of indexed Additive Manufacturing Machines available and or defined in the system, the geospatial location for physical delivery of the object, the quantity of the object to be produced, the quantity of 3D Printers available to the scheduling system, the geospatial location of the 3D Printers available to the system and other capacity constraints defined in the system.
  • In one embodiment, facilitating the production scheduling requires the computer system to parse data from the 3D CAD Model files, the Meta-Data for the 3D CAD Models, and other production criteria (including materials, location and quantity) and then determine a capacity plan for producing the jobs in the production queue which is comprised of 3D CAD model files. Of course, the production plan is dynamic as all production scheduling systems are dynamic, meaning that the production scheduling is continuously being updated, based on capacity constraints, volume and criteria received by the system. The activities arranged to optimize production workloads between indexed production resources (Additive manufacturing printer devices) available to and indexed within the production scheduling system. The production scheduling system making determinations, based on previously received and indexed information that includes equipment, processes, materials and locations for such facilities having Additive Manufacturing Machines. The production system is therefore, determining a respective capacity plan for each production resource including the location of each production resource to be used for production of each 3D object in the production plan. This includes the location of each production resource to be used, locally and as previously disclosed, optionally, remotely located production resource.
  • In one embodiment, the Production Scheduling subsystem can be utilized as a stand-alone system much in the same way that the Co-Design system has been described. The production scheduling system is accessed through a website or web portal. The production scheduling system being adapted to process 3D CAD Model data files containing 3D CA Model geometry. The computer system routes a plurality of individual 3D CAD Model files, representing orders through the production scheduling system including properly nesting the 3D models representing the unique orders into a batch order that maximizes the production capacity and delivery timeline e for the products. In essence, the computer system is virtually stacking the products together so that a “tray” of unique orders is combined into a file that contains many individual orders such that the available print area on an Additive Fabrication machine is efficiently and completely utilized. Of course, based on order volumes and forecasts, the system may decide to limit how many units it combines into a “tray” of orders to best manage the trade-off between capacity and delivery time.
  • Additional Exemplary Embodiments
  • In the following additional exemplary embodiment, the Made to Order portion and Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the system and their modular controller subsystems are employed together performing the overall Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise method and system.
  • A commercial user, using the Made-To-Order and Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the modular system to publish an exemplary website on a domain as demonstrated in FIG. 33. The website subsystem provides an electronic commerce system [313] and enables the Co-design subsystem to provide Customization of products [314] within the website. The modular system is deployed on multiple distributed computer servers that are networked as demonstrated in FIG. 11 and comprised of a plurality of modular controllers as demonstrated in FIG. 9. The system enables a plurality of users to access the modular system as demonstrated in FIG. 12 by various means and communication methods.
  • In one embodiment of the exemplary deployment, the modular system is arranged and communicatively coupled with other subsystems to receive a selection of a base 3D CAD model from a user using a user device in communication with the system controller. Upon receiving the base 3D CAD model from the user device, the modular system generates and causes to display on the user device, a Co-Design interface and a representation of the base 3D CAD Model [104] as demonstrated in FIG. 2. The Co Design interface provided by the Co-Design subsystems enables the user using the Co-Design Interface Input-Output controls system to define co-design constraints [102] representing customization features configurable by a 3rd party user. The user can publish and sell the design within the system [109] and the system enables making the design available within a marketplace on a website [315].
  • A 3rd party consumer user, using a user device, accesses the website of a commercial user publishing the catalog of 3D CAD models within the electronic marketplace. The 3rd party user searches [170] and or browses [169] and selects one or more products available within the system and represented by at least one 3D CAD Model stored within and available from the system [162]. The system causes to display, at least in part, on the user device, a web page [183] containing information enabling the user to acquire the product [112] within an interface exemplified in FIG. 3 an additionally providing the interface of the Co-Design subsystem [111]. In this case, the base product is a Motorcycle gas tank [110]. The interface provides controls for editing any co-design constraints previously configured by the commercial user [111] or 3rd party user adding content to the system and Configuring Co-Design constraints [102]. The customization feature tools displayed to the consumer user on the website are based on the co-design features [102] such that not all co-design tools are loaded unless the product has a feature requiring any particular co-design function from the Co-Design subsystem since the Co-Design subsystem is comprised of other subsystem modules such as an extrude command [172] or an emboss command [173]. The 3rd party user is enabled to configure the pre-defined co-design constraints by selecting and inputting values within the website page [183] that are converted to geometry changes to the base 3D CAD model by the various subsystems and a 3D CAD Kernel or engine [159]. Of course, to one skilled in the art of ecommerce, a user may also purchase a product as-is without customization selections, even if presented with such options. Likewise, the user may elect to not configure co-design features and simple publish the design in the site. As such the Co-Design subsystem would not display customization options to the 3rd party acquiring the product within the website.
  • When the 3rd party user requests to obtain the product [112] represented by the 3D CAD Model [110], the Made-To-Order portions of the system initiates a process to compile the Co-Designed 3D CAD model file into a final 3D CAD Model file and initiate a route for manufacturing subroutine [127] causing the system to transfer or transmits the finalized design and meta-data representing production criteria to an order aggregation device arranged to receive and buffer the 3D CAD models [135] representing orders for the product represented by the 3D CAD Model [137].
  • The Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system receives the 3D CAD Model file in the order aggregation device and the corresponding production criteria meta-data [139]. The Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system initiates a process for manufacturing subroutine [312]. The receipt, by the system initiates and causes a series of processing steps to occur which are conducted on both the production data and the 3D CAD model file data itself by the modular controllers of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the System as demonstrated in FIG. 20. The processing steps include submitting a request to the production system causing the production subsystem to initiate a series of processing steps including analyzing the production criteria of the product [246]. This includes a material matching subroutine as demonstrated in FIG. 29. The material matching subroutine is provided by the material matching modular controller [165] which matches a production jobs material requirements to production indexed resources capable of meeting the production specifications for the production job [287] by parsing the production criteria and 3D CAD model file geometry to determine the production requirements for the 3D CAD Model and providing the information to the production system controller [288]. Another step is the analysis of the production criteria
  • is the analysis of the 3D CAD Model geometry, by the system to ensure that the system distributes the various production jobs to the appropriate machines depending on defined parameters including the maximum printable size, print speed or throughput (Capacity) of equipment defined in the system. This information is used by the production system controller to determine production operation information including orientation and size of the 3D CAD model described in the file. This is accomplished by one or more 3D CAD Kernels within the system and the production system controller. The results of the analysis are utilized for downstream processing steps provided by the Digital manufacturing Enterprise portions of the system.
  • The downstream processing steps include organizing the 3D CAD Models according to production criteria including material requested or required and geospatial location for physical delivery. The location for physical delivery is a geospatial location on earth received by the system during an e-commerce transaction where the user provides such information to the system and represents meta-data representing a production criteria item to the system. This enables the system to match the location for physical delivery of the product with an indexed production resource utilizing the remote manufacturing system modular controller [166]. This enables the production system to then organize the production jobs and their corresponding 3D CAD Models into subset groups of 3D CAD models according the location criteria while the material matching modular controller [165] enables the system to further organize production jobs and their corresponding 3D CAD models into groups according to their material production requirement as demonstrated by FIG. 29. The subset groups of 3D CAD models organized by the system into subset groups are then submitted to and processed by the nesting [162] and stacking [161] modular controller subsystems. The Stacking and nesting systems process the 3D CAD Models in order to “pack” the subset groups of 3D CAD Models into nested arrangements [267] of 3D CAD Model geometry where each 3D CAD Model may represent an individual order [266].
  • In one embodiment, the sorting of the 3D CAD models to a 3D Printing machine, device or facility may additionally comprise production criteria or parameters for each type of 3D Printing device including the maximum size or build envelope, speed or throughput or material science of the particular process utilized by each 3D Printer Device indexed as a production resource within the system. It may also be a customer defined option, utilizing the system, to manifest the product as plastic, metal, or other material as limited only be the available equipment locally. Such a system might also determine to schedule and send the 3D CAD Model representing the product to a distributed facility for manifestation if capacity restrictions or other parameter limits or restricts local production options.
  • After determining a respective capacity, a quality rating, and a location from a plurality of indexed manufacturing resources, the modular production scheduling subsystem [160] assigns the nested tray file to an indexed production resource available to and indexed within the system that met the production requirements for the order [276] and may assign other nested tray files to other indexed production machines [279].
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system may additionally provide part tracking and traceability functions utilizing a digital traveler subsystem modular controller. The Traveler subsystem provides for the generation of part marking information making each order easily identifiable by a human after production operations by additive manufacturing. This feature provides substantial utility in a high mix/high volume enterprise additive manufacturing factory or facility and enables identification of an order after printing. The traveler geometry is appended to the 3D CAD Model before nesting and staking operations so that the added geometry is accounted for during the packing operations performed by the system.
  • In one embodiment, the traveler geometry is suppressed during view within the browser to the user during the co-design session but generated during production and printing. This is done to not confuse the customer during the design-to-purchase process.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may additionally comprise a distributed manufacturing operation. In such a deployment, additional commercial users' access, define profiles within and input production resources available at the remote production facility. In such an embodiment, the system is additionally enabled to consider remote production resources as capacity available to the system for scheduling operations. In this manner, the system may then communicate with a remote order aggregation device and transfer or transmit 3D CAD Models and or nested tray files to a remote production facility arranged to receive and aggregate such information. In this exemplary embodiment, the remote facility fulfills the order by producing the 3D CAD Model file for fulfillment and delivery to the user requesting the product from the system, according to the production criteria received by the system, in this case including the delivery address. The selection of the remote facility to receive and produce the product is made by the processing steps performed by the Digital Manufacturing enterprise system.
  • It should now be recognized that the receipt of the 3D CAD Model by the system does not require a co-design of a 3D CAD Model and merely requires that the system receive a 3D CAD Model file and production criteria in order to perform the various production system and subsystems processing steps and in doing so, all processing steps are performed and result in operations that ‘route’ or move virtually, the 3D CAD Model file geometry with the intent of scheduling each 3D CAD Model for production in a dynamic production system in a manner particularly useful for additive manufacturing. As such the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system is agnostic to the geometry of the 3D CAD model file data received by the system and will perform the processing steps in the same manner regardless of the Co-Design method or not.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise System additionally provides utilization of encryption methods for the data in the system including for distributed manufacturing of wartime assets to the US military including forward battlefield manufacturing, shipboard manufacturing, or other deployment methods. In this methodology, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise System provides an on-demand distributed manufacturing system for the United States Military. The encryption and digital distribution of Digital Manufacturing assets for the US Military is a highly advantageous technology. Coupled with the Digital Traveler methodology of the system, it enables the automatic, on-demand distributed manufacturing of military assets complete with part markings for traceability and serialization.
  • In another embodiment the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system includes, and an API or application programming interface enabling 3rd party integrators to devise and submit 3D CAD Model files and production criteria to the system.
  • In another embodiment, utilizing a computerized approach to intelligent adaptive thermal compensation of part geometry, the system accommodates and processes the coefficients of thermal expansion and desired end part dimensions, the system can eliminate the need for designers to consider thermal properties from the design cycle by placing the burden on computerized processing. Utilizing one or more 3D CAD Kernels and additional parameters and constraints, the system can “simulate” the thermal expansion or shrinkage of the part being analyzed. In this manner it may “compensate” for process variables to ensure a better part fit, prevent warping or predict shrinkage of a part based on consolidation and burnout of binding materials.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing enterprise system may utilize a computerized approach to intelligent adaptive geometry generation performed utilizing Finite Element Analysis methodology to predict geometry performance to given loads in a given material by means of one or more approaches to design utilizing one or 3D CAD Kernels and as a result, modifying the geometry of the base 3D CAD Model adaptively. In such an embodiment, the utility is apparent, for example, in Battlefield Forward Manufacturing of replacement parts for the military. In such an environment, the Military employs Mobile Parts Hospitals to manufacture replacements components on-the-spot. When inexperienced personnel attempt to create usable parts for combat replacement in the field and installation at Forward Repair Areas, they manufacture apart from an available material that does not have the same performance characteristics as the original material. This can lead to an unintended consequence. Although the original part may be scanned or measured and then machined or printed on-site, the material may be inferior. A field failure during combat could result in objective failure or loss of life. Since the forward Manufacturing center (mobile Parts Hospital) likely lack engineers to perform finite element analysis (a level of expertise requiring specialized training or an engineering degree) to determine if the part will adequately withstand the stresses encountered during use in a different material, another method must be found.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may provide additive Manufacturing process technology for net-shape battery production utilizing Voxel modeling which is a process that describes heterogeneous product composition. When Voxel modeling is coupled with multi-jet additive modeling technology, it becomes possible to directly manufacture batteries, complete with casing in shapes that maximize capacity in constrained spaces. One practical application of this concept is a power source for non-lethal weapons technology being developed by Peter Bitar in an SBIR funded DOD program through Extreme Alternative Defense Systems Ltd. Using batteries “printed” with their own encapsulation and conducting elements, the entire weapon body could become an energy storage device with cavities built-in for electronics and other necessary hardware. EXADS current Close Quarters unit prototype weapon requires a separate power source roughly the size of a suitcase. Highly efficient dense energy systems including Li-Poly batteries or fuel cells may be producible using RM technology.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Traveler system has commercial utility as a stand-alone system or module. The Digital Traveler system may provide a user interface for configuring the digital traveler feature to pre-existing base 3D CAD Models. Then, upon production by AM, the desired information that was previously defined is converted into 3D Geometry in the desired configuration and produced along with the actual geometry by the Additive Manufacturing device. The result is identification markings for each part, in each build envelope on each 3D Printer device regardless of the final customer obtaining the part. The Digital Traveler therefore is used to convert required/desired information into physical form.
  • In another embodiment, the Made-To-Order and or Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may provide for 3D CAD Model file retrieval from an Enterprise Product Data Management and or Product Lifecycle Management system. In this embodiment, the system enables the retrieval of the revision-controlled CAD model data from the system by creating a cop of the 3D CAD Model file and submitting it to one or more order aggregation devices.
  • In one embodiment, each modular controller may be coupled to the remaining portions of the entire system by means of an application programming interface.
  • In another embodiment, multiple commercial users may deploy and utilize multiple installations of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system. This is possible and enabled because the invention is a commercial software system. In such an embodiment, each discrete location in this distributed manufacturing embodiment represents a node having production criteria including the materials, machines and capabilities at each node and stored in each locations deployment of the system. The systems or nodes are interconnected by the remote manufacturing system and therefore share the information about each facilities production capability with other nodes and therefore creating a distributed ledger of Production resources and capacity in a distributed network, much like DARPANET. In such an embodiment, a node using the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system receives the 3D CAD Model and generates a build file. Digital Factory node then uses its ledger to determine a local or remote machine meeting production criterion and routes the file to the local or remote machine/node.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital manufacturing Enterprise system provides a completely flexible and scalable production operation as demonstrated in FIG. 36. Capacity within the system is expanded by purchasing additional Additive Manufacturing hardware [322] or [323] or [324] and indexing the production capabilities of the new printing device in the system. Adding more hardware to the system may not include purchase if the deployment model takes advantage or distributed networking, the internet and available remote production facilities having hardware available and coupled to the system as illustrated in FIG. 12. Remote production facilities are each arranged to access and use the system and have order aggregation devices attached to their remote facility [204] and having AM machines [206] representing production resources and where the local instance of the Digital Manufacturing enterprise system [211] may also have local AM machines [207] or [208] or [209] and representing local production resources available to the production scheduling controller.
  • In one embodiment, each 3D Printing Device indexed in the system has unique features and specifications including a build envelope, a material it can print, a process type, a print speed or other parameters.
  • As demonstrated herein the embodiment of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system and its various modular subsystem controllers adapt and apply the concepts known to one skilled in the art of industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering of production scheduling and organizing activities to 3D CAD models, treating the 3D CAD models as the object being routed and scheduled by the system processing steps and thus providing a novel approach to enterprise-scale or industrial-scale Additive Manufacturing workflow management in an automated or semi-automated computerized Digital Manufacturing Enterprise System enabling a commercial user to deploy such a system. In this manner, the invention provides
  • In the following exemplary embodiment, the website [313], e-commerce system and the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the system and modular controller subsystems are utilized by a commercial user selling and manufacturing replacement antique car parts.
  • A commercial user uses a website e-commerce system as demonstrated in FIG. 4, adapted to retrieve copies of 3D CAD models representing products from a PDM/PLM system. The commercial user publishes the e-commerce website on the commercial user's website domain. The website subsystem provides the electronic commerce system [313] and enables, the 3rd party users to obtain the products available for sale within the website.
  • The commercial user ensures that the PDM/PLM system contains the 3D CAD Models of the parts and products representing the antique car parts or products. For example, a 1957 Chevrolet Hood Bullet, which is chrome-plated, cast metal. Such products are hard to find and the sales of such products are infrequent. Therefore, maintaining inventory is a significant challenge to serve low volume parts infrequently however, the current invention makes such opportunistic sales much easier since the inventory is merely 3D CAD Models and production criteria for the 3D CAD models.
  • A 3rd party consumer user using a computing device accesses the website catalog of the commercial user and is presented with the catalog of products represented by the 3D CAD Models stored in the PDM/PLM system or in fact any database or file system. The 3rd party user browses and selects the product from the online catalog and subsequently requests to obtain the product. This request triggers a process for manufacturing subroutine [127] which results in a copy of the 3D CAD Model(s) representing the product to be generated, and associated with production criteria for the 3D CAD Model and transfers (routes) the 3D CAD Model(s) and meta-data containing production criteria for the 3D CAD model to a computing device arranged to provide an order aggregation device and the operations of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Portions of the system as a workflow management system for Additive Manufacturing. In this exemplary embodiment, Additive Manufacturing workflow management system is operated by a 3rd party commercial user having production resources available and meeting the requirements of the 1st commercial user and representing production capacity.
  • The 3rd party commercial users Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system having received the 3D CAD Model file in an order aggregation device and corresponding production criteria meta-data [139], causes the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system to initiate a process for manufacturing subroutine [312]. The receipt, by the system initiates and causes a series of processing steps to occur which are conducted on both the production data and the 3D CAD model file data itself by the modular controllers of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the System.
  • Simultaneously many 3rd party consumer users are simultaneously accessing the system and requesting to obtain a plurality of different products represented by different 3D CAD Models within the system. Each 3rd party consumer user requests to obtain a different product from the plurality. Each request causes a similar processing step to generate a copy of the 3D CAD Model file data and associated production criteria and transfer (route) the respective 3D CAD Models and production criteria to the order aggregation device of the Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system.
  • The receipt of the plurality of 3D CAD Models and corresponding production criteria causes the Additive Manufacturing workflow management system to convert each received 3D CAD Model and production criteria into production jobs and then initiates a series of processing steps including analyzing the production criteria of the 3D CAD Model [246]. This includes a material matching subroutine as demonstrated in FIG. 29. The material matching subroutine is provided by the material matching modular controller
  • which matches a production jobs material requirements to indexed production resources capable of meeting the production specifications for the production job [287] by parsing the production criteria and 3D CAD model file geometry to determine the production requirements for the 3D CAD Model and providing the information to the production system controller [288]. Another step is the analysis of the production criteria [246] is the analysis of the 3D CAD Model geometry, by the system to ensure that the system distributes the various production jobs to the appropriate machines depending on defined parameters including the maximum printable size, print speed or throughput (Capacity) of equipment defined in the system. This information is used by the production system controller to determine production operation information including orientation and size of the 3D CAD model described in the file. This is accomplished by one or more 3D CAD Kernels associated with the Additive Manufacturing workflow management system controller.
  • In the exemplary embodiment offering antique car parts, the AM workflow management system determines at least one respective organization plan for the 3D CAD Models representing products based on at least one production criteria for each 3D CAD model file and system indexed capacity resources and constraints. The AM workflow management system then organizes the 3D CAD Models according to the organization plan and transfers (route), by the workflow management system, subset groups of 3D CAD models in the order aggregation device to a controller arranged to receive the subset groups of 3D CAD Models for nesting and stacking operations (Packing) and generating tray files. The nesting and stacking controller receive batches (subset groups) of 3D CAD Model files and production criteria for each batch and determines a packing plan that optimizes utilization of a the printable area or bounding box of the 3D Printer device meeting the production criteria. The nesting and stacking system controller them compiles the optimized arrangement into a tray file containing the data describing the geometry of the batch of 3D CAD Models and transfers (routes), the tray files to an Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system, in a manner also associating the production criteria. The Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system then assigns each received tray file to an indexed production resource according to the at least one organization plan and then transfers (routes), by the Workflow management system, each tray file to at least one indexed Additive Manufacturing device for production of the geometry contained in the nested tray file. The tray file is used by the Additive Manufacturing device to instruct it to fabricate the batch of geometry described within the tray file, utilizing the instructions provided within the tray file to do so.
  • Of course in such an exemplary embodiment, the production scheduling controller may provide the means for the commercial user to alter the production schedule using the production scheduling interface by re-arranging the production jobs each comprised of a nested and packed tray file and at least one production criteria.
  • Additionally, in such an exemplary embodiment, the Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system may additionally utilize a Digital Traveler System controller within the workflow operations. In such a manner, the workflow management system enables the 1st commercial user to utilize an interface to establish a digital traveler feature and saves the criteria for the feature for recall. A 3rd party consumer user then selects and requests to obtain a product in the same manner as before however, an additional workflow step occurs wherein the workflow management system submits the 3D CAD Model to the Digital Traveler controller which parses the digital traveler feature criteria and then instructs one or more 3D CAD kernels to convert the digital traveler information criteria to geometry and updates the 3D CAD Model file to additionally contain the Digital Traveler Feature. The system then conducts the remaining workflow steps as demonstrated previously including the nesting and stacking operations for generating the nested or “packed” tray files. And results in the production of geometry containing the traveler feature geometry according to the requirements. This crucial step enables the production shop to easily identify each individual order by the traveler data. This is especially useful in a high-mix production environment where many different parts for man different customers are all produced in nested batches optimizing production resource use.
  • In this exemplary embodiment, it was demonstrated that the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Portion of the system was again split into two or more parts, each offering commercial utility and benefit. 1 commercial user uses the website and ecommerce portion of the invention, a second commercial user uses the Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system and a 3rd commercial user offers the Nesting and stacking modular controller as a plug-in to the Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system. Each of these workflow management systems may be operated on remote computing devices and communicatively coupled over the internet, including communicating by means of an API or Application Programming Interface. In this example, the Ecommerce portion delivers 3D CAD Models to the Workflow Management portion which in turn delivers the groups of models to a nesting and stacking system controller which in turn returns nested arrangement tray files to the production and fabrication shop (2nd commercial user). The tray files are produced with the traveler geometry enabling the shop to identify orders and their destination as well as post processing steps. In this case, the chrome plating of a metal part produced by Additive Manufacturing from the 3D CAD Model file. The final product is then shipped to the customer, based on the production criteria which included a shipping address.
  • ERP Integration
  • Product Data Management and Product Lifecycle Management Systems (PDM/PLM) systems are typically used by organizations where manufacturing data is revision controlled with a revision controlled workflow requiring permission to check out the files, create a new revision and approve the new revision for manufacturing. It is therefore beneficial for Additive Manufacturing systems to enable storage and retrieval from PDM/PLM system to request 3D CAD Models directly from the Prevision controlled DM/PLM system.
  • In one embodiment, the PDM/PLM system as represented in FIG. 20 may be incorporated into the workflow of the system. 3D CAD models stored in the PDM/PLM system represent products or parts that may be obtained using the 3D CAD Model and the workflow of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow management system. Upon request to obtain a physical product, the system generates a copy of the revision controlled 3D CAD Model data obtained from the PDM/PLM system and transfer or transmits (routes) the copy of the 3D CAD Model file to an order aggregation device for production of the object and where the order aggregation device is associated with the Enterprise Digital Manufacturing Production Workflow management System and is arranged to receive such data [245]. The receipt of the 3D CAD model by the system and or associated meta-data including production criteria causes a process for manufacturing subroutine to be initiated [312]. The subsequent processing steps of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portion of the system having been previously described are then accomplished by the modular controllers and subsystems for organizing the 3D CAD models for production. In this manner, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system provides utility for the commercial user operating Additive Manufacturing Equipment and having PDM/PLM stored product data.
  • In one embodiment the PDM/PLM integration method is accomplished by means of an API or application programming interface and is arranged to access the PDM/PLM system data and or receive the data utilizing the API.
  • This workflow as an example has a substantial implication for producing replacement parts for everything from antique cars to washing machines to military hardware. A Company may make available all of its older legacy designs without having to physically store tooling or inventory to meet the demand and instead produce each part on-demand—potentially batched with other on-demand orders to efficiently utilize Additive Manufacturing production resources.
  • In another embodiment, the current disclosure enables the integration of the production scheduling workflow with enterprise PDM/PLM systems in order to create utility for at-scale Additive Manufacturing including the efficient production scheduling of the CAD Models into available production resources. In such an embodiment, the system is analyzing at least one of; the CAD Model geometry for size, the material requirements for the production, the location for production, the quantity for production, the production time required for production, the current production schedule, the current delivery schedule, the backlog of current production, local available production resources and remote production resources in order to manage the tradeoff between throughput and delivery time.
  • In one embodiment, the catalog may be presented to a customer/user that is able to see all revisions of the product. In this manner they may request any revision to be produced to meet the needs of their replacement part for the device at the revision level required. This is because companies often change parts over time as revisions improve the device, but this does not preclude the need for older versions of the parts for older products customers have previously purchase.
  • In another embodiment, the Digital Factory system may be used in conjunction with PDM/PLM systems AND a Co-Design system. In such an embodiment, the system additionally enables 3D CAD Models stored in the PDM/PLM system to be configured by Co-Design and therefore enables mass customization prior to production.
  • In another embodiment, utilizing the invention, the United States Military can benefit by utilizing the system for combat-deployable flexible manufacturing centers that guarantee production capability in a time of war as exemplified in the SBIR proposal illustrated in FIG. 45. In such an embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system may provide an edge manufacturing system for military production where multiple nodes present in the network are comprised of production facilities distributed around the country and or the world. The production resources may also exist on ships and submarines or in aircraft and provide production resources to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system. Accordingly, the system, having the indexed production resources available to the system may organize the production of the parts required by the military according to a dynamic production scheduling operation.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system may be deployed in a manner similar to DARPANET or ARPANET and arranged to transfer or transmit (route) 3D CAD Models for production to a destination available as a production resource to the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management system. Since the purpose of packetized data in DARPANET and or ARPANET is to ensure delivery of the data to the destination. The data communication method can be adapted to ensure the delivery of production jobs for military assets in order to manufacture parts utilizing the CAD model data and production criteria. In this manner, the system delivers the 3D CAD model and production criteria to a production resources indexed within the system. In any computer networking system, a ledger is maintained by a computing device or multiple computing devices. The ledger identifies the address to deliver the data to. In networking parlance this is known as an IP Address. As such the networking system can ensure that data is routed to the correct destination. In a military application of such a method, the ledger additionally indexes the production resources that meet the production requirements for a part or products required by the military. As such, A Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow management system may ensure that production is achieved, for military assets by routing the production job to a facility meeting the production requirements. Such a routing method may additionally include a destination that produces or causes the production of the parts and assets utilizing an edge manufacturing node producing the parts as close to the final destination as possible, minimizing lead time for the replacement parts. This method offers a significant strategic military advantage.
  • In another embodiment, the military deployment methodology of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Workflow Management system may include data encryption methods to secure the digital assets routed by the system.
  • In another embodiment, the military deployment may provide production status updates to the appropriate users and or customers of the system.
  • In another deployment, the system may, include a Mobile Parts Hospital as a node in the production resource directory within the system ledger.
  • In another embodiment, the invention may additionally provide integrated subsystem modular controllers useful to and benefiting the Military deployment model of the system including but not limited to;
  • Automatic, Physical Realization of an adaptive homogeneous design: This software system provides “adaptive” or morphing of geometry without direct user input applied to 3D CAD Model based on actual engineering part requirements of the physical product.
  • Digital Traveler part tracking module: This software module provides order tracking and management. The traveler geometry data can be textual, barcode, 2-D data-matrix in either human readable or encrypted formats such as Blockchain and is driven from database information derived from the part numbers and BOMS of the vendor deploying the software.
  • Digital production scheduling and routing module: This software module provides an extensive suite of automatic production routing and scheduling functionality including intelligent part nesting, automatic adaptable part routing, real-time feedback, estimated production times, system status, in-process order tracking. Electronic submission of job completion notifications and more. This module will adapt many traditional manufacturing supply chain tools in a manner consistent with the concepts of an all-digital production system for additive manufacturing.
  • Intelligent adaptive thermal compensation: This software module provides adaptive compensation for thermal properties, coefficients of thermal expansion and end part dimensions. The module removes the need for designers to consider thermal properties from the design cycle by placing the burden on the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system.
  • Intelligent, novel slicing & support methodologies for additive fabrication: This module incorporates adaptive slice geometry manipulation into the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system. It includes novel slicing methodologies to improve production throughput and/or adaptive orientation for surface finish optimization. The module considers feature contours in developing the slice geometries and uses an adaptive or learning fuzzy logic system to improve product output based on design intent.
  • Automatic adaptive intent-based production Technology matching: This software module incorporates user-defined parameters of available output technologies to select the appropriate AM technology for “optimized” additive fabrication based on design intent. The module also incorporates an adaptive, technology-based “definition engine” that selects and chooses the output technology best meeting the engineered product's needs.
  • Mass Customization Module: The mass customization subsystem or Co-Design system enables direct military user manipulation of pre-defined flexible design criteria built into a product by a designer. This module opens the door for mass customization or manipulation of products without the need for the user to have the complex knowledge typically required to interact with and influence the design of a product. It includes an extensive suite of API calls into the software to integrate it with other portions of a military's deployment of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system and production infrastructure.
  • calls into the software to integrate it with other portions of a military's deployment of the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system and production infrastructure.
  • Automatic, Physical Realization of an adaptive materially graded heterogeneous or discrete design: This software module adapts the knowledge-based system supporting interoperability between the design tools and an adaptive assembly—engine to create and manipulate materially-graded or homogeneous objects or complex assemblies. It also coordinates output activities of complex products and assemblies by automatically routing components of an assembly to an appropriate AM machine indexed within the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system.
  • Materially Graded Production Module: This software module includes “Voxel” modeling or adaptations or materially graded solid object manufacturing such as parametrically defined materially graded products as opposed to “Voxel” models to define boundaries of graded materials.
  • Various modules including undefined needs: Many concepts and needs for full deployment of Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system for the military are undefined and will be impossible to define without detailed knowledge of military needs.
  • In another embodiment, the system and its various modules provides practical application of the invention for the military is the Mobile Parts Hospital system run by Todd Richman. According to Todd Grimm, one of the major roadblocks experienced by the MPH program in effectively deploying RP or RM technology is that the average 19-23-year-old lacks the technical knowledge to effectively use the technology presently available in the MPH. It basically requires a highly educated and experienced machinist to make the parts accurately and correctly. Their current technology also still produces a high amount of waste product, requires coolant for CNC equipment and an inventory of bar and block stock material to machine that is not completely flexible.
  • In one embodiment, the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise system provides several of the missing elements to enable the MPH to realize true combat-deployable flexible manufacturing centers that allow young inexperienced personnel to create usable products for combat replacement in the field and installation at Forward Repair Areas. For example: the MPH currently is outfitted with laser scanning technology to reverse engineer a part and build a 3D cad model of the part. The resulting geometry inevitably requires at least some level of editing to guarantee it is accurate. This requires an experienced 3D CAD designer. Also, the part that is reverse engineered will likely be manufactured out of a different material than the original. Therefore, an educated individual must perform finite element analysis to compute if the part will adequately withstand the stress levels encountered in the products intended use. This level of expertise is obtained in specialized training or a college engineering classroom. MTO-RME provides the tools to remove complications such as these from the MPH technician's workload by developing software modules and tools that automate many design elements and manufacturing parameters including adaptive “strength of materials” compensations to automate the guarantee that a part is usable. Finally, the MPH currently uses multi-axis milling machines which are not considered part of rapid manufacturing but instead post processing techniques.
  • It should now be apparent that the Made-To-Order and or the Digital Manufacturing Enterprise portions of the invention and their various sub modular controllers can provide commercial utility in Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management for virtually any commercial organization including but not limited to business models such as car parts, Antique Car Parts, boats parts boat parts, appliance parts, radio control and hobby parts, promotional advertising products, gun parts, jewelry products or other industries where the product may be described adequately and may be manufacturable, at least in part by additive manufacturing. As such, the Commercial utility of the invention may radically alter the supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure by eliminating inventory and instead rely on On-Demand, distributed or edge-manufacturing where parts and products are produced in-country, as close to the customer as possible and in doing so bypass and or eliminate import & export duties, tariffs, VAT, shipping charges and other concepts related to traditional manufacturing and supply chains. In doing so, it may also provide competitive advantage to small businesses seeking to sell products internationally by providing a production supply chain for their products in the desired country. For example, a US-based jeweler cannot produce a product and ship it to Australia without paying high shipping costs, going through customs, paying import tariff and duties, and forcing the client to experience a long waiting period. As such the commercial jewelry faces obstacles against local merchants producing locally and not having the same obstacles.
  • In another embodiment, the digital traveler subsystem has stand-alone utility and provides a system enabling commercial opportunities for part tracking and identification in an Additive Manufacturing Workflow system by dynamically generating 3D CAD geometry.
  • A Digital Traveler system controller [309] comprised of software programming code [163] arranged and configured to control general computing hardware and having at least one non-transitory computer-readable memory associated with the general computing hardware to receive, from a commercial user using a user device, by the Digital Traveler controller a selection of a base 3D CAD Model file [280], generate, by the Digital Traveler controller, and cause to be displayed, on the commercial user device, an interface [314] for configuring a digital traveler feature and a representation of the base 3D CAD Model geometry, receive, by the Digital Traveler Controller, from the commercial user, using a user device, criteria and configuration data for the digital traveler feature and storing the information for recall [285], receive, by the Digital Traveler controller, a request to generate geometry for a traveler feature for a 3D CAD Model received by the system, during a process for manufacturing subroutine [312], parse, by the Digital Traveler controller [281] both the base 3D CAD model and digital traveler configuration data for the respective 3D CAD model, cause, by the Digital Traveler controller, the Digital Traveler geometry to be generated [282], according to the digital traveler feature configuration [501], transfer or route, by the Digital Traveler subsystem the modified 3D CAD Model or data handling of the CAD Model [284], now containing the digital traveler geometry to an additional subsystem for downstream processing [502], and wherein the additional subsystem may be a stacking [307] and nesting controller [308] for generating nested arrangements of batches [267] of 3D CAD Model files arranged to receive the updated 3D CAD model file for production by Additive Manufacturing and now conveying the additional information as geometry for part tracking and identification.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to enable a commercial user to communicate with the Digital Traveler controller to establish a user profile or account and to input system performance criteria.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to perform the Digital Traveler controller functionality in conjunction with at least one of; an electronic commerce system adapted to store, generate and use 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing, a PDM/PLM system adapted to use and generate copies of 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing or a Co-Design system that uses and generates 3D CAD Models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to work in conjunction with additional subsystems and modular controllers by means of an API or other network communication method.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to enable the digital traveler geometry to take the form of at least one of; an appendage, a tab, a placard, a sprue, direct part marking and at least one of; human readable data, a corporate logo, emblem, 2-D barcodes, 3D Data matrices, 3D text or other geometry describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD kernel.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to allow conveyance of at least one of; order number, customer number, manufacturing date, manufacturing location, lot number, heat number, MTR number, Blockchain hash, facility number, origin code, routing code, serial number, or other required or desired information describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD Kernel.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to generate 3D geometry of a 2D hash related to a Blockchain sequence for part tracking and identification where the hash encodes product information or other data required or desired to be encoded.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to store nested tray files in a queue or buffer for transfer, upon request to an IP address, Mac Address, Web address or networked Additive Manufacturing device specified in the request.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to operate in conjunction with an PDM/PLM—Product Data Management/Product Lifecycle Management system where PDM/PLM systems used by commercial enterprises store revision controlled 3D CAD Model data and meta-data for each 3D CAD Model including Bills of Materials.
  • In another embodiment the method and system is additionally configured to operate in conjunction with a part marking and identification system to dynamically generate a digital traveler feature programmatically by defining the information to be generated and without first defining the feature location related to the base 3D CAD Model.
  • In the foregoing specification, and exemplary embodiments of the invention, e.g. a Made-To-Order and a Digital Manufacturing Enterprise Additive Manufacturing Workflow Management System have been described as each having an implementation providing utility as separate systems and subsystems. Each portion of the invention comprising modular controllers arranged to control general computing hardware in the performance of the various embodiments described herein including by means of a distributed computing system where each subsystem and or controller may be operated independently of one another or in conjunction with one another in performance of the methods described herein. Furthermore, the preceding specification have described with reference to specific embodiments thereof. However, various modifications and changes may be made thereto without departing from the broader spirit and scope of the invention. The specifications and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded in an illustrative sense rather than a restrictive sense.

Claims (20)

1. A method for part tracking and identification in Additive Manufacturing Workflow for dynamically generating 3D CAD geometry part marking comprising:
a. A Digital Traveler system controller [309] comprised of software programming code [163] arranged and configured to control general computing hardware and having at least one non-transitory computer-readable memory associated with the general computing hardware to:
i. receive, from a commercial user using a user device, by the Digital Traveler controller a selection of a base 3D CAD Model file [280];
ii. generate, by the Digital Traveler controller, and cause to be displayed, on the commercial user device, an interface [314] for configuring a digital traveler feature and a representation of the base 3D CAD Model geometry;
iii. receive, by the Digital Traveler Controller, from the commercial user, using a user device, criteria and configuration data for the digital traveler feature and storing the information for recall [285];
iv. receive, by the Digital Traveler controller, a request to generate geometry for a traveler feature for a 3D CAD Model received by the system, during a process for manufacturing subroutine [312];
v. parse, by the Digital Traveler controller [281] both the base 3D CAD model and digital traveler configuration data for the respective 3D CAD model;
vi. cause, by the Digital Traveler controller, the Digital Traveler geometry to be generated [282], according to the digital traveler feature configuration [501];
vii. transfer or route, by the Digital Traveler subsystem the modified 3D CAD Model or data handling of the CAD Model [284], now containing the digital traveler geometry to an additional subsystem for downstream processing [502]; and
viii. wherein the additional subsystem may be a stacking [307] and nesting controller [308] for generating nested arrangements of batches [267] of 3D CAD Model files arranged to receive the updated 3D CAD model file for production by Additive Manufacturing and now conveying the additional information as geometry for part tracking and identification.
2. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to enable a commercial user to communicate with the Digital Traveler controller to establish a user profile or account and to input system performance criteria.
3. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to perform the Digital Traveler controller functionality in conjunction with at least one of; an electronic commerce system adapted to store, generate and use 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing, a PDM/PLM system adapted to use and generate copies of 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing or a Co-Design system that uses and generates 3D CAD Models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing.
4. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to work in conjunction with additional subsystems and modular controllers by means of an API or other network communication method.
5. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to enable the digital traveler geometry to take the form of at least one of; an appendage, a tab, a placard, a sprue, direct part marking and at least one of; human readable data, a corporate logo, emblem, 2-D barcodes, 3D Data matrices, 3D text or other geometry describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD kernel.
6. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to allow conveyance of at least one of; order number, customer number, manufacturing date, manufacturing location, lot number, heat number, MTR number, facility number, origin code, routing code, serial number, or other required or desired information describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD Kernel.
7. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to generate 3D geometry of a 2D hash related to a Blockchain sequence for part tracking and identification where the hash encodes product information or other data required or desired to be encoded.
8. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to operate in conjunction with an PDM/PLM/ERP system, pulling revision-controlled CAD model files from the PDM/PLM/ERP system for addition of a digital traveler feature.
9. The method of claim 1 treating each 3D CAD Model as the object being routed, nested, and scheduled by the system.
10. The method of claim 1 additionally configured to dynamically generate a digital traveler feature programmatically by defining the information to be generated and without first defining the feature location related to the base 3D CAD Model.
11. A system enabling commercial opportunities for part tracking and identification in an Additive Manufacturing Workflow system by dynamically generating 3D CAD geometry comprising:
a. A Digital Traveler system controller [309] comprised of software programming code [163] arranged and configured to control general computing hardware and having at least one non-transitory computer-readable memory associated with the general computing hardware to:
i. receive, from a commercial user using a user device, by the Digital Traveler controller a selection of a base 3D CAD Model file [280];
ii. generate, by the Digital Traveler controller, and cause to be displayed, on the commercial user device, an interface [314] for configuring a digital traveler feature and a representation of the base 3D CAD Model geometry;
iii. receive, by the Digital Traveler Controller, from the commercial user, using a user device, criteria and configuration data for the digital traveler feature and storing the information for recall [285];
iv. receive, by the Digital Traveler controller, a request to generate geometry for a traveler feature for a 3D CAD Model received by the system, during a process for manufacturing subroutine [312];
v. parse, by the Digital Traveler controller [281] both the base 3D CAD model and digital traveler configuration data for the respective 3D CAD model;
vi. cause, by the Digital Traveler controller, the Digital Traveler geometry to be generated [282], according to the digital traveler feature configuration [501];
vii. transfer or route, by the Digital Traveler subsystem the modified 3D CAD Model or data handling of the CAD Model [284], now containing the digital traveler geometry to an additional subsystem for downstream processing [502]; and
viii. wherein the additional subsystem may be a stacking [307] and nesting controller [308] for generating nested arrangements of batches [267] of 3D CAD Model files arranged to receive the updated 3D CAD model file for production by Additive Manufacturing and now conveying the additional information as geometry for part tracking and identification.
12. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to enable a commercial user to communicate with the Digital Traveler controller to establish a user profile or account and to input system performance criteria.
13. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to perform the Digital Traveler controller functionality in conjunction with at least one of; an electronic commerce system adapted to store, generate and use 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing, a PDM/PLM system adapted to use and generate copies of 3D CAD models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing or a Co-Design system that uses and generates 3D CAD Models for order fulfillment by additive manufacturing.
14. The system claims 11 additionally configured to work in conjunction with additional subsystems and modular controllers by means of an API or other network communication method.
15. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to enable the digital traveler geometry to take the form of at least one of; an appendage, a tab, a placard, a sprue, direct part marking and at least one of; human readable data, a corporate logo, emblem, 2-D barcodes, 3D Data matrices, 3D text or other geometry describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD kernel.
16. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to allow conveyance of at least one of; order number, customer number, manufacturing date, manufacturing location, lot number, heat number, MTR number, Blockchain hash, facility number, origin code, routing code, serial number, or other required or desired information describable as 3D Geometry and formable by a 3D CAD Kernel.
17. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to generate 3D geometry of a 2D hash related to a Blockchain sequence for part tracking and identification where the hash encodes product information or other data required or desired to be encoded.
18. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to store nested tray files in a queue or buffer for transfer, upon request to an IP address, Mac Address, Web address or networked Additive Manufacturing device specified in the request.
19. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to operate in conjunction with an PDM/PLM system.
20. The system of claim 11 additionally configured to dynamically generate a digital traveler feature programmatically by defining the information to be generated and without first defining the feature location related to the base 3D CAD Model.
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US201113374062A true 2011-12-09 2011-12-09
US15/893,179 US10089662B2 (en) 2006-05-18 2018-02-09 Made-to-order direct digital manufacturing enterprise
US16/134,717 US11010800B2 (en) 2006-05-18 2018-09-18 Made-to-order direct digital manufacturing enterprise
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