3D Printing has many powerful benefits for manufacturing that can help meet customer demands faster, reduce cost of manufacturing parts, and quickly support tooling needs to keep production machines online and operational. However, a design software tool is still needed to support getting the right design into the software to generate accurate 3D printed parts.
In this video, Bart Schenck explains the most common applications that support how to design and optimize parts for additive manufacturing:
Lightweighting and topology optimization
Bart then walks viewers through a demonstration of Function-Driven Generative Design, which is a new way to design specifically for Additive Manufacturing. It combines solid modeling, FEA and surface modeling techniques. Bart shares:
Common workflows for designers (not high end FEA)
How to retain all functional characteristics of the product/part
How to optimize topology (Overall shape, volume and mass)
Come see us at our first in-person event since COVID-19 grounded all of us! The show has confirmed they are moving forward with this in-person exhibition. We are excited to be in your presence at AmCon 2021 at the Orlando Convention Center on April 27-28th.
Humanetics ATD, a manufacturer of crash test dummies is making a big splash in the Additive Manufacturing press. Adaptive featured Humanetics and their elderly dummy in a recent case study. The article described how they used the Markforged Mark II 3D printer and the ONYX material in the manufacturing process.
In this Design2Part article, Frank Thomas explains how 3D Printing has evolved as a valid approach for manufacturers to enhance their agility on the plant floor by employing 3D printing for additive manufacturing. Whether they create replacement parts, tooling or jigs, the advancements in the durability of materials has enabled 3D Printing to be a dependable solution that is more affordable than ever before. Here are a few excerpts from Frank:
Thomas said that until fairly recently, additive manufacturing was used most often as a tool to create parts that you could hand to somebody so that they could see it, touch it, and provide some input as to what might need to be changed or modified. But that’s changed in recent years as new materials have been developed that enable printers to make stronger, more durable parts.
“Metal printing has always been there, but that has an economic value proposition that’s a bit challenging for it,” he said in an interview. “The ABS and nylon and other plastic 3D printers, up until the last couple of years, weren’t necessarily dimensionally accurate, and then they had challenges creating a part that’s functional. That’s what I think is different about the market today, compared to just, really, a couple of years ago.”
If the demand for 3D printed metal parts is going to grow significantly, especially for critical use cases, OEMs will have to be able to count on high-quality parts. Thomas believes the additive metal industry is up to the challenge because he’s already seen major improvements in quality in recent years.
“At the end of the day, this is really a materials game. If the materials that we’re able to bring to the market provide the end use quality that people are looking for, that’s critical.”
Our very own Frank Thomas was recently interviewed by Digital Engineering for the April issue that was focused on Design for Additive Manufacturing. In this article “Metrology for the Masses“, Frank is quoted a few times where he explains some of the challenges around metrology in manufacturing.
It was good to note that the metrology market is on a growth curve for the next ten years:
The global metrology market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 6.82% through 2027, growing from $607.9 million in 2016 to $1.25 billion in 2027, according to a report by Market Research Future. That includes traditional coordinate measuring machines (CMMs) as well as portable CMMs, laser scanners and optical digitizers.
Among Frank’s comments, he noted:
Many engineers don’t understand how laser scanning or otherforms of metrology can help them, according to Frank Thomas, metrology and additive manufacturing solution specialist at Adaptive Corp. “It would surprise you how many engineers—when we show them the ability to 3D scan a part in a minute or two and in three mouse clicks, tell them if it matches their tolerance requirements or not—have never seen that,” Thomas says. “It was not nearly as fast and simple in the past as it is today.
Markforged has released a new Guide to 3D printing on the production line.
Many manufacturers have realized significant cost savings and productivity improvements by integrating high strength additive manufacturing (AM) technology into their business, especially in support of their maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) strategy. For many more, identifying where additive will be most impactful to their business can be a daunting task, and increasingly one that corporate leadership has directed plants to investigate. This white paper provides structure and clarity to that ask by demonstrating strategies and applications for integrating high strength AM opportunities on the manufacturing floor.
The buzz around Additive Manufacturing (AM) tends to focus on making parts—how making production parts via AM brings a revolution to some manufacturers and disrupts some established industries. But while impressive, AM parts aren’t the whole story. An important potential use for AM is often left out, and it’s one that could impact dramatically more manufacturers in more industries. That’s tooling.
First, any discussion of AM for tooling must address the obvious—that there are some instances where AM can eliminate the need for tooling entirely. Companies doing short-run production might simply use AM to create production parts directly, bypassing the need to create tooling at all and shortening their product’s the time to market. But when AM simply can’t compete with the speed and volume of the production line, manufacturers can still reap some of the rewards AM is delivering to other industries.
The automotive industry is a prime example. While AM is in use for some end-use components in custom or small-quantity automobile manufacturers, the larger automotive companies don’t find AM a practical answer for production parts. But tooling for production, testing, design validation, and more could be another matter.
Have It All: Faster, Cheaper, More Complex
One of the primary problems with tooling is time. The product design is finished and you’d really rather have the parts in-hand yesterday, but you’ve not only got to contend with production time for the parts, but also production time for the tooling to produce those parts.
Enter additive manufacturing, which lets you make tooling cheaper and faster than the traditional-machining route. Aerospace provides a case study. While polymer-based materials aren’t being used for flight applications, their use has gained traction in production tooling, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Particularly for specialized, one-off parts, the speed and cost reduction of producing fixtures, jigs, and other precision tools rather than waiting for them to be machined from metal can be immense. One small aerospace company converted to making tooling in-house via AM, and their tooling timeline shrank to about a week to produce equipment, versus 12-14 weeks for outsourcing parts to machine shops.
That time savings ultimately meant improved ROI because end-use parts could be made sooner. But the in-house AM work also directly saved money on the tooling itself—in-house AM parts cost only about a quarter of the outsourced, machined parts. In general, companies find that AM saves them money, for any of a variety of reasons, including reduced time, reduced material usage, easier rework or replacement, and so forth.
In the automotive industry, tooling is high value and low quantity. By some accounts, according to the Harbour Results consulting firm, car manufacturers spend $50-75 million on tooling each year for each car model, simply for updates and improvements. Any chance to reduce that cost, via faster production or by creating fewer parts because AM can make more complex shapes, could be hugely valuable.
Volkswagen Autoeuropa has recently converted to using 3D printers to create custom tooling, thereby reducing tool-development time by a whopping 95%. In 2016, they saved $160,000 in tooling costs, and they expect to save even more this year (Additive Manufacturing Magazine). One of the additional benefits of AM tooling they cite is the ability to adjust designs or replace worn parts without redoing the entire tool. Another is the flexibility of iterating manufacturing aids, and making improvements via trial and error, which simply isn’t practical when working with external suppliers.
The other notable benefits of AM parts apply to tooling as well, namely the ease with which AM can create complex shapes, particularly internally, and the ability to customize. Once tooling designers start thinking in terms of AM rather than subtractive machining, they can make tools lighter and even stronger in places. The medical industry provides examples of these benefits, such as “tools” that help surgeons learn how to perform particular surgeries or practice for specific procedures on individual patients.
And there’s another benefit to faster, cheaper production of tooling that might contribute to ROI in a more indirect way: employee comfort and satisfaction. As Volkswagen Autoeuropa notes, one benefit of in-house AM work is the freedom to respond to technician concerns and requests to make ergonomic improvements to tooling. Overall, with a faster time-to-tool, tooling can be optimized more readily, which might not only improve the workplace for the employee, but is likely also to result in better tooling.
Industries continue to buzz with the latest in AM developments, such as AM printers that print in metal—like MarkForged’s Metal X—and other innovations. But it’s not that everything can or should be made via AM. It’s more that AM continues to offer new tools in the arsenal for every industry to consider, especially companies and industries that are searching for every technological development and every advantage to remain competitive. It’s worth every manufacturer considering if there isn’t some aspect of your production line that AM could improve. Perhaps incorporating AM could save your organization money and time, and perhaps it could even change company culture by improving the lives of your employees.