A look behind the scenes of the development of a 3D printer: How agile project management increases quality
As you may have gleaned from the first part in this series on the development of the PrograPrint system, additive manufacturing is a hot topic in the dental industry. Especially 3D printing is paving the road to new, previously unimagined possibilities. Read in the second part how agile project management has been used in the design and manufacturing process to maximize the quality of the PrograPrint system.
The PrograPrint system consists of a range of materials and equipment for 3D printing, cleaning and post-curing. It enables high-precision 3D printing. Using an elaborate product development and production process has been decisive to achieve a product that features the high level of precision required for the exacting demands of dental applications.
A high complexity project
From designing to final manufacturing, the entire process presented a major challenge due to the high degree of innovation and complexity involved in 3D printing technology. This came alongside the usual high requirements that dental devices and materials are expected to meet. Luckily, we were able to build on our many years of experience as a dental manufacturer. Especially the development of light-curing materials and coordinated LED curing equipment is based on our comprehensive know-how in this area. Teams of experts from different fields came together to work on solving a complex task: building a 3D printing system, engineered to meet dental needs.
A study of customer needs revealed that ease of use and reliable results are seen as vital requirements for a 3D printer, in addition to excellent precision. The 3D printers available on the market at the time were found to fall short of expectations, as many of our customers pointed out.
We were also aware of the fact that the quality of the final printed part depends not only on the printer itself but also significantly on the cleaning and post-curing process after the printing process. This is how we came to realize that a 3D printer alone would not do. Rather, a comprehensive end-to-end system was needed.
And so it was clear to us: to achieve the required level of precision, ease of use and reliability we needed to design a 3D printing system from scratch.
Agile project management as a tool to maximize quality
The overall project needed to be given an adaptive structure to take into account the complexity of developing a reliable system and make allowance for the high coordination efforts required between the teams. This was achieved by adopting an agile project management approach.
This form of project management is ideally suited for dealing with complex projects due to its high transparency and short planning intervals with close, cross-team coordination. As all teams were involved from the very beginning, dependencies could be identified and a common understanding of the goals and arising problems could be fostered.
Ongoing manufacturing quality assurance
Managing the project required the production team to be closely involved in the development from an early stage onwards. The ability to adapt production planning quickly was also required.
In such a multifaceted project, the information required to ensure an ideal production process is not always available in its entirety during the development stage. For this reason, a modular production method was used to be able to optimize and adapt the process on an ongoing basis. In so doing, we were able to draw on our long-standing experience in establishing production processes. As soon as the production process reaches the specified quality, the modular production components are transferred to a fixed production line. As a result, each 3D PrograPrint PR5 printer, professionally manufactured by skilled workers, is continuously checked for the appropriate quality by five special inspection systems.
Only by taking great care throughout the entire development and manufacturing process are we able to ensure the outstanding quality and precision of the PrograPrint system, even in a project of this complexity, and meet the requirements of the end user.
The following video gives you a look behind the scenes and shows you the complex steps involved in the development and production of our high-quality 3D printing system. PrograPrint – engineered to meet dental needs.
In other parts of the blog series, read an Interview on the background of the 3D printer and find out about Beta testing in 3D printing.