We’ve gone from the science-fiction conversations of 3D printing to organizations today using it in production to drive innovation in their businesses. According to Gartner, 47% of supply chain managers plan to use 3D printing in the next year. A PWC report estimates that by 2023, 85% of spare parts suppliers will incorporate 3D printing into their business.
The 3D printing industry - also known as additive manufacturing - is booming because it has huge benefits. The ability to print a part onsite or closer to operations—as opposed to that part coming via long, complex supply chains—saves time and money, reduces transportation costs, lowers carbon footprints, reduces labor costs, and injects agility into the supply chain.
However, the digital nature of the additive manufacturing process triggers significant industrial property protection concerns. If a spare part is now created via software, across a new and expanding ecosystem, how can we know that part was completed to specification and verified? Beyond that, how do we ensure that the IP is protected? It’s a little like the early days of digital music, before Apple and digital rights management (DRM), when piracy ruled.
In a recent TCT Magazine article, Dr. Phil Reeves, an expert in 3D printing and part of Reeves Insights said, "You've got machine manufacturers, materials companies, material handling equipment companies, post-processing, you've got software for the design side, you've got software for the CAM side, you've got shop floor management software tools, DRM software companies...you've got a huge ecosystem. The reality is the industrial adoption is predicated on the weakest part of it. And the weakest part is still the economics of the process."
There’s a real supply chain problem for additive manufacturing.
French startup Vistory, part of Oracle for Startups, believes they have the solution with MainChain, a seamless, trusted third-party platform for distributed additive manufacturing. Based on private blockchain technology, MainChain provides its industrial customers risk control and trust across the entire digital supply chain by:
• Preserving industrial property, confidentiality, and trade secrets
• Certifying industrial property integrity
• Tracing operations throughout digital supply chain, from design to part manufacturing
• Automating workflows such as billing
MainChain, which runs on Oracle Cloud, also enables new business opportunities such as monetizing intellectual property and manufacturing spare parts on-site. With a secure digital supply chain, industrials can avoid having a large warehouse of spare parts by replacing the stockpile with access to the MainChain digital warehouse.
“It’s all about creating trust – digital trust,” says Alexandre Pédemonte, CEO and founder of Vistory. “But trust between these partners and IP and data security risks was a problem. There was no secure, transparent supply chain for additive manufacturing—so we built it.”
Vistory’s platform is plug-and-play and interoperable across ERP and CRM systems via API. A subscription-based and tier-based model allows for adoption for small and enterprise businesses. Vistory grew from $100K in revenue to $3M forecasted for 2021 in only one year.
In early 2019, Vistory began collaborating with the French Ministry of Defense, testing the benefits of additive manufacturing in overseas operations. Military operations can be thousands of miles away, where there are long waits for repairs, and logistics can be a weak point in areas where political issues and terrorism impact the supply chain. Additive manufacturing helps increase availability and production, reduce time to repair, save costs and labor, and reduces carbon footprints.
Vistory signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense in December of 2019 after meeting the Ministry of the Armed Forces’ digital transformation requirements, becoming the first blockchain operation deployment overseas.
Brigadier General Chary of the Ministry of the Armed Forces said, "It's a great success because in a very short time, with Vistory we have set up an experiment in OPEX with 3D printers, and behind that, the exchange of data between us and the manufacturers. With multiple parties involved, we need a trusted third party and blockchain will provide it…Blockchain opens us up to a new business model and allows us to lower our logistics footprint and be less vulnerable."
The French MoD aren’t the only government agency embracing 3D printing. The United States’ Department of Defense recently released its first-ever comprehensive additive manufacturing strategy. A key part of the document addresses concerns around intellectual property (IP) and trust noting future plans must “ensure cybersecurity throughout the 3D printing workflow and its digital thread, as well as to protect its 3D printing production and testing processes.”
“The benefits for the defense industry have been proven in production, and we’re seeing increasing interest and demand from other industries like automotive, medical, aerospace, and even household goods,” said Alexandre Pédemonte.
Vistory joined Oracle for Startups in September of 2020 for better price-performance on cloud technology and customer introductions. Oracle for Startups’ technical team helped Vistory lift-and-shift from Microsoft Azure by creating the custom image and launching Windows-based and Linux-based Virtual Machines, Compartments, VCN configurations, and storage.
“We are getting better performance on Oracle Cloud, at 70% less, which allows us to reinvest the cost savings into other areas of the business,” said Pédemonte.
Vistory is also preparing to meet with Oracle customers across many industries, giving the startup engagement opportunities it might not have on its own. “To have Oracle’s industry expertise, and introductions to their customers, gives us a credibility we can’t get by ourselves—and helps fast-track future opportunities and revenue growth.”
The advantages work both ways, benefitting Oracle and Oracle customers too, creating a win-win-win situation. “Working with startups, like Vistory, allows us to collaborate and co-innovate better for Oracle customers, which helps our customers continue to be pioneers in their industry and keep a competitive edge in their marketplace,” said Max Dunhill, EMEA Business Development Lead, Oracle for Startups.
Vistory’s references include organizations like Aeris, Marklix, Health Service Department, Ruag Defense, Arquus, Egidium Technologies, Naval Group and the French Ministry of Defense. Their partner ecosystem is growing fast, currently accounting for 80% of the global polymer market and 40% of the metal market.
The company believes neither additive manufacturing nor the blockchain have found their business model alone, that success relies in their combination. “We’re seeing demand grow and now selling into civil companies such as marketplaces, or medical and aeronautic industrials.”
Vistory is currently self-funded but is exploring venture funding to accelerate their market momentum. The company is opening an office in Dallas, Texas later this year, and expects MainChain will be the first “Industry-as-a-Service” platform in the next five years.
“We want to bring the additive industry to the next level and galvanize the industrialization of 3D printing,” Alexandre Pédemonte said. “And I believe we are well positioned to do it.”