How to open up the potential of additive manufacturing design

Endless freedom of form and options for customisation, material efficiency, lighter components ... additive manufacturing (AM) is indeed causing rejoice all around. In practice, however, there is more to it to be successful than just owing a 3D printer. The design, in particular, requires a totally different approach and mind-set of the designer. That is why, in this series of blogs, we will discuss some important matters: what makes the design for AM so different, what methodologies and software exist and how can you get started?   

In the coming months we will go over a few relevant topics in several blog posts. First the basics: how does the design phase fit into the total AM picture, and what are the most important aspects? Then we will have a closer look at some specific topics: 

  • Methodology for AM design (+ whitepaper)
  • Software for AM design (+ whitepaper)
  • Case study from a to z: the 'Sirris watch'

Design for AM in a broader framework 

Additive manufacturing is much more than just a piece of machinery, it is a complete process. The design of the products to be manufactured is just one of the aspects, albeit an essential one. Therefore, in order to apply AM successfully, the other building blocks of the chain must also fit into the AM framework: which applications or components are you aiming for? What do they have ‘to be capable of doing’ or what should make them distinctive? Which type of AM process or machine is required? What are the right materials? Etcetera.  

In other words: before you dive into the methodologies or technologies of AM design, you first need to get an exact idea of the options, challenges and added value. Here’s what you can start with: 

AM design in three aspects 

In the early days AM would mainly be used for prototyping, while the original design would be maintained. In the past couple of years the technology is increasingly used to make functional end products. In this case the design must, however, be adapted to the production technology in order to make effective use of the benefits. This plays a crucial role in using AM as a competitive alternative, for example, to produce complex components in small series. The design restrictions of conventional technologies are hereby completely omitted.  

If you design for AM, you have to take into account three aspects:

1. Design for function

First of all we can aim for maximum function integration. Every complexity and functionality we can add within the same volume is as good as for free.  

Optimised gooseneck bracket by Asco
(see : http://www.sirris.be/success-story/sirris-supports-pilot-3d-printing-project-aerospace-industry)

2. Design for production technology

Also the specific characteristics of the chosen technology must be considered, such as materials, support structures, print parameters, etc. 

3. Design for post-processing

Finally, during the design we have to take into account the required post-processing requirements. For example, removing any excess powder and support structures, or the post-processing of the part itself. Therefore, it is sometimes better to speak of design for manufacturing, instead of design for AM. 

The aim is to optimise as much as possible during the design process, in order to reduce any additional costs. 

AM design as a catalyst for several purposes 

Because AM design is more than you could suspect, it is essential to apply methodologies correctly and use the right software. The following blog posts will be about these two topics in this AM design series. 

Explore the possibilities of additive manufacturing for your company? See how Sirris can support you or participate in our two-day Masterclass 'Design for additive manufacturing' which will take place on 25 April and 22 May.

Share