Additive Manufacturing's Relationship with Design
AM offers new possibilities for design but also introduces challenges. The latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine explores the relationship between the two.
Additive manufacturing (AM) is changing design. Along with expanding the range of designs that are possible to manufacture, it is changing how we think about design’s role, where design falls in the manufacturing process and what “design” actually entails.
That’s because the design in AM determines not just the end performance of a 3D-printed part, but also how it will build—whether it will warp, develop the right material properties or print within tolerance. Design is, likewise, beholden to what happens after the print. Can loose powder be fully evacuated? Can the support structures be removed without damaging critical features? Does this part need machining allowances or workholding features? When design is an integral and pervasive component of the additive manufacturing process, the result is a successful build that can be efficiently post processed and go on to serve its intended purpose.
The dynamic between AM and design is the focus of the latest issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine. The cover story, for instance, explores how General Motors (GM) is using generative design tools from Autodesk and 3D-printing technology to create parts such as the seat bracket pictured on the cover. This proof-of-concept part is 40 percent lighter and 20 percent stronger than the original assembly of eight separate components. GM went through more than 100 iterations to arrive at this design, which was selected for its manufacturability in addition to its light weight.
Design’s expanded influence in AM is also demonstrated in other stories in this issue:
- the creation of a topology optimized hip stem implant, customized for a specific set of activities, through a recursive design process;
- how a manufacturer eliminated assembly and improved performance of an oil reservoir by redesigning it for 3D printing; and
- metal AM’s role as a prototyping and production tool, often simultaneously, for a Formula One racing team.
An engineering modification that would have been impractical or cost-prohibitive in the past is realized on a machine tool performing metal 3D printing and machining in the same cycle.
When Precision Metal Products purchased its first 3D printer last year, the company hoped to collapse both tooling costs and lead times. But the technology’s impact is reaching core business operations, enabling the shop to focus on higher-margin, lower-volume production.
Three major technological advancements have changed modern manufacturing. Pay attention or get left behind.