LOS ANGELES—In the “factory of the future,” manufacturers will adopt over-the-air software upgrades used by Carbon and Tesla as the modus operandi, Carbon CEO Joe DeSimone said yesterday at the Westec manufacturing industry conference.
Carbon’s printer is performing markedly better than it was even a year ago, he said, speaking on a panel that reviewed progress in additive manufacturing (AM). “The more people use it, the better and better it’s getting: That’s the network effect. But you can only do that if the hardware is designed from the onset where every switch, every sensor, every motor is remotely addressable by software.”
DeSimone compared the continual refreshes Carbon customers enjoy because of the company’s over-the-air software upgrades, which are part of Carbon’s subscription model, to his experience of treasuring the over-the-air software upgrades his Tesla accepts every five or six weeks. The car’s autopilot feature is markedly better than it was a year ago, he noted.
So, with value-prop evidence like this offered up at manufacturing tech conferences, why are over-the-air software upgrades still rare among manufacturers coming up with new hardware?
As is often the case in manufacturing, cultural hurdles loom large, a couple of panel members said.
One way to address cultural hurdles is to focus on education rather than training, said Michael Grieves, executive director of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Innovative Design at the Florida Institute of Technology.
“Too often we train people but don’t educate them so they feel comfortable with change,” he said. “We really have to focus on educating the folks doing this on the development and production sides—as to why they are doing it and what the underlying principles are.”
Roger Kelesoglu, director of sales enablement at Stratasys, said his company is moving forward with “the engagement model,” which he said means “going deep into specific customer applications and requirements that are transformative and that fit the benefits that AM can bring.
“Instead of talking about AM, we’re talking about specific business problems that AM can address,” he added. “When you think about it, the early adoption of AM has been in innovation centers or by people carrying an AM flag. But I think we’re moving beyond that—and now focusing on economic value we can bring, process disruption or change within organizations, and giving engineers, designers and manufacturers better toolsets to achieve what they are trying to achieve, without talking about AM.”