February 21, 2022
In our second Member Spotlight, Sherry Handel, Executive Director of the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) interviews Ashley Eckhoff, Marketing Manager of Siemens Digital Industries Software. Ashley has been with Siemens in various capacities for almost 25 years and has used his background as an engineer to develop and guide Siemens’ AM software efforts. He is currently a member of the Additive Manufacturing Program team at Siemens Digital Industries Software.
Siemens Digital Industries Software (DISW) joined the AMGTA as a Participating Member in October of 2020 and recently renewed its membership for another year. How has your involvement as an AMGTA member benefited Siemens DISW and the industry at large?
Ashley: Part of being a good corporate citizen is also being a good corporate steward of our planet and our environment. In that vein, Siemens has a long-standing commitment to sustainability reflected, for example, in a yearly sustainability report that we deliver to the public. This commitment to the environment is one major reason why Siemens joined the AMGTA. But our interest in sustainability goes deeper than what happens at our own facilities.
We are also interested in finding ways for the technology we provide to be used in sustainable ways by the customers we service. This is another benefit of membership in the AMGTA, where the association provides insight as to how the software, hardware, and materials technologies in use with additive manufacturing impact our planet. Over time, we believe this will translate into guidance for those companies using additive manufacturing as to how those technologies can be used in a more sustainable way.
What do you think are the most significant sustainability challenges facing the additive manufacturing industry? What should be done to address these challenges and how is your company helping to do this?
Ashley: In order to make a measurable, positive impact on the environment, you need to address the problem on multiple fronts. For additive manufacturing, this means that concentrating on a single portion of the additive process—for example, machine technology—is unlikely to impact the situation in a meaningful way. The good news is that, with additive manufacturing, there is the potential to impact the environment positively across multiple aspects of the manufacturing workflow. Materials can be engineered for maximum recyclability. Software can be used to optimize material usage. Hardware can be driven in the most efficient manner possible. It is the combination of these techniques and more that will give us the maximum impact on the environment from additive manufacturing.
This is why groups like the AMGTA are so important. Siemens is doing our part by providing software to boost the efficiency of end use part designs and to maximize the efficiency of the manufacturing process through design, simulation, process management, and analytics. In the end, modern manufacturing is driven by controls where Siemens also provides hardware with efficient power needs. But these efforts can be undone if the other aspects of the AM workflow are ignored. Having an association like the AMGTA allows us to work with partners across all stages of the additive manufacturing workflow to address sustainability in a wholistic manner and to maximize the positive impact of our contribution.
Siemens DISW recently released the Creating a Sustainable Future white paper that discusses leveraging technology to reduce the environmental impact of the consumer products industry. Why did your company decide to focus on the consumer products industry? What are some of the key takeaways from this paper that are also relevant to the AM industry?
Ashley: Siemens not only partners with organizations like the AMGTA to further industry sustainability, but we also do our own outreach concerning environmental subjects. The whitepaper you cite is a reflection of that effort. Siemens works with companies in every industry across the world, and that gives us a unique ability to coalesce information from multiple sources as we interact with our customers.
However, the fact is that true sustainability is something that is going to take effort not just from industry but from the public as a whole, and consumer products are where corporations and the public most often meet, and though the specific focus of that particular paper is consumer products, you’ll also see mentions of manufacturing, farming, supply chains, etc.
One takeaway from that research that may be of interest to the AM industry is the importance of looking at manufacturing as part of a wider process. Efficiencies can be driven into manufacturing, but manufacturing also has the ability to drive efficiencies across the enterprise in areas like logistics, traceability, and even decarbonization. In the end, it’s going to take a personal commitment from corporations and the public together to make the positive impact we all want to see in our environment and manufacturing definitely has a large part to play.
There is a big push at Siemens right now to develop production software that supports the concept of a “digital twin”. What is meant by this term, and how do you see this concept effecting sustainable manufacturing?
Ashley: A “digital twin” refers to the computer data associated with a physical object or process in the real world. With regards to additive, the digital twin most often refers to the data that describes the physical printed part. This could include the part geometry as well as manufacturing information, simulation results, etc. However, there are also digital twins of additive processes. This is where you take what happens during the physical printing process and you create a digital equivalent for setup or simulation purposes.
By having a digital twin of a product and its associated processes, you can use simulation to drive efficiencies into the part design as well as the part production process and this can definitely have an impact on sustainability. For example, a digital twin of the printing process within an AM machine allows you to simulate how material is deposited leading to a fine-tuning of the process. This means that not only can you possibly use less material, but also that the danger of print failures is reduced, thereby leading to a reduction in scrap generation. Even if a printed part is 100% recyclable, it takes energy to do that recycling. Therefore, the most sustainable prints are those that print right the first time. Using simulation with a digital twin of the part and the process is one way innovative companies are achieving this goal.