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Using AM for Design and Production

February 8, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

Using AM for Design and Production

Filed under: — Terry Wohlers @ 07:01

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

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.

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.

Additive Manufacturing in 2019

January 13, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 14:23

In recent months and years, the additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry has been anything but dull, with stirring news nearly every week. Last week, for example, footwear product company Dr. Scholl’s announced a partnership with Wiivv to produce custom insoles by AM. I own a pair of the Wiivv-branded custom insoles (see the left image in the following) and wrote about them here.

The next 12 months will offer a wide range of interesting, even exciting, developments in AM. We will see companies of all types bridge the chasm from stand-alone AM systems to developing end-to-end solutions for final part production. A few companies have made a lot of progress, but most others are in the early phase. One challenge is to organize many systems at multiple sites. This means managing capacity, sending the right jobs to the correct facilities, and tracking progress. It’s one thing to do it for prototypes, but it is dramatically more difficult to conform to manufacturing quality standards and procedures.

Methods of post-processing will further develop this year. Post-processing involves support material removal, clearing access material from holes and cavities, surface finishing, coloring, coating, texturing, and inspection. Metal parts may also require stress relief, hot isostatic pressing, CNC machining, additional heat treatment, and polishing. Automating some or most of these steps will contribute greatly toward justifying the cost of using AM for production volumes. Post-processing is an area in which each company is developing what it believes to be distinct know-how and IP—and keeping it to themselves—yet much of the work is similar from one company to the next.

Materialise founder and CEO Fried Vancraen said recently that 2019 will be a year of incremental steps and a continuation of a slow revolution. He also stated that applications, not technology, will drive the AM industry in the form of investment. I could not agree more with his views. The year may not bring anything that is completely game-changing. Yet, the collective effort of thousands of organizations worldwide will help to bring AM closer to maturity for production applications, such as the custom insoles from Dr. Scholl’s and Wiivv.

RAPDASA and Formnext

November 17, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 17:11

I attended last week’s 19th annual conference and exhibition of the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (RAPDASA) in Johannesburg. About 220 people attended from several countries. The RAPDASA organization does a fantastic job with the event year after year, and this year was no exception. (I’ve attended all 19 of them.) Thanks to the fine people at Resolution Circle and the University of Johannesburg for hosting the event, and many others who worked hard to make it a success. Pictured in the following image are Ian van Zyl and Deon de Beer, both of Central University of Technology (CUT), and Amelia Du Toit of Lonmin, and me. CUT and Lonmin are a part of an interesting project named PlatForum, which involves the development and 3D printing of parts in platinum.

This week was Formnext, a trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, which included much of the best in additive manufacturing products and services worldwide. An estimated 26,919 people and 632 exhibitors filled two large exhibition halls at Messe Frankfurt. AM machines and parts dominated, but design software products for AM and post-processing machinery were also in abundance at this year’s fourth annual event. The development of end-to-end process chains has never been more important and it was evident. The following image shows the XJet exhibit—one of the many impressive displays at Formnext.

On November 14 at Formnext, a half-day Additive Manufacturing Standards Forum was held. It was initiated by America Makes and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service in Düsseldorf. The purpose of the half-day session was to bring together key stakeholders and others to provide an update, answer questions, and discuss AM standards development worldwide. I had the privilege of moderating the session. The following shows the organizations that supported the event.

An important part of this session was the presentation of the America Makes and ANSI Standardization Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing (Version 2.0) and the Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative (AMSC). Both could have a long-term impact on the adoption of AM around the world.

After 14 days on four continents, it was nice to return to Colorado. I like to meet with friends and make new ones, but it’s also good to be home with family and friends, especially over the holidays. (Thanksgiving is next week in the U.S.) The ski season is underway, so it’s time to visit the high country to take part in a sport that is relaxing and exhilarating. It’s a great compliment to a full and rewarding year of travel and work.

The Impact of DfAM

June 16, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

Note: Associate consultant and DfAM expert Olaf Diegel authored the following.

Over the past three decades, the bulk of research in additive manufacturing has largely focused on AM processes and materials. In the last three years, organizations have begun to appreciate the importance of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Funding agencies are increasingly supporting DfAM, and companies are asking for courses on the subject. Over the past 12 months, I have given more than 20 DfAM courses for companies wanting to deepen their knowledge and understanding.

When a part is designed for conventional manufacturing, it is usually more expensive to produce by AM in typical production quantities. This is largely because AM processes are relatively slow compared to conventional methods of manufacturing. However, when a part is redesigned for AM, costs can be competitive or even lower, depending on quantities. Research for Wohlers Report 2018 revealed that 46% of the cost of a metal part is tied to pre- and post-processing. A large part of this cost often involves the production and removal of the support structures, also referred to as anchors. A well-designed part can greatly reduce the need for this support material, which dramatically reduces cost.

Good methods of DfAM can add value to products by making them substantially lighter in weight and enhancing performance using topology optimization, generative design, and lattice structures. Conventionally manufactured products made up of many simple parts can be redesigned to consolidate the assembly into a single part. This reduces part numbers, inventory, and assembly costs. Using methods of mass-customization, products can conform to the individual needs of customers without substantially increasing cost. Knowing how and when to use these techniques require designers and engineers to learn how to design for AM.

One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of AM is the lack of knowledge and skills among the design and engineering workforce. Only through DfAM education, training, and best practices will we see significant progress toward the use of AM for production applications. Some organizations are beginning to understand its importance, but a vast amount of work is ahead.

Editor’s note: Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day course on DfAM in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with Olaf Diegel as lead instructor. Click here to learn more.

Small Batch Production at Avid

May 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:35

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

Two weeks ago, I visited Avid Product Development, a design, prototyping, and small batch manufacturing firm in Loveland, Colorado. In recent years, Avid has strategically invested in additive manufacturing equipment to scale part production for its customers. Among these technologies are material extrusion machines from Stratasys, photopolymer-based printers from Formlabs, and Multi Jet Fusion machines from HP.

The number of end-use parts being manufactured by Avid makes the company stand out. Doug Collins, co-owner of Avid, commented that the addition of the HP equipment has greatly increased the company’s capacity for building production parts. Recently, Avid received an order for 100 parts that were designed for injection molding. CNC machining the parts was an option, but it would have taken too much time, been very expensive, and wasted a lot of material. Instead, they were 3D printed overnight, dyed black, and shipped the next day. Nesting software from Materialise was used to reduce print time, and fast cooling on the HP post-processing station helped to speed things along. With some added sweat and hustle, the team had the parts out the door as promised.

Doug was eager to show us parts made for Vestas, a leading manufacturer of large wind turbines for power generation. Vestas ordered a batch of polymer brackets that are permanently attached to the wind turbine blades to aid in the alignment and assembly of the parts. Wanting to test the designs before production, Vestas sent multiple iterations for Avid to build. Once the designs were finalized, orders were placed for hundreds of parts to bridge the gap of time while injection-mold tooling was being produced.

Weeks before the visit, a friend had sent me a threaded leveling foot for her new kitchen stove. The feet were designed for low countertops, and were 50 mm (2 inches) too short for the stove to be level with her countertop. I redesigned the foot, sent the model to Avid, picked up the four parts when I visited, and mailed them to my friend in California. The parts fit perfectly. The project showed me that in a matter of days, parts can be designed for a new application, produced, and tested across multiple cities and teams. In future cases like this one, we could further iterate based on feedback, if necessary, and then produce a small production batch of the part. We could even market the product and manufacture it on demand, without a need to keep a single physical part in stock.

Avid and other companies are making workflows like this possible for single product designers and companies of all sizes. Many organizations have been doing this for 20+ years, but easier access to good tools and machines, combined with a decline in cost, is what makes it different today. 3D printing is opening the door to countless new business opportunities and startup companies that were previously unthinkable.

Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

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