Software evolved along three key themes in 2020: improved functionality, deeper integration, and an increased focus on applications. While industry players continued to advance their products with new or improved functionality, hardware and software suppliers intensified their efforts to integrate their products along the end user’s value chain. Some industry players accelerated the trend to end-to-end solutions for specific applications.
Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software automates, tracks, and documents the entire manufacturing process. In 2020, LINK3D added a Post-Production Management app to further streamline post-processing and integrate full traceability throughout post-processing. Investors awarded OQTON’s end-to-end production platform with a successful $40M Series A funding round in January 2021. AUTHENTISE partnered with NEBUMIND and ADDIGURU to integrate digital twins and process monitoring, while AMFG released a new build preparation tool. 3DTRUST focused on a new powder management solution. Upgraded functionality including scheduling flexibility was the focus of 3YOURMIND. Industrial giant SIEMENS dedicated a full two-day event, the ‘Siemens Additive Manufacturing Summit’ to showcasing its end-to-end solutions.
The trend to open machine interfaces continued in 2020. HP released its HP 3D Device and Gateway APIs, while STRATASYS included a connectivity package in its GrabCAD SDK. LINK3D, OQTON and AMFG integrated their MES software with the APIs of several machine suppliers.
Pre-processing software advanced both in integration and functionality. MATERIALISE released its flagship product, Magics 25, under the headline ‘click less, achieve more’, promising a sleeker workflow and more automation. AUTODESK Netfabb 2021 offered improved workflows, additional printer profiles and new packaging algorithms. Both companies expanded their simulation tools: Magics added full build simulations and Netfabb advanced accuracy with a tenfold improvement in mesh size limits. OQTON added a cam kernel allowing hybrid workflows to its MES software. HP announced its Universal Build Manager powered by DYNDRITE, promising to automate build preparation with Python scripting and GPU computation. MARKFORGED unveiled its ‘Digital Forge’, a cloud-based platform powered by artificial intelligence, that incorporates learnings from previous builds into pre-processing.
Design software company ntopology raised $40M in series C funding and introduced the command line interface nTopCL, enabling integration with enterprise software e.g. for mass customisation, new lattice workflows and simulation tools. PARAMATTERS enhanced control over geometry and build preparation in its CogniCAD generative design software. MSC Apex Generative Design software saw its first release in 2020. The software integrates seamlessly with simulation software SIMUFACT Additive (for metal) and Digimat AM (for polymer), both of which saw new functionalities released. Ansys added user-defined materials and an improved interface with EOS build files to its Additive Suite 2020. ADDITIVELAB improved multiple functionalities, among them the Python API.
The trend to applications and end-to-end hardware and software solutions accelerated in 2020. NTOPOLOGY launched the FDM Fixture Generator together with STRATASYS and announced ‘to focus relentless on applications’ in 2021. MATERIALISE invested in Ditto, a virtual eyewear try-on platform, and fully acquired personalised insole brand Phits. HP launched its end-to-end Moulded Fibre Advanced Tooling Solution.