Blockchain and AM Shake Up Digital Parts Supply Chain

A pair of startups meld blockchain and AM technologies to deliver trust and transparency for on-demand digital parts production.

A pair of startups meld blockchain and AM technologies to deliver trust and transparency for on-demand digital parts production.

Two startups, pioneering solutions in the additive manufacturing and blockchain technology arenas, are teaming up to offer an offering aimed at delivering trust to a new generation of on-demand spare parts produced as part of a digital supply chain.

Data Gumbo, the provider of the GumboNet massively interconnected blockchain network, is working on a pilot project with Fieldmade, an Oslo, Norway-based company aiming to empower next-generation supply chains with on-demand production of spare parts using AM capabilities. Together, the partners are trying to shake up the way aerospace and defense and oil & gas supply chains have operated for the last 50 years—over-purchasing spare parts and storing items at off-site or nearby warehouses, which is an expensive, inefficient way to maintain inventories.

“These libraries of spare parts become useless as the equipment and pieces become outdated or obsolete,” explains William Fox, chief product officer at Data Gumbo. “If a spare part is needed and available, it is often located off-site and requires weeks to be delivered.”

3D printing solves this issues as the pieces and parts needed can be printed either on-site or through a network of approved 3D printing service providers and delivered within minutes. The technology helps minimize the amount of stock held in warehouses worldwide, which lowers overhead costs and shortens lead times, yet there are on-going concerns about quality and authenticity, among other issues. The addition of blockchain brings a level of immutability to the mix, creating a verifiable and auditable data record that allows buyers to review approved intellectual property, legal, manufacturing, regulatory, and delivery information.

“The [blockchain] ledger’s data standards bridge the siloed systems of buyer, seller, materials providers, printers, and third-party quality control providers,” Fox explains.

GumboNet captures provenance of material, digital weights, and dimensions measurements, ensuring that design IP is directly from an OEM, providing assurance and protection to users in the event of any audits or law suits.

The combination of blockchain and 3D printing makes sense because it allows companies to focus on what they do best—provide a service to their customers, Fox says. Together, GumboNet’s blockchain network and Fieldmade’s AM services prove provenance and deliver trust that any product or spare part that supports their combined technologies is manufactured to the standard of the OEM. Those providing 3D printing services without such a record memorialized by blockchain technologies run the risk of data manipulation, he contends.

Given the two companies are fellow start ups and are targeting similar industries, there’s a natural synergy between their offerings without any competitive overlap. “We don’t do anything they do and they don’t do anything we do,” Fox says. “But in working together and sharing data via standardized interfaces, there is huge potential to cross-pollinate our interests, expand markets, and provide greater total value per purchase to printers and end customers.”

For a simple tutorial on blockchain basics, watch this video.

About the Author

Beth Stackpole's avatar
Beth Stackpole
Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to the Digital Engineering 24/7 and Robotics 24/7 sites.
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