I’m sure at least once in your life you’ve heard the saying, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’ But what a cliche, right?! Well, for those of you managing your Bill of Materials (BOMs) in Excel, it’s time to step away from the cell block prison (pun intended).

In this article, we’re going to break down what it actually means to revitalize your BOM strategy with the Digital Thread to start seeing the results you want.


What Is The Digital Thread?


First of all, let’s start with the basics. The Digital Thread is a term used to describe the seamless flow of information throughout the manufacturing process. From design and engineering to production and after-sales support. It provides a way to connect all the data and information generated at different stages and from systems of the product lifecycle.


Generally, the Digital Thread provides value by enabling better visibility and control of any processes that require or produce product data. It enables manufacturers to collaborate more effectively, automate and optimize workflows, and quickly respond to changes. All while adjusting quickly to customer needs. 


Bill of Materials (BOM)


Next, let’s break down the concept of a Bill of Materials. A complete Bill of Materials (BoM) list usually contains all of the parts and components needed to create or manufacture an end product. You might think of a BoM as a recipe ingredient list. The information about each part can include details such as part names, part numbers, quantity required, and cost per unit. Not to mention, BoMs contain other relevant part details such as material type, color, or size if applicable; supplier information; serial numbers, etc.

By consolidating and organizing all the pertinent information product information, the BoM becomes a centralized resource. A critical resource that facilitates the manufacturing processes of specified products.


Ultimately, the goal of the BoM is to help track inventory and verify missing parts during assembly. Equally as important, BoMs are critical to support a healthy supply chain, as well as help with purchasing decisions and more.


The Digital Thread and Bill of Materials Working Together


Balancing a plethora of product information – it’s no surprise, the best BoM management strategy used within the industry does not leverage solely Microsoft Excel. Nor does it rely upon one Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Instead it works to unite data from multiple systems into a single source of truth. 


Sounds great doesn’t it? But, if you’re like most – your product data lives all over the place in different systems from different departments. This situation tends to create data siloes resulting in time-consuming manual tasks using outdated operational processes. Generally, these are some of the biggest problems that inhibit manufacturers from achieving their business initiatives. 


Oftentimes, during our EAC Assessments, we hear multiple teams across the enterprise and different management levels are frustrated by broken processes. In short, there is a lack of key information employees need to do their jobs right, at the time they need it most.


Meanwhile, the digital thread uses advanced technology (such as product lifecycle management systems as well as the Internet of Things) to connect critical disparate processes. This, in turn, helps minimize manual tasks, and breaks down data siloes. Implementing the digital thread to your BoM strategy creates a major impact for all stakeholders involved. For instance, design teams, engineers, manufacturing, assembly, operations, finance, purchasing, and even marketing. 


How The Digital Thread Supports Engineering


Furthermore, the Digital Thread plays a crucial role in supporting engineering and bill of materials (BOM) management by providing seamless connectivity and accessibility to relevant data throughout the product lifecycle. Here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:


1. Engineering Collaboration

Firstly, the digital thread allows engineers to collaborate effectively by providing a centralized platform for sharing and accessing engineering data. This facilitates cross-functional collaboration, enables real-time communication, and reduces errors or miscommunications during the design and development process.


2. Design Consistency

Secondly, the digital thread ensures design consistency by maintaining a single source of truth for engineering data. Changes made in the design phase are automatically propagated throughout the digital thread, ensuring that all related documents, models, and specifications remain synchronized.


3. BOM Accuracy and Visibility

The digital thread integrates BOM management, configuration management, and BoM transformation capabilities. This enables accurate and up-to-date BOMs, as the data will automatically reflect changes. Additionally, it provides real-time visibility into the BoM status, including component availability, sourcing information, and cost implications.


4. Change Management

Next, the digital thread streamlines change management processes. By automating change notifications, approvals, and tracking. Essentially, it ensures that engineering changes are effectively communicated, documented, and implemented across the relevant stages of the product lifecycle, minimizing errors and delays.


5. Manufacturing Process Optimization

By connecting engineering data with manufacturing process management, the digital thread enables better coordination and optimization of production processes. By in large, system and data integration allows for improved manufacturing planning, efficient resource allocation, and reduced lead times.


6. Enhanced Visualization and Analysis

Another example includes leveraging augmented reality (AR) design sharing to provide visual representations of designs. In detail, enabling stakeholders to view and analyze products in a virtual environment. It’s recommended to use AR to enhance design reviews, simplify communication, and facilitate better decision-making.


Overall, the digital thread improves engineering and BoM management. Markedly, by streamlining processes, enhancing collaboration, ensuring data consistency, and providing visibility across the product lifecycle. It promotes efficiency, accuracy, and agility in engineering and BoM-related activities. Leading to improved product quality and faster time to market in the long run.


How A Digital Thread BoM Strategy Streamlines Manufacturing


Simultaneously, the digital thread plays a significant role in enhancing the bill of materials (BoM) management for manufacturing, assembly, and quality control processes. In sum, here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:


1. Manufacturing and Assembly Planning

The digital thread enables seamless integration between the BoM and manufacturing planning systems. It provides real-time visibility into the BoM, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for manufacturing and assembly operations. This allows for efficient production planning, optimized resource allocation, and improved scheduling in all.


2. Supply Chain Integration

By connecting the BoM with supply chain management systems, the digital thread enhances supply chain visibility and collaboration. It enables better coordination with suppliers, accurate tracking of component availability, and improved procurement processes. As a result, it minimizes the risk of production delays and ensures timely delivery of materials.


3. Work Instructions and Assembly Guidance

Thirdly, the digital thread facilitates the creation and dissemination of detailed work instructions and assembly guidance based on the BoM data. This ensures that assembly operators have access to accurate and step-by-step instructions, reducing errors and improving productivity on the shop floor.


4. Quality Control and Traceability

The digital thread enables better quality control and traceability throughout the manufacturing process. By integrating the BoM with quality management systems, it ensures that quality requirements and specifications are adhered to during production. It also enables traceability of components and materials, making it easier to identify and address any quality issues or recalls.


5. Continuous Improvement and Feedback Loop

Additionally, the digital thread supports continuous improvement initiatives by capturing data and feedback from manufacturing and quality control processes. It enables the analysis of production data, identifies areas for improvement, and facilitates data-driven decision-making to enhance manufacturing efficiency and product quality.


6. Post-Market Monitoring

Finally, the digital thread extends beyond the manufacturing phase to support post-market monitoring and quality assurance. Integrating BoM data with field service management systems and customer feedback enables organizations to identify and address product issues, initiate product improvements, and provide timely support and maintenance.


All in all, the digital thread enhances BoM management for manufacturing and assembly processes by ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, facilitating supply chain integration, enabling effective work instructions, improving quality control, supporting continuous improvement efforts, and enabling post-market monitoring. Concurrently, it streamlines operations, improves product quality, and enhances customer satisfaction.


The Polaris Story


Polaris utilized PTC Windchill, an advanced product lifecycle management system, to transform their Bill of Materials into a reliable new business model backbone. As a result, it allowed them to create a connected enterprise.


Windchill PLM combines the digital thread framework with a maximized BoM and change management strategy. This powerful product lifecycle management platform organizes all information associated with the development of its products, allowing every stakeholder to access the latest up-to-date information in a dynamic format.


Once it was clear to Polaris that they had outgrown certain tools and processes, they coordinated and synchronized a digital thread of data throughout the enterprise by leveraging PTC Windchill.


As of today, Polaris’ Windchill PLM system enables them to manage and organize the bill of materials (BoM) and implemented configuration management practices. This helped transform their BoMs as needed, effectively managing changes, overseeing manufacturing processes, and utilizing augmented reality (AR) design-sharing capabilities.


By orchestrating these elements, the digital thread ensured seamless connectivity and flow of information across different stages and departments within Polaris. This enabled improved collaboration, streamlined workflows, effective change control, and enhanced manufacturing processes. On top of giving the ability to share and visualize designs using AR technology.


Read the Polaris BoM Digital Thread Case Study


To sum it up, it’s time to put Excel away and start working smarter, not harder. Successful BoM management derives from a single source of truth throughout the enterprise in regard to all the data contained in the Bill of Materials. The Digital Thread allows for the seamless automated flow of the BoM information to create a truly connected enterprise, working in sync along every step of the manufacturing process.

Not sure where to get started? We created our EAC Assessments to help. Click here to learn more or have a conversation with our experts.

Tool laying flat on a table


Flame retardant resin, also known as fire-resistant resin, is a type of polymer material specifically formulated to resist ignition and inhibit the spread of flames. The purpose of flame retardant resins is to reduce flammability and slow down the burning rate of the materials they are incorporated into.


Different types of flame retardant additives are used in resin formulations, including halogenated compounds, phosphorus-based compounds, nitrogen-based compounds, and mineral fillers. They release flame-inhibiting gases, form a protective char layer, or interrupt the combustion process. The specific mechanism varies depending on the flame retardant additives used and the resin matrix.

Advantages and disadvantages of each type come down to fire performance, environmental impact, and processing requirements. 

  • Phosphorus-based flame retardants, such as phosphates or phosphonates, are commonly used in flame retardant resins. They can work by forming a protective char layer on the material’s surface, which acts as a barrier to heat and oxygen, thus slowing down the combustion process.


  • Nitrogen-based flame retardants, like melamine or melamine derivatives, release inert gases with heat exposure, diluting the oxygen concentration and suppressing the flame.


  • Mineral fillers, such as aluminum hydroxide or magnesium hydroxide, work by absorbing heat during combustion and releasing water vapor, which helps cool down the material and prevent the spread of flames.


  • Halogenated flame retardants, such as brominated or chlorinated compounds, have traditionally been widely used due to their effectiveness. However, they have raised concerns about their potential toxicity and environmental persistence. As a result, there has been a shift towards developing more environmentally friendly alternatives- Inquire about Formlab’s new Halogen-free Flame Retardant Resin.


It’s important to note that the choice of flame retardant resin depends on the specific requirements of the application, including fire safety regulations, environmental considerations, and performance criteria. It is commonly used in various applications for industries such as aerospace, automotive, electronics, construction materials, electrical and electronic devices, automotive components, textiles, and more. Different industries and regions may have specific standards and regulations governing the use of flame retardant materials.


Flame Resistant Material and Additive Manufacturing

Formlabs adds to their extensive Resin Library with new Flame Resistant resin. The favorable flame, smoke, and toxicity (FST) ratings are crucial in applications where fire safety is a concern. These ratings imply that FR Resin performs well when exposed to fire, produces minimal smoke, and exhibits low toxicity, making it suitable for use in environments to mitigate fire risk where people or sensitive equipment may be affected.

With that comes new opportunities with additive manufacturing for industries such as aerospace, electrical and airplane, automobile, and railway interior parts, protective and internal consumer electronics components, and custom jigs, fixtures, and replacement parts for industrial environments.


Product Description: Flame Retardant (FR)Resin is a self-extinguishing, halogen-free, certified UL94V-0SLA material with favorable flame, smoke, and toxicity (FST) ratings. It offers a 2.9 GPa tensile modulus (elasticity) and a heat deflection temperature (HDT) of 112 °C @ 0.45 MPa (pressure).


In the context of 3D printing, “halogen-free” refers to materials or resins that do not contain halogen elements such as chlorine (Cl), bromine (Br), or fluorine (F). Halogen-free formulations are sought after for a variety of reasons, including environmental concerns, health and safety considerations, and regulatory requirements.


When exposed to high temperatures, halogen-based compounds can release corrosive and toxic gases, which can be harmful to human health and the environment. By eliminating halogens, Formlabs FR Resin contributes to better fire safety and reduced toxicity.


The ability to 3D print with Formlabs Flame Resistant Resin offers several advantages-

First, 3D printing allows for complex geometries and intricate designs that may be difficult or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods.


Second, the high part quality ensures that the printed components meet the required specifications and have reliable mechanical properties.


Lastly, the high creep resistance of FR Resin and heat resistance ensures that the printed parts maintain their dimensional stability and structural integrity even under prolonged mechanical stress or elevated temperatures.


Overall, FR Resin is a versatile and reliable material for 3D printing flame-retardant parts, and provides a combination of fire safety, heat resistance, and processability, making it a suitable choice for manufacturing parts that need to withstand challenging environments while allowing for additional post-fabrication operations and optional post-processing steps.


When working with flame retardant resins for 3D printing, it’s crucial to follow Formlabs guidelines, including printing parameters, post-processing requirements, and safety precautions. Additionally, it may be necessary to comply with industry-specific fire safety standards and regulations for the intended application of the 3D-printed parts.


Always reference the Safety Data Sheet in accordance to OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200 as of March 2023.


Formlabs Flame Resistant Certifications

Flame Retardant Resin is UL94 V-0 and FAR25.853 certified.

Formlabs is UL 94 V-0 certified and has test data on FAR 25.853 Appendix F, Part I (a) (1) (ii)12 seconds Vertical Burn as well as smoke (ASTM E662) and toxicity tests (BSS 7229).


Flame Retardant (FR) Resin’s self-extinguishing properties and UL94 V-0 certification indicate that it has undergone rigorous testing and meets high safety standards. The UL 94 V-0 rating is achieved for a minimum wall thickness of 3mm.


The following table contains additional correspondence between FAR, Airbus, and Boeing standards.


Formlabs Printer Compatibility with FR Resins


New Formlabs Flame Retardant Resins are compatible with the following printers: 


It is also compatible with the listed Formlabs Resin Tanks:

  • Form 3/3B Resin Tank V1
  • Form 3/3B Resin Tank V2
  • Form 3/3B Resin Tank V2.1
  • Form 3L/3BL Resin Tank V1
  • Form 3L/3BL Resin Tank V2


Use Formlabs Flame Retardant Resins with the build platforms: 

  • Form 3 Build Platform
  • Form 3 Build Platform 2
  • Form 3L Build Platform
  • Form 3L Build Platform 2


Note: Print settings for this material may not be available yet on Form 3L and Form 3BL printers. Talk to an EAC expert for additional support.


Special Workflow Considerations

Formlabs experts highly recommend shaking the resin cartridges vigorously while rotating occasionally for at least 2 minutes before starting your first print. Failure to do so may affect the flame retardancy properties of your printed parts. If it has been more than 2 weeks since your last print, shake the cartridge again for 2 min and stir the resin in the tank before printing.


The resin is viscous, so allowing it to automatically dispense into a new tank for the first time before printing will result in a printer timeout error. Instead, please follow the instructions for manually pre-filling the resin tank before printing.


Due to the viscosity of Flame Retardant Resin, Formlabs recommends priming a new resin tank to reduce print time and avoid tank fill error messages.

  • Priming a Form 3: Unscrew the vent cap at the top of the cartridge and manually pour around 350 ml of the resin into the new resin tank bank.

  • Priming a Form 3L: Unscrew the vent cap at the top of the cartridge and manually pour the contents of one full cartridge of resin into the new resin tank.

The parts made from the flame-retardant resin can undergo optional post-processing steps like painting or electroplating. This offers flexibility in terms of the final appearance or functionality of the parts, as they can be customized to meet specific requirements.


Sanding or polishing to create a smoother surface by removing scratch marks can be done after the post-cure. Sanding with 600-grit sandpaper is sufficient to remove support nubs. Using a lower grit may additionally abrade the surface. For a smoother finish, higher-grit sandpaper up to 3000 grit can be used. Alternatively, polishing wheels combined with a rotary tool can be used for a quicker and even surface finish.


It is important to note that priming or polishing the surface of parts printed with Flame Retardant Resin with mineral oil or other flammable lubricants may invalidate the UL flammability rating.


Additionally, small negative features may be difficult to fully clean due to the resin’s high viscosity. Make sure to clean your parts thoroughly before post-curing! Consider using pressurized air for better cleaning.



Want to see in person how the parts self-extinguish? Visit us at our CXC in Minneapolis to get hands-on with multiple printed samples.