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ProCloud3D offers secure, decentralized AM

The German-Chinese project consortium, led by RWTH Aachen University, enables the encrypted and real-time transmission of production data for PBF

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According to RWTH Aachen University, in a German-Chinese project consortium, the Chair Digital Additive Production DAP at RWTH has developed the architecture for a secure cloud-based platform that enables the encrypted and real-time transmission of production data for laser-based Powder Bed Fusion of metal powder. The project results from the ProCloud3D project lay a foundation for secure, decentralized AM.

A key function in efficiently implementing concepts such as the industrial metaverse, smart services, and digitalization, is the cloud – which offers the essential infrastructure needed for processing, storing, and securely sharing data in real-time, irrespective of location. The consortium behind the ProCloud3D project has now made this infrastructure securely accessible for AM.

Security

From the end user’s perspective, the AM of components is increasingly being outsourced. To manufacture these components, the end user must share their design data with a service provider. Given that a digital design model is all that is needed to produce a physical copy, securing this process is crucial. The solution involves transferring production data layer by layer directly to the service provider’s PBF machines during the printing process – a method also known as streaming. However, it is crucial to ensure that this data cannot be intercepted, compromised, or manipulated, and that only the requested number of components is produced. Furthermore, the data for a manufacturing order must be meticulously compiled and prepared for the production process.

Developing ProCloud3D

The researchers initially developed a slicer for the real-time generation of machine control code from the construction job information. The architecture of the ProCloud3D platform, for this purpose, is fundamentally based on the Open Vector Format (OVF), developed by researchers from the DAP Chair and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT. The format supports – among other things – the flexible control of lasers with galvanometer scanners, the management of multiple scan field arrays, and the expansion of additional machine axis controls.

ProCloud3D offers secure, decentralized AM. The German-Chinese project consortium is led by RWTH Aachen University.
Source: RWTH.

Building on the OVF, a streaming protocol was developed that ensures efficient real-time transport of PBF-LB production data and relevant metadata for various PBF machines. The protocol includes both secure data transport and data encryption. With a high-performance nester developed by DAP, manufacturing jobs consisting of multiple components can be automatically generated.

In a cloud-based user interface, the functionalities are fully integrated and visualized. Part of this solution is digital rights management along the depicted supply and process chain. The data streams are end-to-end encrypted. Hardware-wise, a project-developed machine interface processes the layer-wise control commands from the cloud. The streaming protocol defines who gets access to the data and in what quantity the ordered components are allowed to be manufactured.

Streaming success

Utilizing this developed cloud solution, the consortium successfully manufactured a demonstrator via the secure stream. The next step involves preparing the cloud-based platform for mass-market adoption in decentralized AM. The developed hardware interface will be made compatible with various equipment manufacturers. Furthermore, access to a universally applicable cloud-based software service tailored for manufacturer-specific PBF-LB/M shall be provided.

The solution is designed to offer companies across different industries an opportunity to outsource their manufacturing processes to a specially designed secure cloud-based platform, and directly tap into the potential of AM. This approach eliminates the need for high investments in PBF machines and the extensive development of specialized process know-how previously necessary. This solution acts as a catalyst for the adoption of AM – enabling companies to digitalize and outsource their production efficiently and securely.

The project consortium includes WIBU-Systems AG, LMI – Laser Melting Innovations GmbH & Co. KG, RWTH Aachen Lehrstuhl Digital Additive Production DAP, Beijing University of Technology, BLT: Xi’an Bright Laser Technologies Co., Ltd., Nanjing 1001 automation technology co. LTD., and Beijing Aerospace Smart Manufacturing Technology Development Co., Ltd.

This research and development project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under the program ‘Innovationen für die Produktion, Dienstleistung und Arbeit von morgen’ (funding code 02P18X010) and is managed by the Project Management Agency Karlsruhe (PTKA).

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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