Blog Menu

Design Rules for AM

August 11, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 09:57

Little by little, companies are learning that it can be very different to design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). To make AM economical for production quantities, DfAM is usually necessary. As costs of the machines, materials, and post-processing are driven downward over time, this may change in some instances. For the foreseeable future, DfAM is not only useful, it’s a requirement.

When considering DfAM, we often think of using topology optimization, lattice structures, and other methods to reduce material and weight and potentially improve part functionality. Just as important are design rules and guidelines to reduce trial ‘n error among engineers and designers. This information usually comes from experience and tribal knowledge among very few at a company.

The previous guitar stand was designed by Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant and DfAM instructor at Wohlers Associates. The stand is cleverly designed to fold and unfold, as shown. The large hinge depicted at the left requires a surface gap of 0.4 mm (0.016 inch) for it to operate so that it is not too tight or lose. A smaller hinge, shown in the center, requires a gap of 0.3 mm (0.012 inch) because the rotating surface area is much less. Making the gap larger would result in a hinge that’s too lose.

Olaf has learned many rules and guidelines from his extensive experience with DfAM, AM, and post-processing parts. They often differ from process to process and material to material. Many of these methods of DfAM will be discussed at a special three-day DfAM course in Frisco, Colorado next month. If you’re transitioning to AM for production applications, you or your colleagues may want to attend this training. It could save your organization months or longer and help you determine if/when a part or assembly is a good candidate to produce by AM.

Selecting Parts for AM

July 28, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Adopting additive manufacturing (AM) for serial production is one of the biggest and most interesting recent trends in industry. Many companies want to know the secret of how to choose parts that are a good fit. Selecting the right parts is very specific to the process, material, product, and market, yet some overarching guidelines help in the process. For an in-depth discussion of these guidelines, and a handful of recent industry success stories, see our article titled DfAM insight: How to choose candidate products for AM production applications in Metal AM magazine.

Knowing the hallmarks of the AM process is key to succeeding in production. Low part quantities can be an easy win for small-batch production. As material and operating costs are driven downward, AM is expanding to larger production quantities. In a recent visit to Avid Product Development of Loveland, Colorado, I saw parts being produced on two HP Jet Fusion 4210 machines to fill an order of 100,000 pieces. Such quantities were unheard of in AM a few years ago. Parts produced in this volume are generally a few cubic inches or less. Their complex shape and features make them difficult to injection mold or process using another method.

Mechanical and functional requirements must be satisfied with the relatively narrow selection of materials available for AM. If new designs can reduce tooling, part numbers, assembly, and material costs, AM can become an excellent alternative to conventional manufacturing. Saving material, alone, can help make the business case for a high-cost titanium alloy, for example.

AM provides the opportunity to deliver parts quickly, although some regulatory requirements can slow things significantly. In heavily regulated markets such as aerospace, experience at certifying parts for AM is key. GE has been active at this longer than most, and it has put more than 500 different parts into production with AM, according to a recent conversation I had with Mohammad Ehteshami, former CEO of GE Additive. Other companies are working hard to keep pace. Honeywell has set a goal to have 250 parts in production by AM before the end of this year. To meet this goal, choosing the best parts for AM is crucial.

World Economic Forum

June 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 10:49

I attended a first-ever 3D printing and additive manufacturing event organized and hosted by the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. The June 3, 2019 workshop, titled 3D Printing and Trade Logistics: Impact on Global Value Chains, involved 18 invited company executives, government officials, and others from many countries.

The World Economic Forum is an independent and non-profit international organization that engages political, business, and other leaders to shape global, regional, and industrial agendas. It serves as a platform to bring together public and private sector stakeholders to tackle global issues. In this context, the workshop was organized in two phases. The first explored significant issues that may be raised by the proliferation of 3D printing, followed by ways in which they might be addressed with many working together.

Venkataraman “Sundar” Sundareswaran of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. did a fine job at organizing the workshop. He is currently serving as a fellow at the World Economic Forum to bring 3D printing to the forefront. The group of 18 participants split into three workgroups on three separate occasions to identify and prioritize major issues, followed by the generation of ideas for addressing them.

“Workforce displacement and skill gaps” was identified as the top issue. University and industry training, coupled with retraining programs and government incentives, were named as likely solutions. “Governance of IP, legal issues, cyber, trade, and customs” was ranked as the second biggest issue. Among the possible solutions: national strategies, new laws, technology, and self-regulation. “Supply chain disruption” was determined as the third most important issue. The group cited new taxation models from government and standards development, principally by industry, as ways to address it.

The next challenge and opportunity for the World Economic Forum is to tackle these issues. A good foundation has been set. I’m looking forward to staying engaged and helping however we can to advance the development and adoption of 3D printing technology worldwide.

DfAM in Germany

May 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 05:33

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is not easy. That’s why we have been offering DfAM courses since 2015. Our first two were for NASA Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We have since conducted courses in other parts of the U.S., as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, and South Africa. Our most recent course was held with Protolabs 2.5 weeks ago near Raleigh, North Carolina. It could not have gone much better.

Our first DfAM course in Germany will occur next month in cooperation with Airbus and ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research. ZAL is hosting the event in Hamburg and we are very excited about it. Already, people from many countries in Europe and North America have registered to attend.

Other DfAM courses are being planned. Our second annual Design at Elevation DfAM course is September 2019 in Frisco, Colorado. Elevation: 2,774 meters (9,097 feet). Attend the course in Hamburg, but if you cannot, visit the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September—the most colorful month of the year.

3D-Printed Figurines

May 4, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:20

3D scanning and printing tools make it possible to produce color figurines of action figures, pets, our kids, and a lot more. Prior to our daughter’s wedding last July, we decided to produce a custom cake topper of her and her fiancé. Our company has worked with 3D scanning in the past, but we had not dealt with this level of detail in some time.

The following images show the 3D prints from the scan data. Those in the processing tray at the right were produced in photopolymer on a Mimaki 3DUJ-553 color 3D printing system. The others were produced in a gypsum-based material on a color binder-jetting system owned and operated by LGM.

Many contributed to the effort. An amusing summary of the work was presented in an excellent article published in the May 2019 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine from ASME. My sincere thanks to the following people and companies for their help with this project:

Thanks also to our daughter, Heather, and son-in-law, Bayne, for going along with the idea and dressing up twice for both sets of 3D scans.

Factors Contributing to AM Growth

April 20, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:32

The additive manufacturing (AM) industry came within about $200 million from producing $10 billion in products and services last year. This is based on research for Wohlers Report 2019. What’s more, it grew by nearly 62% over the past two years. What’s driving this impressive growth?

Many factors, working in harmony with one another, are contributing to strong AM growth worldwide. Among them are a renewed focus on:

  • Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM)
  • Education and training
  • Post-processing and post-process automation
  • Materials diversification
  • Custom products and low-volume manufacturing
  • Partnerships and collaborations
  • Startup companies
  • Viable supply chains
  • Data, security, and interconnectivity
  • Investment in applications
  • Corporate centers of excellence

These and other factors are discussed in detail in Part 8 of Wohlers Report 2019.

U.S. Comeback in AM

April 7, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:20

Is the U.S. making a comeback in additive manufacturing? Some might question whether the U.S. had fallen back in its position. In the 2000s, the U.S. definitely lost ground in a number of areas to the likes of China and Germany. One area is in the production of industrial AM systems, which are those that sell for more than $5,000. Consider that 52 manufacturers—32 Chinese and 20 German—produced and sold industrial AM systems in 2018, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2019, which was published less than two weeks ago.

The number of companies producing industrial AM systems may be an interesting metric, but it is only one of several used to measure a country’s position in AM. Others, such as the adoption and use of AM, are arguably more important, but difficult to measure. Due to widespread and hard-to-trace growth in many regions of the world, data is not as forthcoming as it was 10+ years ago. Even so, the U.S. is believed to be home to more than one-third of all industrial AM systems. This compares to 10.6% in China and 8.3% in Germany, as shown in the following chart. It represents cumulative installations from 1988 through 2018.

The number of manufacturers of industrial AM systems grew by 50% to 33 last year in the U.S., which was a surprise to some. Also, we believe the U.S. is at or near the top in R&D related to AM hardware, software, applications, and services, compared to other countries. Whether one considers the number of system manufacturers, the adoption of systems, or R&D spending, the U.S. is in a solid position with competitive nations worldwide.

Publication of Wohlers Report 2019

March 26, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:16

Note: Ray Huff of Wohlers Associates co-authored the following.

The first months of the year are always an exciting time of discovery at our company. Gathering so much detailed information and data from around the world is laborious but rewarding. We have the deepest appreciation and respect for our core team of analysts, consultants, and writers spanning five continents. Members of the team have worked through blizzards, intercontinental moves, family emergencies, and even daily power loss due to load shedding policies in South Africa.

Readers can now reap the fruits of our labor. Wohlers Report 2019 was released today to those wanting to gain a special view of additive manufacturing and 3D printing worldwide. We feel this report has been more carefully and thoroughly researched and written than any other. Commentary from experts in every corner of the planet shared the cream of their findings from the past 12 months so that others can put their fingers on the pulse of the AM industry.

AM Adoption in Aerospace

February 23, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:18

At an impressive pace, companies in the aerospace industry are building in-house capacity and expanding the number of certified suppliers in additive manufacturing. The Federal Aviation Administration and others have indicated to me that a half dozen or more metal AM parts have been certified for flight. In the 2014 to 2016 time frame, I saw more than 30 new designs for metal AM at Airbus and its subsidiary Premium AEROTEC. It is believed that hundreds of different polymer AM parts (i.e., part numbers) are flying on aircraft around the world. Boeing, alone, had more than 60,000 parts flying on a minimum of 16 different military and commercial aircraft in June 2018.

The following bracket design, created by MBFZ Toolcraft GmbH for Airbus, was produced in titanium. The 14 parts in the original design were consolidated into two and weight was reduced by about half. Go to this page for a much larger version of the bracket. Scroll down to near the bottom to see it.

One aerospace company that asked not to be named claimed it would be flying 25 different AM designs by the end of 2018. It expected to have an astounding 300 new designs certified for AM by the end of this year. It is believed that most are for metal AM. When considering that thousands of aerospace companies are in operation around the world, the potential for AM parts in this industrial segment is significant. As Michael Gorelik of the FAA stated at the America Makes MMX in Youngstown, Ohio in October 2018, “The transition to safety-critical AM parts will occur sooner than initially expected.”

New Website

February 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,Internet,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:05

I am happy to announce the launch of our updated website. It has been some time since we introduced the last one, so we are excited to roll it out. We hope you like the organization and presentation of the content, as well as the overall user experience.

As you browse the site, either on your desktop or mobile device, let us know what you think. If you see something that is not quite right, I’d like to hear about it. If you like it, let us know. Any feedback from you is good.

Next Page »