visibility_off Direct digital manufacturing, the digital thread, and braces.

One of the Launch Forthers (I won’t tell you who) recently got braces. If, like me, you had braces before 2005, horrible memories may spring to mind-- metal brackets haphazardly glued to teeth, the new physics of flossing, and putty molds setting in your mouth for an expensive retainer you’ll probably lose. Today, straightening teeth is a wholly different-- and much more pleasant-- process. A digital scanner quickly creates a 3D digital image of your teeth, a precise treatment plan is designed virtually, and a set of custom aligners are additively manufactured by stereolithography. This is an example of direct digital manufacturing, as the product is seamlessly fabricated from 3D computer-aided design files by computer-controlled machines. Direct digital manufacturing is fast, precise, and repeatable. It encourages innovation by shrinking the gap between design and fabrication, and easily accommodates complex geometries that can’t be made by traditional methods. And it allows for easy collaboration with people around the world, like you-- the Launch Forth community. Now imagine the factory where the aligners are fabricated. The lifecycle of each aligner (from the first version of the CAD file, to its unique final form that fits on your crooked teeth) and the digital flow of information between each step (from authorship, to hand-off, to final certification) is an example of the digital thread. The digital thread is a communication framework that connects materials, design, processing, and manufacturing. The digital thread ensures that the right information is delivered at the right time in the manufacturing process. It connects the as-planned design with the as-built reality, generating actionable feedback along the production line. Which brings me to the Marines. Your entries to the USMC Modular Logistics Vehicle challenge are currently being reviewed, revised, and judged. These steps are the beginning strands of what will become a digital thread for the Marines. We will upload the winning entries and their revision history into Siemens Teamcenter, a product lifecycle management platform. This digital thread will continue as we bring the winning concepts to life through direct digital manufacturing and deliver the vehicle and its technical data package to the Marines-- all of which will be captured by and orchestrated within Teamcenter. Your hackable designs enable the Marines to hone the vehicle’s form for their ever-evolving needs. As the Marines create these future versions, Teamcenter will provide the Marines with the revision history, fabrication instructions, and workflow management needed to micro-manufacture quickly. Be it braces or vehicles, a robust digital thread-- embodied through direct digital manufacturing and managed by platforms like Teamcenter-- provides all the information that the Marines need for rapid prototyping and manufacturing in a tidy digital package.

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