Making the most of Compose - FATHOM


FATHOM is an advanced manufacturer who likes challenges, like building the first 3D printed incubator or efficiently harnessing the collective power of professional 3D printers on its manufacturing floors. "We do the full gamut," says Dr. Carlo Quinonez, FATHOM's Director of Research, "we support the full range of production services during product development from – one or two – prototypes to engineering foundation runs and even short production runs of up to maybe 100,000 units". Using cloud-based applications allows FATHOM to take on these challenges efficiently. What it doesn't want to deal with are the day to day issues of managing the databases it needs and that's where Compose comes in.

FATHOM started out in 2008 as an authorized partner for Objet and later Stratsys 3D printers. As the business has grown, so have the needs of the customers resulting in the company adding high-end manufacturing services. Now, with offices and production centers in Oakland, Seattle, and China, FATHOM is geographically well-positioned to handle the complete prototype-to-production process.

FATHOM takes on projects in numerous markets, most of which are covered by NDA. The 3D printed oven, on the other hand, is an example of an internal project. It was the result of the research work and is, Quinonez says, "really more inspired by scientific incubators, where the chamber you are growing your cells in is simply surrounded by a big jacket of heated water, allowing for an even, indirect heating of the contents". The oven, Project Pyra, is a research project by Quinonez that is "a concrete example of how complexity can be leveraged fruitfully in a way to create functional things." The parts of the oven are quite intricate, going against conventional engineering guidance to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) to obtain results with materials usually thought unsuited to the task.

FATHOM has worked with companies on other unique projects such as the IoT enabled leg cast BOOMcast for Doc North and the Big Mama robotic spider for Intel. For each of these projects, FATHOM helped design and produce the parts needed to bring these ideas to reality. 3D printing technologies and services are practically changing the way we make everything and with that kind of pace you have to create your own applications to cater for your special requirements.

FATHOM has used its additive manufacturing expertise acquired through the years and fed it into their next product, FATHOM Analytics, a business intelligence tool for companies running multiple 3D printers. Quinonez explained that on this project "getting it done quickly is way more important than trying to do it all ourselves and save money". That meant the FATHOM team went with Compose's RethinkDB deployments for the backend to their new application.

RethinkDB was chosen for features like the simpler cluster configuration and the change feeds for real time updating. With experience of MongoDB, the developers found the indexing and join capabilities of RethinkDB offered options that weren't previously available to them.

The application itself runs over multiple systems. One part gathers data about what the additive manufacturing systems in the production center are 3D printing, what jobs, what part costs, error states and more. This information is transferred to a queue that lives on a Redis cluster. Cloud-based workers farm that queue's seven days of data to extract coherent events and jobs. That information is then transferred to RethinkDB. Another application makes makes that information available over a RESTful API and through that, analysis and other insights are made available to web applications with the clients. Designed for users with internal 3D print farms it should be able to get a better idea on how to schedule their jobs for best yields and see how well their doing.

Quinonez notes that going beyond Analytics is an ordering tool which "provides a central portal for ordering, costing and pricing, so that you can then integrate it, whatever internal systems you have like CRM or MRP/MES, accounting, whatever it is." That tool is based around Meteor.js and MongoDB and gives companies a place to organize and manage their parts orders. It's a development of a tool they have been using internally to manage their production processes. "The nice thing is that, because we're a professional production center, we're actually using it internally for our own network of commercial 3D printers. It's like, dogfooding, right, to run all of our internal systems" Quinonez noted.

What underlies all of this is the ability for FATHOM to pick databases appropriate to the workloads and solutions they are developing. Compose puts those databases a click away, with production quality deployments. "It was really clear to me that the best way is to just go with the managed database service, rather than doing it ourselves" says Quinonez, adding "maybe at some point down the road when we get bigger, we can figure out whether or not we'll revisit that value proposition. But that's way down the road."

Dj Walker-Morgan
Dj Walker-Morgan was Compose's resident Content Curator, and has been both a developer and writer since Apples came in II flavors and Commodores had Pets. Love this article? Head over to Dj Walker-Morgan’s author page to keep reading.

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