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Product documentation for additive manufacturing


Additive manufacturing (AM) holds great potential for production scenarios in the sense of Industry 4.0. This applies not only to economic parameters, but also to constructive factors, since the layer structure in the x-, y-and z- directions enables the production of geometries that are impossible to produce with conventional processes.

The continuing trend of automotive OEMs to allow an increasing degree of customization, which is commonly referred to as mass customization, reflects the needs of customers in the area of ​​individual product design. The fact that additive processes do not require any tools or set-up times in principle enables a very high degree of individualization with simultaneous economical production - right down to batch size 1[1] - which opens up new business fields for OEMs.

Today, well-known automotive OEMs are already producing additively more than 10,000 parts[2], whereby cost reasons play just as much a role as the design advantages that result from this manufacturing method. In addition, the individual customer requirements also influence the decision of the OEM to implement certain component production with AM systems, which is ultimately also an aspect of the market positioning with regard to the degree of customization offered.

In this context, SAP has formulated that the way in which it is manufactured has a direct influence on the type of product documentation[3], which was evaluated in the context of a use case analysis.

The thesis that in principle it is possible to route CAD geometries through the entire product documentation process to directly supplying an AM production system can generally be confirmed. The processes of the PEP (product development process) are generally covered.

As far as the aspect of individualization is concerned, a customer co-design process[4] was used, usually whose customers can create their own CAD geometries for selected components in the course of vehicle configuration and ordering. In this context, it had to be determined that the customer order process (COP) does not yet offer full support for customer customization in the sense of a customer co-design. The interface between COP and PEP in particular ultimately limits the consistency of the co-design.

The available collaboration scenarios provide a variant for incorporating "external" CAD geometries into the development process of the OEM. However, these collaborations have its focus on the development phase of the PEP and are therefore more suitable for development partners and / or suppliers than less for end customers in the conventional sense.

The process considered for validation is shown schematically in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Overall process of the use case

Accordingly, a distinction is made between PEP and COP, whereby the PEP follows the procedure, which includes is also described in the book by Canuto, Daum and Rödel (SAP Product Lifecycle Management: Processes, Functions, Customizing, 1st Edition 2016).

The COP is based on the findings of Herlyn, as explained in his book PPS in automotive engineering: production program planning and control of vehicles and assemblies, vehicle technology (2012).

In terms of the system structure in S/4HANA, the product structuring was implemented using PSM (Product Structure Management) in combination with the Engineering Control Center (ECTR) as CAD integration. This structure basically offers the range of functions to provide the constructive assemblies and assemblies of the CAD models, together with the required geometric information, for the subsequent production processes.

The conversion of native CAD formats (SolidWorks) into AM-compliant neutral formats (STL) is realized via the SAP 3D visual Enterprise Author. The technical vehicle to transport the generated AM files (STL) through the process is a DIR (document info record).

Document management basically offers all functionalities to ensure the consistency of the documentation. This applies in particular to status and approval management. The connection of the DIR with the base objects, i.e. the material master and / or a position of the product structure, ensures the continuous transport of the construction information using the product documentation and approval system. However, there is no way to make the original file attached to DIR with the construction information (STL file) contained in the AM system accessible. At this point, improvements must be made.

In summary, it can be stated that the available functionalities are basically those needed in terms of the PEP. In this context, the COP could not fully be validated in terms of a customer co-design process. As an alternative, the collaboration scenarios should be named.

An automated supply of the AM system with construction information from the CAD can basically be implemented. For consistency for the purpose of an Industry 4.0 solution is given a system-technical basis with the standard resources.

[1] Gembarski, P.C., Lachmayer, R., 2017. Designing Customer Co-Creation: Business Models and Co- Design Activities 10.

[2] Ertel, J., 2016. Under the Hood: BMW Talks In-House 3D Printing
https://www.engineering.com/3DPrinting/3DPrintingArticles/ArticleID/12856/Under-the-Hood-BMW-Talks-I... ing.aspx (accessed 9.6.19)

[3] Canuto, E., Daum, B., Rödel, M., 2016. SAP Product Lifecycle Management: Prozesse, Funktionen, Customizing, 1. Auflage. ed, SAP PRESS Logistik. Rheinwerk Verlag, Bonn

[4] Gembarski, P.C., Lachmayer, R., 2017. Designing Customer Co-Creation: Business Models and Co- Design Activities 10.