Keyvan Karimi is Founder & CEO of Autonomous Manufacturing (AMFG) – a London-based company that offers workflow software solution of choice for leading enterprises seeking to integrate 3D printing into their wider manufacturing operations.
In an exclusive interview with Abhimanyu Chavan, Director at Manufactur3D Magazine, Keyvan Karimi shares his insights on how his company aims to solve the biggest challenge of inefficiency by providing the leading workflow automation software for additive manufacturing departments today, his thoughts on the Indian 3D printing market, integrating advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to augment software solutions and many more.
Q Tell us more about AMFG. Tell us about its early days and the journey till now?
A: AMFG was founded in 2014 with the goal of helping manufacturers scale up their AM operations. When we first began, the additive manufacturing market was still very young; the prospect of using the technology for production was still very much in its early stages.
Of course, the landscape has evolved significantly since then. Manufacturers increasingly looking at how they can use additive manufacturing for applications other than prototyping — such as tooling and end parts — and this shows a maturing of both the technologies and the industry. Now, we’re finding that there’s also very much an increasing demand for workflow software like the AMFG platform: software that can help OEMs efficiently manage and connect their entire production processes.
AMFG has been growing rapidly over the last few years: we now have 4 offices with customers in more than a dozen countries. As we grow, we aim to maintain our focus on being the market leader in automation software for additive manufacturing.
Q What was the motivation behind starting AMFG?
A: While AM is definitely a game changer for manufacturing, it can’t truly take off with the slow, manual processes that are currently being used to manage production. Our motivation, and what drives our team each day, is to enable companies to fulfill the full potential of AM as a manufacturing technology. We’re passionate about achieving autonomous manufacturing.
Q What are your advantages vis-à-vis your competitors? What are the major benefits to end-users?
A: What differentiates our software platform is that we truly offer the most flexible, customisable product on the market. We understand that companies will have different needs and processes, often determined by how they’re using or plan to use additive manufacturing. There’s no off-the-shelf solution that can work for all companies, no one-size-fits-all. That’s why we champion the fact that our customers can truly use our platform to fit their specific workflows as almost every part of our software can be customised and tailored to the customer.
We provide the widest scope of any workflow software, covering every stage of the process, from standardising the way requests are received right through to printability analyses and production scheduling — all on one platform.
The other thing is that we are focused on achieving automated workflows. Fully automated production is our vision of autonomous manufacturing. So we work to ensure that our software provides best-in-class workflow automation solutions for AM.
Q Currently, your solution manages entire AM ecosystem on a single platform. What is the next step for AMFG?
A: We’re currently working on enhancing our offerings through technologies like AI and machine learning. This means we work very closely with our customers to provide better automation solutions and develop an increasing number of AI features. In January we announced our funding from Innovate UK, a UK government body, to develop our AI solutions for our platform. In addition to that, we’re also partnering with leading academic institutions, such as the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Additive Manufacturing (CfAM).
Q Can you share case examples on how AI & ML are being used or will be used in the coming future to augment the software solutions currently offered?
A: AI is being used to automate previously manual processes, such as providing manufacturability and printability analyses, as well as with production planning. For example, our system can estimate the fill rate for a nested build and check whether a part can be produced with a certain material or machine. Ultimately, AI-driven solutions can significantly improve the quality of the production process.
Q Companies are looking at converting their physical inventories into virtual inventories. But there is also the possibility of leakages and IP violations in this. What are your thoughts on the advancement of software to tackle this issue? Are they capable enough to deal with such issues? Where does AMFG stand on this?
A: Software will be critical in ensuring that production workflows remain secure, especially as manufacturers begin to consider distributed manufacturing models, whereby data and digital assets must be transferred to third parties. There are some software solutions on the market that have been developed specifically to address this.
But workflow software also needs to ensure data security. For us, ensuring the security of our customers’ data is a key priority. AMFG provides highly secure, enterprise technology that is regularly tested. We also support our customers through 35 data centre locations globally, ensuring that we are fully compliant with national security certification requirements. Additionally, we work with partners to ensure data encryption and IP security.
Q How has the software evolved along with the AM technology? Do you feel the current software support offered by SAAS companies is sufficient to fully realize & utilize the potential of the AM technology? Or do you feel it is otherwise?
A: For a long time, the industry has focused on hardware and materials. However, as the technology has matured, companies are realising that they’ll also need software to unlock AM’s full potential. We’ve ensured that our software has evolved accordingly — early last year we launched our production management and scheduling modules because we saw that the market was moving towards production.
We’re confident that our platform will continue to evolve and mature with the wider industry, and we’re very excited about that prospect. In the meantime, we’re working very closely with hardware and other software companies to ensure that our platform continues to help manufacturers achieve best-in-class AM processes.
Q Software is an intrinsic part of the 3D printing technology and it is more-or-less driven by the advanced software. What future do you envisage for the AM software technology? What is the Holy Grail which you want to reach?
A: We see workflow software playing a critical role alongside all the other elements that make up a successful additive manufacturing process. For us, our ultimate goal is to enable autonomous additive manufacturing for our customers, and we believe that this will involve a high degree of machine learning and automation. Ultimately, the future of AM lies beyond prototyping — although this too will remain an important application. To this effect, software will help companies unleash the true value of AM.
Q What are the challenges at the software-end of the technology?
A: For us, a key challenge is that AM is a fast-moving and dynamic market. This pace of change means that we need to not only be reactive but proactive in finding the next solutions that the market needs. So we’re continuously working on being able to adapt and to be flexible and agile in our product development.
Q What are your views on the Indian 3D Printing Industry?
A: India is becoming one of the major global manufacturing markets, with a fast-growing additive manufacturing industry. It’s exciting to see this development, and we believe there is huge market potential in India.
Q Any parting thoughts you want to share with the 3D printing community?
A: I’d like to end by reiterating that additive manufacturing is continuing to evolve at a fast pace, and the industry is still only in the early stages of exploring what AM can do. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still early days.
But as companies continue to adopt the technology and begin to establish and then expand their operations, they’ll need to consider all the elements required to achieve success. This starts with knowing from the outset what you’re looking to achieve with the technology and having an implementation strategy in place. This means purchasing the right machines, having the right materials and, of course, choosing the right software to ensure that all parts of your operations are working in harmony.
Ultimately, workflow software will be at the heart of any AM operation that is looking to truly benefit from AM and scale.
In our Experts Q&A section, Abhimanyu Chavan, Director at Manufactur3D Magazine, interviews industry leaders from the Additive Manufacturing community and gain insights from them on the 3D printing technology, the developments in the global 3D printing industry, and also on India’s 3D printing industry in particular.